Ulu Braun’s Atlantic Garden (2010) is a video collage depicting a slow, rotational pan around the center of the grounds of an unidentified coastal mansion. It is composed of animated gifs and video clips superimposed upon still images of the scene. On the surface, it is unclear whether Braun is sifting through associated memories of seaside vacations or compressing a cross-section of the European socio-political landscape. A closer look at some of the subtleties and technical aspects of the video prompts the latter interpretation.
One of the most striking and meaningful features of Atlantic Garden is Braun’s utilization of timescale. The use of shorter, repeating video clips and looped gifs atop the continuously progressing background emphasizes the separation between montage elements. It essentially creates isolated micro-environments of time within the greater container of the video. The selective sound editing of the video actually enhances this effect. Each micro-environment peppers the landscape with a slice of activity that proceeds independently from the others. Given the languages spoken and the predominantly Caucasian guests, it seems quite clear that each bubble of activity was transported from various regions of the European Union.
The key to decoding Braun’s Atlantic Garden is perhaps contained within the mood of the sentiments of those characters who are given speech. They neither address the camera nor one another – they simply gaze off in introspection, as if trapped in the cells of Braun’s purgatorial panopticon. The Spanish speaking man laments that his plants will not drink. The seated man speaking German explains that he did not to go to demonstrations due to his father’s influence, which did not win him any friends. The English-speaking female discusses sharing meals, perhaps at a potluck. They allude to existential problems of place, growth, change, and sharing amidst the background noise of religious ceremony and techno music.
Given political instability and persistent financial difficulty in countries like Greece, Spain, and Italy, fracture lines have formed and prompted a reconsideration of what the union in Europe means. How will these nations act as a whole when future becomes present and the rituals and traditions of the past become less and less relevant? ‘What are we?’ the collective figures seem to ask. There is a pronounced presence of children playing and romping about the island landscape. Braun indicates a tinge of pessimism for the future as he shows us a young girl struggling to keep her balance as she mimics the twirling action of an elder flag-bearing female.
Braun saturates the peaceful, placid island celebration with social contemplation through juxtaposition, technical imperfection, and symbolic gesture. He gives us pieces to a puzzle, but not ones that snap together. Braun incorporates the animated gif into a greater context of moving collage, giving it a functionality analogous to Richard Hamilton’s paste-applied tootsie pop clipping from Just what is it that makes home so different, so appealing? (1956), but with the few extra layers of meaning that come with the territory of the medium. Ultimately, Atlantic Garden smartly utilizes some of the subtleties of video montage to present the current European political and social landscape in order to prompt a consideration of what it feels like to be European today. Perhaps from the viewpoint of the International Space Station, Europe looks something like a garden floating in the Atlantic.
Ulu Braun was born 1976 in Schongau, Germany. He works and lives in Berlin. From 1996 to 2005 he studied painting and experimental film at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (Austria) and film at the Film and Television University Konrad Wolf (HFF) in Potsdam. Ulu Braun has been using the medium of video to explore the field between the visual arts and auteur cinema since 1997. He is one of the key figures who have transferred painting into video art and have played a significant role in defining and further developing the genre of video collage.
His works have been shown at, among others: MART a Herford, Young Projects (Los Angeles), KW Kunst-Werke (Berlin), House of Electronic Arts, LISTE 18 (Basel), Mercosul Biennal (Porto Alegre), Shedhalle (Zürich), Museum der Moderne (Salzburg), Athens Biennale (Athens), Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna), Galerie Olaf Stüber (Berlin) and Kunstmuseum Bonn.
His films have been show at numerous film festivals, including: Berlinale (2014), Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen (2014), EMAF, Osnabrück (2014), Guanajuato International Film Festival, Mexico (2013), International Film Festival Rotterdam (2011), Diagonale, Graz (2011), Videoart at Midnight, Berlin (2010), 25 FPS, Zagreb (2010), KunstFilmBiennale, Cologne (2009).
In 2008 Ulu Braun was granted the DAAD Exchange Grant for the ‘Time & Space’ Department of the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki. In 2011 he was awarded the Kunstfonds grant and in 2013 the German Short Film Award (best experimental film). He is a member of the artist collective YKON and co-founder of the artistic duo BitteBitteJaJa.
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Essay by Luke Shaw
Video excerpt of Atlantic Garden (06:30, HD), by Ulu Braun, 2010.