‘Witness?’ dir. Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo
An ongoing collection of documentary portraits that investigate the traumatic experiences accumulated through an individuals genetic lineage. Defining the human body as an archive of ancestral thoughts and memories raises the question as to how these inherited memories impact our current lives.
Writer-Director: Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo
C8: Where did the concept for ‘Witness?’ originate?
CLQ: ‘Witness?’ as it is now is a result of my research into Freud’s theory of ‘Archaic Remnants’ and Jung’s theory of the ‘Collective Unconscious / Archetypes’ along with key scientific papers discussing the passing down of memories, drawing connections between phobias and inherited experiences.
I started looking into this as a result of the amount of disregarded historical accounts not included in institutional repositories.
C8: Is the end result what you originally envisaged or did the idea evolve gradually before shooting?
CLQ: The concept of repositories has been a consistent interest of mine. It’s been a long time coming taking a variety of shapes but never materialised until now. I started designing the machine that could scan, identify and delete memories.
Maybe I’ll publish the designs. . .
C8: Ideally, what do you want people to take away from these moving image portraits?
CLQ: It’s no secret that ‘Approved History’ as Walter Benjamin called it, is a manmade construct and the authors of it are typically the survivors, victors and political powers.
The aim of this archive is to excavate ‘Personal History’ that lays dormant within individuals, but questioning what historical events witnessed through their ancestry have impact the way they think.
C8: It’s interesting you describe them as moving image portraits rather than as films. Can you take us inside the reasoning for this?
CLQ: The choice to identify the ‘Witness?’ collection as moving image portraits is because of the suggestion of self-reflection. It’s an analytically exploration of nostalgic.
C8: What drew you to the topic of traumatic experiences?
CLQ: The honest answer is that I was trying to understand whether I could justify how I could empathise with injustices so purely despite never experiencing them first hand and at the same time understand how others could not empathise with the events despite having the same detachment as myself. There just seemed to be more to consider in my search for that answer.
C8: The project seems to have a focus on African-American history. What was the reasoning for this and will you open it up to other traumatic moments in history further down the line?
CLQ: ‘Witness? doesn’t focus on the African-American experience, rather it opens up the discussion about the impact of ‘inherited memory’, starting with the African American experience. It makes an increasingly poignant comparison between current and historical conflicts, unfortunately casualties of history exist in all cultures and individuals, and as the archive continues to grow that will become more apparent.
C8: What was the most technically challenging aspect of the shoot?
CLQ: Working with such rich imagery was problematic for some software, which meant starting from scratch countless times. Nonetheless the outcome aesthetically in my opinion was worth it. Regardless it all starts with creating the perfect canvas, lighting was the devil in the detail.
C8: The project is still ongoing. What can we expect to see from ‘Witness?’ in the future?
CLQ: As the ‘Witness?’ archive continues to you should expect to experience a crash course in cultural history, a quick insight into a cumulative perspective and an opportunity to empathise and understand how and why history is an unmerciful teacher but also a possible key to liberation. My most recent installation “20 and Odd” and the social experiment ‘The Second Coming’ explores that exact point.
C8: Apart from the ongoing nature of ‘Witness?’ what’s next for you?
CLQ: Besides ‘Witness?’ I’m working on my biggest project yet which will also be an ongoing project or maybe better described as a device of generating a series of outputs. It encompasses everything; film, installation, product design, a manifesto.
It’s been a while since I’ve been fully focused on one project. I’m looking forward to it.
You can find out more about Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo’s ‘Witness?’ project here.