Walker Art Center
"Le Cinema est un Language Universel"

of creativity, that they experiment with it and use it. It's amazing that everyone has access to images now and the ability to create his or her own images.

PV: Do you consider this a type of guerrilla activity? That the moving image and digital culture allow people to re-create an alternative voice or guerrilla politics?

CB: Well, in a subtle way, perhaps. But we also have to see a lot of crap. But that's okay, because when you see a lot of crap you really notice the pearls. Last June I went to the New York Video Festival. For three days I was watching all kinds of video works and found myself occasionally asking, "Why was this work selected?" "What are the selection criteria?" I must remain polite to my colleagues in New York, because I'm not God and I make mistakes as well. But there is so much mediocre work around. One problem is that many young artists are simply enthralled with the possibilities of the digital tool and forget about making quality work. I'm a defender of this democratization of the moving image, but, contrary to what Joseph Beuys said, not everybody is an artist.

PV: Are we in a period similar to the 1960s? There seems to be a drive to document our recent history, bear witness to social and political shifts, and provide an alternative voice.

CB: The shift really started in the 1990s. Art and artists have always been connected to what's happening in the world, even if the establishment has controlled them in a certain way through the market. Unfortunately, or some might say luckily, the establishment is currently more interested in war politics, economic wealth, and populism, and is intentionally bending toward extreme right viewpoints. I'm disappointed that, in contrast to the university populations of the 1960s, students and professors today are virtually silent. I don't know why there is this lack of action at the moment. Luckily, I see some filmmakers and visual artists who are more driven to get a political message out in their work.

PV: Do you see your activity as a film curator in an art center as being able to provide this alternative voice?

CB: Within the Walker we can certainly give exposure to these films and these different voices. Last year I showed a Romanian film called Interview with a Torturer. It was about how to deal with someone who was on the wrong side. Can there be forgiveness? How do we confront the past? How do we look at the past from the perspective of today? There are certain gaps that I think film can fill more easily than visual arts. I might be wrong, because I know there is visual art that functions in the same way. I see this as a part of our mission today as much as it was when I was curating arts in the 1970s. There is another necessity, another challenge: the need to communicate with an audience. Whatever we do, if we present a visual art exhibition or a film series, the essence is to communicate, to create a dialogue far away from hermetic snobbism. We don't want people to be estranged. Even if they don't understand the work, there might be a moment when they look at it. And the moment they look at it, you have already reached something.

PV: It seems that recently the documentary form or aesthetic has taken a very important place in visual art practices and in "moving image" installations. As a film curator, how do you react to that?

CB: Cinema started with the documentary--people leaving the factory or riding on the train. In fact, fiction came much later, though in many films, such as those by Kiarostami, there are both elements, and there is an entire cinema going on right now that lies somewhere between fiction and documentary. Recently at Cannes I overheard some people who had watched a documentary and said, "Oh, it was just like a fiction film." That was a confirmation for me that this distinction--what is documentary, what is fiction--should be retired because the fundamental thing is that you can never tell the truth when you frame something. When you put a camera in front of somebody's face it's very rare that the person remains natural.

PV: But how do you understand the leaking of this documentary language into the language of art installations?

CB: The nice thing about art installations is that people can come and go as they please, unlike the cinema where you sit there until it's over. But a problem with this mobility in art installations is that it might take ninety minutes or so to watch an entire artwork. (Luckily there are a lot of people now making three- or five-minute