Leo Ahlers
bangaloREsident@Sandbox Collective

Leo Ahlers © Leo Ahlers Leo Ahlers is a multimedia Artist, working on affection between individual perception and collective construction. Everything that sparks emotion – whatever kind – is relevant, important to be made the subject of aesthetic reflection, processed and passed on in a different form.

The hope in collective forms of expression to develop non-totalitarian ideas on living together provides the backdrop for Leo’s work. Form varies according to context. In the past Leo, has worked a lot with film as a medium but also incorporated different media such as photography, electronic media and performance, often combining them in the attempt to create suitable scenarios for collective expression.

It is the play with the possibilities, the “ongoingness” and dynamic of social processes, the painful confrontation of imagination, need and the perception of hyperaccelerated reality in the 21st century which demands a procedural form of expression.

During their bangaloREsidency Leo will work with Sandbox Collective on the subject of gender within the broader question of how the world could be focusing on the queer community in Bangalore.

What are the dreams and hopes in question? What are the demands and what resistance do they meet? Leo believes that working in the context, in close cooperation with the queer community can be a fruitful ground for the development of a sociopolitical time-image, that can also provide room for subjective experiences. Other local groups as well as other artists are welcome to join the process.

Final report

How can sexist, objectifying narratives be exposed and changed? During my attempt to find expired Super 8 films on ebay Kleinanzeigen, I came across various European analog striptease films (Super 8 & 8 mm) and started to ask myself this question. Without having seen the films, I came to Bangalore. I wanted to start a collaborative project with AFAB and/or queer people that aimed at breaking down problematic narratives in different, cultural contexts. The process as well as the form of the project was open.

The first step was the screening with all interested AFAB queer people. Through Nimi and Shiva from Sandbox as well as Avril Stormy Unger, a performance artist who helped me get a Super 8 projector right at the start, at the presentation at the Goethe-Institut, I was able to establish contact with AFAB people as well as the queer community in Bangalore straightaway, so that I had various interested people around me. Also the fact that November was Pride Month in Bangalore was very helpful to make contacts, exchange ideas and get a small insight into queer life in Bangalore.

The screening of the films turned out to be more difficult than expected. It was very difficult to get hold of a continuously functioning analog film projector. I borrowed and tried out a total of four projectors. These were either already defective and I had to have them repaired, or they stopped working at some point.

I also think that I was lucky or had a good network to get the projectors. It is definitely not as easy to find analog film equipment in India as it is in Germany. If you, person reading this, are planning to work with analog film in Bangalore, I would advise you to do so in Mumbai, bring equipment with you or know for sure that everything required is available and functional. Better safe than sorry! I spent a lot, a lot of energy and time finding projectors, picking them up as well as returning them. In a city like Bangalore with heavy traffic, this was a nerve-wracking affair for me.

At some point, the way I handled the projection issue was to capture the projection with a digital camera so that I could play some films "digitally" as a backup. During the screening, we could actually watch the films with the film projectors. Unfortunately, due to issues with explicit material in the past at Gender Bender, Sandbox's annual festival, it was not possible to make the screening or group collaboration public. I didn't expect this and it made me think further. Fearing negative consequences with regard to the striptease films, I decided against editing the individual films into a whole new film as well as filming in general. It would have been a pity not to be able to show the resulting film after all the effort. Consequently, the idea came up to multiply single frames, stills from a selection of films, analog in the darkroom. However, since I only had the playable film material, positives, I first had to make negatives for the prints. Now the hunt began again. Getting the right sheet for the negatives, a suitable print shop, photo paper and chemicals took some effort.

However, the search was successful. The results were published under the title "Ways of Seeing: A Photo Exhibition. The gendered female body in Super 8 mm films of the '70s" at Kānike, an artistic collective and open space. In addition to showing the images, the narratives, it was especially about inviting the audience to edit the prints, in the sense of an open studio. It was designed to reduce the awe of art and film footage, as well as to build confidence in one's own (creative) abilities and to strengthen self-sufficiency. It was also important to me to create a place where queer people could feel comfortable and be whom they want to be. I am very happy that all of us who helped with this (Avril / Nimi, Shiva and Leya from Sandbox / Shruti from Oorkathe / Ayisha Abraham / Babu Eshwar Prasad / Navin Thomas / Michael / Sabir and Kānike) succeeded in this. Even if only temporarily. Keep on fighting.

The edited prints will be published in a digital archive. In addition, it will be possible to download the selected film stills and add your own edited version to the archive.