Two dogs, two
cities, two voices: one male, one female."Smells like paradise", the
'dogumentary' by Ovidiu Anton and Alexandru Bălăşescu, presents a simple and clear
experimental set-up: a mongrel from Bucharest, the metropolis which was for a
long time known as the city of stray dogs, was adopted in Vienna and
domesticated under the conditions of a civilizing and bureaucratically regulated
contact with animals. The parallel mounted opposite story is that of a bitch
from Vienna who comes to the Romanian capital with her owners, runs away, and
there, in the urban jungle of the post-socialist milieu, step by step learns
the way of life of a free-roaming animal with no connection to human functions
of protection and feeding.
These stories are
told from the perspective of the animals, and are provided with commentaries,
aperçus, and philosophical speculations regarding the coexistence of dog and
man and themes such as exile, migration, urban planning and political power
as distancing effect, but also as artistic attempt to dissolve the boundary
between man and animal and to insinuate a form of coexistence that aims to end
the hierarchy of the relationship. This is completely in accordance with the
work of Jacques Derrida, who devoted the final years of his life to animal
philosophy; he questioned the logocentric controlling position of humans - who
want to erase their potential animality - which is anchored in the
philosophical tradition. Derrida attempts to let this borderline between human
world and animal realm become frayed, a border which separates the one from the
other sometimes as rampart, sometimes as abyss; he attempts to fold it, to
multiply it, and in this manner to establish a zone of interference between
animal- and human world.
paradis" locates itself precisely in this twilight zone, where animals
begin to speak - animot, the animals as word - and mankind, as animal owner,
becomes mute. Unleashed hand cameras follow the dogs on their routines, which
in the case of Vienna are predetermined by people, in the case of Bucharest are
however self-chosen. Re-territorialisation versus de-territorialisation. The
voices combine with the movement without becoming one with it; they pose
questions, in the framework of a dialectic of domestication and returning to
the wild, regarding existential 'thrownness', transcendental dwelling and
the conditions of freedom. In the end, the uncomfortable realisation ensues
that perhaps Janis Joplin was right after all: "Freedom's just another
word for nothing left to lose."
The concept of the
film by Ovidiu Anton and Alexandru Bălăşescu won the first
prize at the competition "Create Your Bucharest" as part of the
Vienna Biennale 2015 at the MAK Vienna.
The production of
the film 'Smells like paradise' was sponsored by the Austrian Ministry for Art
and Culture, and by the Otto Mauer Fonds and by Brenntag Romania.
The presentation of
the film in the new project space KOENIG2_by robbygreif is supported by the
Romanian Cultural Institute in Vienna.