KAI LOSSGOTT is a South African writer and artist who works across media. His work is concerned with the act of sensing, with language, silence, and the vulnerable instincts which drive them. He lives and works in Cape Town.
1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I was born in Germany in 1980 and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, the son of two artists. As a teenager, I attended the National School of the Arts, where I matriculated in 1998, winning the school trophies for sculpture and painting, amongst others. I went on to complete a BJourn at Rhodes University, where I majored in documentary film and dance theatre. I have an Advanced University Diploma in Visual Arts from the University of South Africa, and a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. As a lecturer, I have taught at various South African universities in subjects ranging from Film History to Digital Arts.
2. When, how and why started you filming?
As a child, we would shoot and send 8 mm home movies from South Africa to Germany, where they would be developed and my aunt and grandmother could watch them. I remember the first time I saw them, many years later, being overwhelmed by the clear, bright light and a vision of myself unlike anything I had ever had before. I was shocked at seeing things I myself could no longer remember, shocked at how I lived and breathed and moved inside this lucent frame. Later, my teenage video art experiments all started with the instinctive act of witnessing and investigating myself. Film to me began as a means of self-discovery.
3. What kind of subjects have your films?
My experimental films are concerned with vulnerable identities and states of heightened sensitivity. Their subjects are all unfinished, caught in the process of becoming. Language and silence, or the symbolic and rhythmic marking, indexing and erasing of the world often play a role. Most of my films evoke interminable states of being and circular time frames, being concerned with how we construct time through language, memory and its absence.
4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
I like to blend the distinction between the photographic and the drawn or painted image. I collect images over long periods of time and stretch them to their limit, in terms of speed, or rhythm, or colour, contrast or sound. I’ll play with something for a while, trying to see what it is trying to tell me, and then I’ll put it away. Weeks later I’ll see what I like and discard the rest. Sometimes it takes years to assemble the right combination. But I always start with a feeling, and the question of how to ‘say’ this feeling. What you feel hits you first, before you engage the intellect. Yes, on one level its all philosophy. But I am interested in evoking visceral responses. I am bored and frustrated with the grammar of conventional film and work to transcend and re-invent its language. In this I am inspired by Méliès, Maya Deren, Jan Švankmajer, Bill Viola, the Brothers Quay to name but a few.
5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
Apple Powerbook G4, Canon MV5i. I am quite comfortable at the moment with the ‘video’ look. While the slickness of HD is seductive, I think the nervous graphic qualities that one can pull out of a low resolution medium suit the work I am doing at the moment quite well.
6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general
and you personally?
I believe in short attention span cinema and in the web tv revolution. I see myself as part of a new generation of artists and filmmakers who are active and focused in the most exciting developments in film today, in microcinema.
7. How do you finance your films?
At the moment I finance my experimental shorts by teaching, writing and selling object-based art. I believe that this will change as the medium gains popularity.
8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
My video art / experimental films I shoot, direct, edit and distribute all by myself. Lately I have been collaborating with dancers and poets, and once the work gets longer I will need to work with a team again.
if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
As a video artist you have more control over the process, but often have to do all the pre-production yourself. As a filmmaker you work in a team, but have to be prepared to compromise.
9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Quitting the television industry and giving up a dream I had spent seven years studying towards allowed me to develop the artistic integrity, innovation and quality of work which had only been present at the times at which I had been happiest.
10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I want to combine my poetry, creative writing and video art with live performance. I would like to become known for doing video poetry. I would like to receive more funding to make longer work. I would like to tackle some well-known poets in unexpected ways. I would like to find new audiences for my work. I would like to gain more critical recognition for my work. Most importantly, I would like to make a profit from video art / experimental film.
Can works of yours viewed online besides on VideoChannel? Where?