Provost’s new "potion" uses a technique that spread like a virus among recent music videos: data moshing, an approach to editing he calls "infinite beauty". It’s a simple codec mismatch that results in a sublime but somewhat deranging colour explosion. You most likely have experienced it watching an ill-fated downloaded movie, when the image turns into rainbows and magically fixes itself after the next cut. "First" seen in Takeshi Murata’s Monster Movie, the from then on deliberately used digital glitches quickly became vaguely mainstream and rarely justified (though with the exception of Nabil’s debut video for Kanye West). To make it short: everybody can data-mosh, but this "new proposition" did not pass the phenomenon status. Most of Provost’s films use rather simple techniques, for example vertical and horizontal mirror effects, and footage that is either found or deliberately taken out of other movies. "You have to find the images worth to be worked with" he says. For Long Live the new flesh it became data-moshed horror film footage.
A real aesthetic challenge in the making (it’s almost impossible to predict the effects of two data-moshed sequences), the film mixes gore, slasher, sci-fi horror and other genres in a melting pot of moving images so strongly disgusting they become beautiful. Among others, Provost manages to superpose both the facial expressions of Jack and Wendy Torrance as he chops his way through the door in The Shining. He uses data-moshing to push his reflections on cinema grammar forward while seamlessly making edits disappear; you have to see it to believe it, when three shots of William Hurt dropping dead in A History of Violence are merged into one, the film becomes totally plastic. An experience I made the day before the interview when I (re)watched his work Gravity in the gallery, a stroboscopic film where respectively three and five frames of different kissing scenes alternate. The flick has such a tension resulting from his technical complexity (you are basically watching several films at the same time, magically orchestrated) that at times you wish it would be over because you have reached your emotional climax. The density of Gravity feels like a free fall, until you realise you are falling and the ecstasy begins.
"I have to stay as naive as possible, so the images can come naturally", he explains, "art and editing are a matter of taste". Then perhaps it is the recognition of taste that would constantly over time make me try to conceive Provost’s moving images, yet unable to find the right words. But that’s alright because taste is indescribable and has to be demonstrated; my thoughts go to filmmaker Juan Pittaluga and his documentary El Miracolo del Gusto, where he illustrates that the transmission of taste has "to be from human being to human being, there’s no need for words, because words come from another level."
Talking about silence: his work Storyteller, where Provost mirrors found footage of Vegas at night, was screened without its soundtrack at the gallery in Berlin. I never heard the soundtrack, but was surprised to find out there even was one after having seen it; and then again when Provost stressed that image and sound are as important in the making of his films. The explanation came soon: "these works should function as cinema as well as classical paintings".
Storyteller looks like bizarre neon lighted spaceships, lost in soundless space, they are "peaceful images of madness"; like starting from the cosmos and approaching earth, what at first glance is a beautiful composition of colours transforms into the inert comprehension of our own aberration and foolishness as our perception gets in focus. Imaginably that film is representative of what goes through my mind when I’m captured by his works: they fly in my head like airplanes waiting to land, but they’ll never, and in that particular case it’s probably OK.
Provost works with little or no budget, his self-confidence on his methods and work is contagious and to look up too. Listening to him was a rare hour of enlightenment.
Picture by Eftihia Stefanidi.