Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Giant Felix of Basel

I've only been in the city for 48 hours, for the Basel Bildrausch film festival, but already I've experienced three monumental events.

1) I saw, for the first time, a real Richard Serra sculpture. In person, it is not like a photograph in a book. It is elegant but bold. Bending, leaning, curving. Giant. Overwhelming. Off balance but immovable. You walk through as though you were first entering an alien spaceship. The acoustics inside are incredible, and they change dramatically depending on which section you stand in, from cave echo to sci-fi electronic reverb.

I remember reading the story of how he first developed his signature style.  He ran a moving company with Chuck Close and Philip Glass in New York City. At one point, he leaned a mattress against a wall. He later came back to collect it and noticed the elegant curve it made as it sagged towards the ground, half-propped up by the wall, half-collapsing. There it began.

2) I saw, for the first time, a real Steenbeck editing machine. It surprised me there in the side office of the film festival. When Nicole saw how excited I was, she opened the next door, a heavy vacuum sealed metal door that led into a chilled storage room. She turned on the lights and I saw row after row of films. Real films, on film, stacked up to the ceiling. "If you like that, you'll like our film archive too," she said.


3) I heard Beat Schneider, one of the heads of the festival, say in the opening ceremony "Last year, the city of Basel decided to massively increase spending on cinema in the city." And I understood that every time we are told by our cities that "it is necessary"to continually and brutally cut arts funding, it isn't true. Other cities think of arts funding in a different way. We are told we can't afford to fund the arts any longer, but statistically we have to ask ourselves if we can afford not to when funding on art and culture in the UK returns four times the investment.

Speaking of which, here's a giant inflatable Felix the Cat in the Kuntshalle Basel.