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Insomniac City

22.11.08 > 7.3.09 Insomniac City 3 channel Video installation at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Israel

Insomniac City / by Achim Szepanski

The city works like a machine. It is a social mega-machine, writes Guattari. Machine-like transmissions crisscross a city, economic, social, legal, sexual, and cultural functions determine its input and output and bring about unexpected effects, by producing a world created by outside forces. The city never sleeps, it is crisscrossed by currents, imagery, and bodies, it is a conglomerate of many machines, which turn it into a perpetual, functioning interface and intersection. The city is continuously alive, in an animalistic-inorganic way, as Guattari puts it. This is documented by the film Insomniac City by Ran Slavin in an extraordinary manner.
Towers strive towards a sky that leads into nothingness, or collapse like phallic columns and sink into the earth. Buildings surge from the sea, chimneys surge from concrete. Slavin puts together a city of porous surfaces, of cuts and folds, of turns and crashes. The traversing of the city is similar to a series of sexual acts engendering sentient landscapes, created from, and permanently aroused by, the displacements of the plastic and architectonic bodies.
Slavin assembled phantasmagoric images that perpetuate themselves in the movements of the city, and these movements determine the thinking of his protagonist. Is it real or a dream? The city filters the dream, which is not the waterfall-like inner state of a person removed from reality, but rather the flow of the outer, perceivable city. The entire city acts crazy, even if one would like to assume that this is the inner life of a dreaming or hallucinating person. The dream is not dreamt – the dream dreams. Slavin’s film plays with the limits of the dream, with the displacements from inside to outside and vice-versa. All bodies are extended bodies.
Slavin presents the city as object of a displaced perception, he assembles unstable images in perpetual change, the images are cut, associated, displaced, their direction changes. Each image is already another, and one can hardly distinguish whether the image is just considered to be actual or is still about to emerge virtually. Each actual image is due to a specific camera perspective, and the virtual image could turn at any moment into an actual image.
We talk with Deleuze of an idea of the virtual that actualizes itself as real at a specific time, in a specific place, in a specific environment. The virtual, however, does not include all that is possible, but only what is possible, was possible, and will be possible at a specific time and in a specific place. The virtual seems rather to emerge from actualization’s; it is the association capacity in which the images reveal themselves to us at intervals, in this manner or that. Is it real or a dream? Like Slavin’s protagonist, we can never be sure whether something has happened or will happen, how and when it happens. Slavin’s plot is a fake plot, which implies the deconstruction of the narrative.
Nothing is true, the virtual image coexists with the real image, and one can hardly grasp how this can be possible for images other than the virtual image par excellence, the mirror image. Is it real or a dream? This question, enclosed in the subtitle, which Slavin’s protagonist repeats again and again, results of his own analysis of the images. The actual images drill themselves into our conscious perception, while the vision turned towards our unconscious is the world of virtual images. Yet it is only a posteriori that we see, through the association of the many images, through the succession capacity of the images, and this, precisely, is what exceeds human attention. Slavin plays consistently with this precarious situation, with the simultaneity and succession of images. When he presents the city as a flood of images, he creates an image totally set free from time and space coordinates. When the protagonist, whom he, significantly, dives into the water, plunges quietly and soundlessly. In these close-ups, Slavin shows the helplessness of a victim, who, sleepless,
in a kind of intoxication, errs through the city by day and by night and lives in the twilight world of crime, addiction, sex, and phantasms.
The victim confirms his victim role by his very incapacity of distinguishing whether he is the author or the victim of an imaginary happening.
The city accelerates transversal movements and arousal’s, which can deviate into one direction or another and get mixed up with the things. It intensifies the hyper-figuration of persons as addition and aggregation, and, concomitantly, as dispersion of fragments and things, utterly exterior, a flutter of events and virtuality’s. In sexuality, the ontological state of things is transcended, because things proliferate, because, in the nothingness in which things exist, an endless separation and association takes place: linking, adding, becoming successive, the girl, whom Slavin films surrealistically, is a prostitute, yet she could also be a lover, call girl, dancer, sister, a dominatrix… Like Mario Perniola, Slavin sees the body in its exteriority, in an aroused and arousing here-and-now, as a porous conglomerate of holes and folds that interpenetrate, and are interpenetrated by, each other. The city is displaced music…

Insomniac City / by Massimo Causo for the catalogue for the 25th Torino Film Festival

to be lost in the city, to be the city…. profoundly metropolitan, viscerally architectonic, the cinema of Ran Slavin is the embodiment of radical recognition and sentient bewilderment in the urban fabric of a human reality that is dominated by forms and deprived of communication. A video artist who lets the signs and meanings of his works emerge from a symbiotic and convulsive relationship between sound and image, Ran Slavin searches for order
in the chaos of the senses, produces a rational dysfunction of reality in digital form, elaborates a theory of audio visions in his films that views reality like an organic structure which forms and figures incessantly overlap. 
Stressing the concept of interference as an element that both absorbs and rejects the worlds signals, Ran Slavin searches for a framework that can decode the organized and unsystematic chaos it encounters. In this sense, Insomniac City [2004-2008] is the finish line of a path that begins with the insistent dysfunction of the relationship between imaginary and real and finds its concluding formula in a dream like narrative in which the relationship between individual and the real world is revealed for what it is: a convulsive overlapping and invasive mutation between biological and inorganic elements. The dystonic relationship with reality that characterizes Slavins work is, in short, an elaboration of the reciprocal intrusion between city and individual. An intense city, like an organic body, a pneumatic structure that breathes through its buildings, whose forms expand and contract. But it is also an arterial structure,
in which the spectator flows and dissolves, vaporizes like a point of view that defines the nature of the elements and their unfocussed state. Ran Slavin intercepts sounds and forms and uses them like units of measure to calculate the distance between the individual and the world and effectively being in the world. The specularity of the geometric forms that he uses in his visions comes to life with sudden inversions, with the slippage of the forms upon themselves,
with continuos confusion of perspectives between the universal and the detail. The figures are just as silhouetted in the dematerialization of their molecular structure as the forms are manipulated in their architectonic nature, producing a changing skyline [above all in Insomniac City] that seems almost a dysfunction of the post 9/11 imagery. The musicality that resounds throughout Ran Slavins films is an almost existential rumble of a reality that is loaded down with signals, of perceptions that twist over upon themselves in an organic/inorganic weaving of the world. This stratification [visual but also audio] is one of the dynamics with which Slavin structures his films, producing a superimposition of horizontal, vertical and perspective levels that keep his visions suspended in oppositions of high / low, right/left. inside/outside. A weaving in which the spectator finds himself enchanted/enchained, a witness to and a prisoner of a landscape that doesn’t belong to us but to which we belong, out of sensorial elements in a dystopian scenario…


Written produced and directed by Ran Slavin version1 - 28" min. version2 - 30" min. version3 - 40"min version4 - 70" min.

A man is waking up in a parking lot, shot in the shoulder, he can’t recall how he ended up there, where did the gun he carried with him disappear and whether he is a victim of a crime, or alternatively, a killer. ‘The insomniac city cycles’, fluctuates at that point on the axis of reality versus fiction, reality versus imagination and creates an affinity between the protagonist’s mental space and the urbanite one. The colossal and frantic urban topography which envelops the protagonist exhibits a limbo which fables to a mental state where the character is ‘stuck’ between wakefulness and sleep up to the point where all borders become blurred and reality itself resembles a dream, or better said, a nightmare, in which one can no longer distinguish between truth and lie. He continuously asks himself, ‘Is it real?’, ‘Am I dreaming?’, ‘Where am I?’ Slavin succeeded in creating a spectacular cinematic process in which opposites simultaneously occur as an action of self negation (for example, through the intelligent and rational use of instant replay) and by doing so constructs a space-time devoid reality, both imaginary and real at the same time, which enables us to examine all occurrences, including dreams and memories, as having an equal ontological status.

The 2nd part of the film starts when a woman waking up in a hotel room in Shanghai to the sound of a ringing phone. Her legs are weakly tied and she is lying alone in bed. On the line there is a guy who, according to the woman, “resembles the shot man from the dream”. That is to say, was it a dream after all? The plot keeps branching out and the photogenic solitude asks for her own death. She paid in advance and she is entitled to it. A serial killer enters the frame. The city’s denseness clears off itself to re-repeated images of helpless caged animals which exhibits the woman’s hallucinatory mental space, which in itself, is the mind, the consciousness. The first encounter with a narrative based screenplay (after more than 30min into the film) initially creates a factious sense of a firm grasping point, of orientation, though Slavin creates a screenplay without determination. By that, it enables the viewer to continuously ask himself – Is it real? A dream? Or is it a memory? The fact that the tale of the protagonist is actually the woman’s own dream (which her own story might be a dream, a hallucination or a nightmare deprived of concrete time and space) discerns the veracity question of ‘what’s real’ as irrelevant and thus expands the discussion to the rational recognition and the perception of time as an a-priory conscious idea.

In order to understand the artistic process in ‘The insomniac city cycles’ one must remember that this film is actually the 4th version of this film project, created as a direct continuation to the 3rd version named ‘Insomniac City’ (which is the first part of this film with slight changes). The fact that the film is so much different from one version to the other, changing the narrative using the same images in a different cut, and thus expand and deepen the discussion over it, while using documentary photography to create a hallucinatory alternative reality.

(Liora Belford)

Lee Trifon, Adi Gilad, Yaniv Abraham, Irad Mazliah, Ran Slavin
Dialogues co-written with Monika Bielskyte Voice of man in pet shop: Ohad Naharin Line Producer; Lior Ianai Lighting; Nimrod Golan Dressing; Maayan Goldman Makeup; Dorit Cohen
Camera; Ran Slavin Underwater camera; Alain Daniel Editor; offline, online and post production; Ran Slavin
Music and soundtrack design; Ran Slavin Sound mix; Itzik Cohen Sound editors; Ran Slavin, Itzik Cohen, Omri levy