Director Laurence Bonvin on „Aletsch Negative“ and the short form / interview

Born in Sierre in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Laurence Bonvin studied photography at the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles, France. Her documentary still photography and films focus on the transformations of urban peripheries, natural and social landscapes, segregation, human displacements and the architecture of power. She began working in Switzerland before extending into the Netherlands, Georgia, Berlin, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Abidjan and Dakar. Her work has been exhibited extensively around the world and has screened at film festivals.

What was your starting point for Aletsch Negative ?

I was invited to participate in an art residency (Matza) on the Aletsch glacier in the Swiss Alps with 9 others artists in the Summer of 2018. We stayed and worked on site for 10 days, we had our base in the hut above the glacier, sometimes slept in a portable structure designed by two participating architects and few of us also bivouacked on the ice itself, which was an amazing experience. It was a strongly bonding collective experience due to the inherent magnificence and dangers of high altitude mountaineering, to the efforts to arrive on site on foot carrying our stuff ourselves, to climbing down and up the 380 stairs between the hut and the glacier every day. In such conditions you have to be minimal and I knew I could not carry up my usual equipment so I decided to only take with me a digital camera, a shutter release which broke after 3 days, a tripod and a good lenses. There was a simple sound recorder and a computer we all shared, and that’s it! The idea to use photographic animation was there from the start, I knew the technique would help me make the melting process more perceptible and it was a way for me to link still images and filmmaking. The rest came along the process…

Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

My favourite moment in the film is when we are in the belly of the glacier. From the beginning it was clear to me that I wanted to abseil a crevasse and explore below the surface. Because i have some ice climbing experience I knew it would be technically possible. The crevasses and caves were the places where I could really hear and listen to the glacier and where I felt a deep connection. It was like going into a body, a huge, slow, living and suffering body, which is losing its substance at a rapid pace. To witness the melting process even meters deep in the crevasses, to feel the presence and vulnerability of such an gigantic being, that has been on earth for so much longer than human existence and to know that it will disappear so soon, was a shock.

What do you like about the short form?

The short form gives me a lot of freedom to experiment formally and technically. It also allows me for precision to find the right length of the film and limits the tendency of over stretch to fit conventional timing requirements. I actually also love long takes and very long films because I like to experience time in a movie and this seems to happen more in short and long forms.


photo ©Dorothea Tuch

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