ORTEM (2004)

Director: Dariusz Kowalski
Year: 2004
Time: 20 mins
Music: Stefan Németh
Eye of Sound: Ortem, or Metro read backwards, is one of the finest examples of Kowalski's permanent engagement with the visual study of non-places. Marc Augé coined the term to denote physical spaces devoid of relational, historical and identity traits: airports, highways, supermarkets, gas stations, etc. But these places do have relational, historical and identitary significance: just consider the lovers who part at the airport, or the family whose relative has been killed in a highway, and we are faced with strong social, historical and individual constructions of place and memory. In Ortem, Kowalski tries to explore the logic of the perception of space and time in a place which claims to be, he argues, nothing but an intersection in a traffic network or a bridge between different intersections. Traveling speed, perceived mostly by visual processes, poses specific questions about the cognition of time and space, as there is little to recognize in a subway tunnel. Time is thus bent in strange ways, and perhaps it could be argued, with some qualifications, that the time connecting two points in this place is some sort of non-time. As Kowalski argues, the metro station is, on the other hand, a direct reflection of cinema's dominance over 20th century thought: all things are aligned toward a vanishing point. But, as in Xenon's paradox, these points never lead to an end, and so the entire space is beyond intellection, eternally ungraspable. Stefan Németh's soundtrack adds to this sense of elusiveness, subtly merging field recordings and laptop soundscapes (fashionably labelled today as "microsound") but hardly ever trying to use sound as an illustration for the visual. The relation between sound and picture remains baffling as an initially apparent sonic topography of the subway gives way to less direct connections, further juggling memory and perception. A truly fascinating work.


  1. thanks looks fgn brilliant

  2. the first one looks great,
    but the second avi is corrupt, its actually not a movie file.
    could you upload that part again?

  3. Hi. You should join the files before watching them. If you own a Mac, use Split & Concat. If you own a PC, use HJ Split. It will work fine then.