Eva van Tongeren
Van ver staat het stil (Still from afar)
* 1990 in Amersfoort, NLD, lives and works in Antwerp, BEL
studied at the LUCA School of Arts, Brussels, BEL
Memories fade over time. Images that were once clear become distorted and blurry, they almost threaten to vanish. They gradually become indistinct sounds from afar and one must listen closely to understand them.
In the experimental documentary Van ver staat het stil, the Dutch artist Eva van Tongeren in an audiovisual monologue relates a special correspondence between herself and Thomas, who is in prison because of sexual child abuse. The work originated in a project during which prisoners and non-prisoners were given the opportunity to write each other letters. Van Tongeren and Thomas registered and ultimately became pen friends on account of their shared interest in film. Due to the distance between them, a certain amount of time passed between letters, creating secure surroundings that gave openness a chance. Both were forced to adapt to the other’s rhythm of words. From the onset, Thomas openly explains himself and his story. His honesty and fervent desire to establish contact outside of prison were crucial for the further correspondence. In the letters, they wrote about their ideas, expectations, and dreams, but also about her unchanging incomprehension of his crime. Thomas described sensitively observed details of his environment, like the way people smell who bring in air from the outside or the sound of the guard’s keys. Both looked for a connection and finally found it in the simple and at once poetic imagery of nature. Thomas’ letters prompted the artist to film a barren landscape in the American west, the tallest trees on earth, and finally the bustling streets of Los Angeles. Van Tongeren in turn showed him pictures of things that touched her: a fly buzzing about in the room, treetops swaying in the wind, or a dying locust on the asphalt. Both share the sensitive way of looking at the world.
Inspired by the communicative project and Thomas’ wish for contact with the outside world, Van Tongeren sets off on a journey. Guided by the imagination of her pen friend, she gets extraordinary pictures that she captures in soft camera movements and sends him as fragments of memories that, however, will never be his.
Almost three years ago I signed up for a project where detainees and non-detainees write letters to each other. Thomas and I were partnered up because of our common interest in film. Thomas' first letter was decisive for the rest of our contact. He wanted me to know why he has been detained from the start. He is a convicted pedophile. Before he has experienced people breaking all contact with him when he told them honestly about his crime and his feelings for young girls. Despite these rejections, he continued to write, searching for contact with someone outside the prison.
His interest in my work as a filmmaker and my interest in his world planted the seed for "Still from afar". Due to the distance and time that are inherent to the exchange of letters, a safe environment was created within which openness had a chance. We are forced to adjust our thoughts to the rhythm of each other's letters. In "Still from afar" I translated the months-long dialogue between Thomas and myself into an audiovisual monologue.
Eva van Tongeren