Ane Hjort Guttu sets political art on the spot in the film ‘Time Passes’. Meet the Norwegian artist and filmmaker when she visit CPH:DOX on Wednesday!

INTERVIEW

Why is time more important than dignity? And how can art make the world a better place? There are just a few of the many major issues of Ane Hjort Guttu’s multifaceted film ‘Time Passes’: a film on the border between documentary and fiction, which takes the conversation about art seriously.

According to the filmmaker herself, the film is a result of her own frustration with how art is normally portrayed in film:

“With the exception of ‘Edvard Munch’ by Peter Watkins I have not seen a single film where the meaning of art is actually explained. One seldom attempts to convey that someone has a thought behind the works displayed, it’s usually just some stuff hanging on the wall,” says Hjort Guttu about the background of ‘Time Passes’ where we meet the idealistic art student Damla.

In the film, the fictional Damla decides to live as a beggar for ten hours a day, every day for ten months. The project is mildly transboundary and raises more questions than neither Damla nor her teacher and fellow students are eventually able to answer. In that sense it is not the act itself that is exciting in ‘Time Passes’, but the discussion about Damla’s actions.

“The film is not specifically about begging, but more about how to act in the world as an artist and how you relate to those you work with,” adds Hjort Guttu.

Doorway for discussion
In ‘Time Passes’, the art project eventually becomes so personal for Damla that she fails to go through with it. The film opens the door for an important and eternally relevant discussion: can art contribute to a change in society, and how?

Hjort Guttu herself is not in doubt: It can. It’s all about the ability to communicate, she claims.

“There are many artists working with inequality and capitalism criticism that succeed. The film does not conclude that it is impossible to change the world, but instead asks about how one should relate to the people one involves in one’s projects, either if it as performance or a documentary for instance. Can one use poor people to express something about poverty?”

Damla ends up with no new answers and gives up her project. In that respect she fails artistically, argues Hjort Guttu.

“Her art project is not effective in itself, but it is an interesting project to make a film about because I can use it as an example of something that can be discussed. Damla could have found a way to make it interesting if she continued working on it. However, she does not manage to do it in this film,” she says.

Time as an advantage
The filmmaker believes that there are aspects of Damla’s project that are interesting, such as Damla’s critique of the concept of dignity. Where many would argue that begging is degrading because of the beggar’s status in society, Damla argues however that that begging is terrible because of all the time the beggar spends on doing it. Hjort Guttu thinks the art student put her finger on something important.

“Can one decide what is a life of dignity? I think time is a much more specific and less emotive term than dignity. How to spend one’s time is as important as the discussions around salary and how many houses you can afford. It is quite obvious that you would not use your time begging if you had the chance to do something else.”

As an artist Hjort Guttu has worked a lot with the concept of time, in addition to issues of power and freedom. She thinks it is important to explore how one gets to spend one’s time: the one life you have got in this world. Asked what valuable time means for her, the filmmaker is very clear.

“Everyone have been given a life that it takes some time to get through. The more time you can spend on something that makes you happy, and which give something back, the better. It is perhaps what makes begging and poverty extra grotesque. Your life goes into a cruel, pointless activity from which nothing really comes out of,” says Hjort Guttu.

‘Time passes’ will be screened at CPH:DOX. You can meet the filmmaker after the screening in Cinemateket on Nov 11, at 19:30. Buy your ticket here.