Max Hattler
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Max Hattler
Max Hattler

Max Hattler

APEngine talks to Max Hattler, director of Collision and Aanaatt, and master of the live re-mix.

How did you come to start making films?

I came across film really in a very random way. As a kid I was always drawing and painting. My dad’s a musician – he’s a bit famous in Germany – and I had this musical thing but never wanted to go there. When I got my first computer and then electronic music technology came round, I started making music on the computer and that was kind of a step on from what he was doing.

What was he doing?

Well, less computer based: Krautrock.

I got really into editing on the computer, with the different layers, and you build up music organically. I did play the violin for a time but I never really got into the whole notation of the song. I did that for a few years and left my visual interests a little bit behind. Then I ended up in a situation where it was time to decide what I wanted to study – I was slightly confused and didn’t know which way to go. I came to England – in Germany you do Military Service or social work – so I went to England.

To do social work?

To find a place in England to do my social work because I thought it would be nice to do it somewhere else if I have to do it anyway. I was working with special needs youngsters and that kind of put another angle on my confused being, thinking “Oh maybe I should study something a little bit more worthy and give something back to society.”

I decided to do media studies because I thought it would give me something creative but also something wider – maybe some sociology and cultural studies. And I did that at Goldsmiths.

It was alright but a theoretical course. It had a practical component, where you could do film or radio or TV production or animation. So I went for the most artistic one which was animation – so it was kind of more by chance but it suddenly clicked.

I thought well, actually this combines working with computers, working with sound, working along a timeline but also working with images. So that’s how I came to animation.

And then you went to the Royal College of Art, and Collision,  your graduation film was a big popular and critical success. And although you’ve done commercial work you didn’t carry on in that direction did you?

After the Royal College I was kind of finding my voice and finding out where I should go with it. The work I did there wasn’t very commercial – I found myself very much on the arts side, you know, in relation to everyone else. And I did want to take that forward, but at the same time I thought I’d give the commercial world a try…

Collision must have been – from the creative side of things – commercial and at the same time it had an art integrity about it..

Yeah – that was the nice thing about it – showing it in galleries and obviously it also opened doors for me commercially. I did want to do both basically. Because the commercial work, if you can get the good work, then it’s fun. And it really does pay the bills which then enables you to do the more art based work.

And how has that worked out?

It’s worked out alright.  The great thing with Bermuda Shorts was that they got me a bit of work but they left me to my own devices as well. And it was nice being in a studio and there was a really good vibe but I could get on with my own work as well.

And you never re-made Collision – you know how people are sometimes destined to re-make their graduation film. You’ve gone off in several different directions. And not just making animated films.

The thing with Collision was that it opened doors and it was really very useful at that point in my career. But it also crippled me a little bit because I felt that I had to make something as good or whatever or just like that. And people were saying “Oh make another one. Make another one. You know it’ll be great.” But I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as the guy who makes kaleidoscope films.

Plus, it’s a conceptual piece. If I made another film about America versus Islam, I could make another Collision but otherwise I can’t because it’s just that. I wanted to make something different.

And one of the different things you did was a live remixing of home movies of your father’s band – appropriating your personal history, working live, re-mixing performing music. Which is about as far as I can imagine in a practice from ‘Collision’ as you could go.

Well, in my universe it all makes sense! Because Collision is about sound – apart from it being very conceptual, it’s about how sound and image work together because without the sound, Collision is just wallpaper, it’s nothing.  

Because of my musical background I felt that doing something in a live context was a logical conclusion. And how if you’re a musician, you’re in a studio, you make an album that’s very polished, but when you go out and play it live, it’s a different experience, but part of the same practice.

The Royal College was really intense, just sitting there getting the work done – and I felt it would be nice to actually go out and have a little bit of a adrenaline rush and meet people while I’m working. The animation life can be very solitary. So it made sense to me – but of course, personal home movie footage, that’s something very personal compared to something very political and abstracted.

So across the different kinds of work you do, are there common things that interest you – maybe the relationships between sound, and image?

That’s an element definitely. But I think it’s also an interest in the relationship between abstraction and figuration, or how you can use abstraction to reflect on things. If you take something out of the normal context, take a step back, or go really close – you can relate to your subject matter in a different way, which might make you think in different ways.

There’s a political aspect to that isn’t there? Either a personal politics or a kind of social politics I think – around how meaning is constructed perhaps?

I never thought about it in that way but I think there is an element of that. I wouldn’t class all my work as political but it depends how you define that.

Maybe political in that there’s a definite sense of wanting to communicate with the person who is viewing the work.

Yes, it’s also about encoding and decoding; about the viewer finding things within the works which relate to their own universe, as opposed to me telling them what to think. So in that sense it communicates; it’s kind of oblique…which is what I like.

I wanted to ask you about collaboration and also commissions – your live performance Oh Yes was commissioned by AND Festival, and Drift and Aanaatt are commissions?

Commissions in the sense that there’s some kind of external factor that makes me sit down and go “Okay I’m going to do this till that date.” It gives me a framework to work within. And it slightly formalises an idea. But they’re not commissions in the sense that someone conceptually…

I mean commission in the sense that people are approaching you and inviting you to make work – which doesn’t happen to everyone.

Yes, but with Drift, for example, you know there wasn’t much money there. And it was basically a film I wanted to make and then a residency opportunity came along so I started the project within that, and then tried to find somewhere to exhibit it. I premiered it in my hometown, Ulm, and I wrangled them into giving me some money for that.  So you know I just try and kind of work it out somehow.

How did Aanaatt come about?

It’s actually a music video. W&K Tokyo Lab asked me to make a music video for Jemapur.

It’s a very sophisticated music video…

I was very lucky because they liked the pitch and they left me to my own devices. For me it’s a totally personal work.

Did your pitch include all the stuff about analogue and modernism?

I did some tests that I sent over, which they liked.

The analogue part of it is to do with this kind of intersection of abstraction and figuration, of having something in the real world but at the same time it’s an abstract narrative. And I guess it’s a little bit of an exploration of a Bauhaus kind of aesthetics. Most of the objects used in the film are from Hans (Nick) Roericht, an old family friend, a product designer, design professor emeritus, now in his 70s. He studied at the Ulm School of Design, which is a direct descendant of the Bauhaus. And he has this massive archive of things that he accumulated over the years so I was very lucky to take stuff away from his collection of little knobs and pieces of plastic and things.

And Aanaatt is also a kind of comment on this animation/design aesthetic that’s very current. People using a lot of CG, 3D, integrating it with live action and making weird things. And I thought “Oh wouldn’t it be nice to actually not use any CG.” Go back to basics and keep it real!

And in taking designed objects, keeping them as real objects, but without relating them to their context or purpose… in a way the film isn’t abstract but it is about abstraction.

Was there any collaboration with Jemapur?

Only in the sense that, there were a few tracks to choose from. There was no back and forth.

But you do often work in collaboration…

I collaborate in a live performance context a lot, with Robert Seidel and with Noriko Okaku - playing live together, which is fun. I guess what you could call VJing – playing bits of video live and filtering and re-arranging in real-time.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

I’m just finishing off a new short film called Spin. It elaborates some ideas from Collision, but with a different angle. It’s a film about war and it’s more figurative – it uses toy soldiers – but it’s got patterning as well. Mass ornament, troupes vs. troops. And the relationship between the aestheticisation of violence, the mediatisation of war, how it becomes evening entertainment, and the reality on the ground.

Monday, November 23, 2009 | Tagged with , , , , , , , ,

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