DIFFERENT TRAINS

 

MUSIC BY STEVE REICH

Video SD / b&w and colour / 29 minutes / June, 2016.

 

In 1988 Steve Reich wrote Different Trains, an innovative work in three movements for string quartet and pre-recorded tape. This autobiographical piece evokes the train journeys from New York to Los Angeles that the composer made between 1939 and 1942 to visit the homes of his divorced parents. In the second movement, the remembrance of these journeys as a romantic childhood adventure is overlaid by a contrafactualscenario exploring the likely fate of a Jew like him in the Europe of the time: the trains would have been one-way vehicles of deportation to the Nazi extermination camps. The final movement refers to the end of the war period and the rapid process of social transformation, as symbolized by the new trains, but also refers to the survivors’ inability to leave behindthe doubts, anxieties and memories of the crimes and devastation of the Nazi regime.

In 2016, in a work commissioned by the BBVA Foundation, Beatriz Caravaggio has revisited Steve Reich’s ideas, giving the score a visual life. Her cinematographic recomposition builds on a montage of archive images of the wartime period. The film transports us from a setting of bucolic landscapes and magnificent trains to the survivors’ journey to America, by way of a central movement that conjures up the darkest chapters of the war. In this passage, the author juxtaposes archive images of deportations, death camps and the liberation. The film is characterized by the division of the screen into three parts, bringing out a rich range of meanings; a slightly out-of-synch triptych that achieves a temporal fragmentation while producing a cohesive collageof dynamics and transitions. The video art work has been synchronized with the Kronos Quartet’s canonical 1989 performance of Different Trains.

 

“Since we live in a time when many people want a visual accompaniment for music – even at concerts – several people have created videos to accompany my piece Different Trains. To be honest, most of them I haven’t even seen, and those I have are generally just a distraction from listening to the music. The one exception is the brilliant multi channel video by Beatriz Caravaggio which really works as something to watch on its own and as a way to intensify listening to Different Trains. She has taken documentary footage and through multi channel placement and fine editing, made a thoughtful and moving piece. Bravo, Beatriz!”,  Steve Reich, 2017

 

SOLO EXHIBITIONS AND SCREENINGS OF DIFFERENT TRAINS 

CURRENT
– Joan Miró Foundation and Grec Festival, Barcelona. From 14 June to 6 October, 2019.

FUTURE
– The Friends of Chamber Music, Kansas City. 11 October, 2019.
– Calgary Pro Musica, Canada. 20 October, 2019.

PAST
– Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. From 9 February to 5  May, 2019.
– Equinox Chamber Music Festival. Copenhague. 31 March, 2019.
– Soundstreams. Toronto. 2 February, 2019.
– Rockport Chamber Music Festival. Massachusetts. 22 June, 2018.
– Montreal Chamber Music Festival. 12 June, 2018.
– Aspekte Salzburgo Festival. 26 April, 2018.
– Museo Patio Herreriano, Valladolid. From 26 January to 15 April, 2018.
– Cine Zumzeig, Barcelona. 28 January, 2018.
Banff Centre International String Quartet Festival, Canada. 3 September, 2017.
– Summer Music Vancouver. 15 July,  2017.
– Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. From 26 April to 25 September,  2017.
– Las Palmas International Film Festival. 3 and 8 April, 20017.
BBVA Foundation, Madrid.  From 13 January to 20 March, 2017.

ART COLLECTIONS
Toledo Museum of Art. Ohio.

 

EXTRACTS

From I Movement. America – Before the War.

 

From II Movement. Europa – During the War.

 

From III Movement. After the War.

 

 

PRESENTATION IN THE BILBAO FINE ARTS MUSEUM

 

 

THE CINEMATOGRAPHIC RECOMPOSITION OF DIFFERENT TRAINS  

Miquel Martí Freixas

Revisiting, rethinking, looking back upon past events are artistic attitudes of our time. A very active cultural stance in the latest decades, which explores especially the legacies of the twentieth century. This revisitation of the past offers a detailed reflection of the times lived, inscriptions in memory that are still more profound than those that already existed. We might understand this return voyage as a posthumous chapter of the preceding century.

The twentieth century is also the first in which humanity possesses a variety of tools so as to leave extensive records and interpretations of the experiences lived. It is a century that has been printed, photographed, set to a soundtrack, filmed day by day. In the twenty-first century, these multiple tools that record the developments have become globalized and supersaturate their own function. It is a time that is written down, photographed, set to a soundtrack, filmed, shared and experienced virtually every minute in a diversity of formats and platforms. The enormous and rapidly growing amount of material that records the testimony of our time obstructs a calm and distant gaze. Perhaps these obstacles to the comprehension of the twenty-first century also encourage the search for reasons on the trails of the twentieth century. One of the characteristics of these times of multiple registries is their intersection. They are mixed, interactive, participatory expressions. A distinctive feature that is also adopted in contemporary art. An example of this are the reinterpretations in many artistic environments: palimpsestic forms and creations that are hybrids of various disciplines the limits of which are blurred, or polyhedral approaches that allow to delve deeper into the object of study.

The work of Beatriz Caravaggio is created in this post-cultural framework. At the start of the twenty-first century, she looks back onto the key years of the twentieth, those of the Holocaust. The work, a film, is a reconstruction of memories composed in musical form in the nineteen-eighties—Steve Reich’s biographical compositions that reflect upon the collective experiences of those who suffered the   barbarity of Nazism during the thirties and the forties. Thus, in our present, we are offered a singular and complex diaristic-musical-cinematographic work that spans some eight decades.

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Rhythms, fragments and compositions of memory

Steve Reich’s work Different Trainsis the description of a thought. In his childhood, the composer travelled the United States coast to coast to visit his separated parents. A child in large trains, journeys that lasted several days, long hauls lived as adventures. In his mature years, and in the process of inquiring into his Jewish roots, the composer understands that while he enjoyed these spectacular journeys,  with the deported Jews destined for confinement or death, desperate stories circulated on other railways. The composer becomes conscious of his fortune, perhaps of the importance of destiny, as a Jew in a country far from the Europe of Nazism and the Holocaust.

Repetition is an outstanding feature of Reich’s musical composition, in which elements that recall the activity of a train have a great presence. The piece is composed of moments that combine quickness and slowing down, expressing different speeds. Whistles characteristic of the operation of a railway are easily distinguishable. And very particularly, the work reflects the unmistakable, ceaseless rattle that ends up becoming an internal rhythm for the traveller. The American composer renders this with an enveloping reiteration of sound, as though in a state of an auditive trance, that might open the mind to a dream-like state. It is in this more intangible sphere where the connection with other, distant physical spaces occurs, with other trains and other human beings. This rhythmic mental voyage shall be the basis of their memory.

Beatriz Caravaggio interprets Steve Reich’s ideas giving the piece a visual life. Her reading builds on a montage of archive images related to the subject matter and belonging to the same period; that is to say, images that have a documentary connection with the described history.

The film moves from a bucolic setting of nature and landscapes, with an admiration for the new trains, to return to large cities and significant buildings, a grey urban world after World War II, having travelled through more obscure periods of the conflict. Throughout this passage of time, she brings together archive images belonging to concentration camps, deportation, extermination and liberation. Film records rescued from places and circumstances with few witnesses of the reality, the rescued images – the fruit of historical events, in some cases of heroic acts. In the extensive effort of the selection of archive material, the video-artist’s creative work lies in an excellent reordering of all these images, a methodical and precise elaboration made frame by frame. As a result of this process, the construction of a narrating gaze, the documentary origin is rewritten to create a storyline.

An important feature of the montage is the division of the screen in three parts, offering a range of readings. On the one hand, the triptych is slightly arrhythmical, which offers us a fragmentation of time, fractionated memories. Reminiscences that appear somewhat scrambled,shaped with a diversity of dynamics, movements and voices. The triptych is also an aesthetic composition of movements, forms and colours, constructed with an evocative richness owing to the coordination, the similarities or contrast. It is a collagistic work, but at the same time, the variety of archive sources is presented with a visual uniformity, which offers us a cohesive story.

Beatriz Caravaggio also maintains the original structure that divides the work into three movements, and it is in the third that the triptych acquires a new value through the contrast of meanings. The survivors arrive to their new destinations and the quotidian rhythm of these cities saturates their lives, but these cannot but continue to bear the indelible marks of the Holocaust. Thus, the course of the present time will coexist with memories of the past.

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Significance and legacies

The artistic representations related to this subject have been many, beginning in the very concentration camps (painting, drawing, music, literature, poetry, among other expressions) and until today. There are quite a few masterpieces that have become cultural milestones, but speaking of the works as a whole rather than highlighting talents and successful renderings, the conglomerate formed by those that are the most ethical, more rigorous, profound or representative constructs a collective memory of the events.

.In different disciplines, an influential legacy is shaped by written memoirs, literature and poetry (Paul Celan, Anne Frank, Imre Kertész, Eugene Kogon, Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, among many others), by film-makers (Alain Resnais, Claude Lanzmann, Andrzej Munk, Harun Farocki, László Nemes) and music, as in the case of Steve Reich’s work and Beatriz Caravaggio’s cinematographic recomposition. Memorials and museums of the entire world perform the function moulding historic memory, including artistic memory. We might also include works that reach a very mainstream audience and, although less profound than those mentioned earlier, maintain an ethic and a true interest in the subject matter and, in their popularity, influence a large stratum of the population. This could be the case of Steven Spielberg’s famous film (and let us not forget his essential work with archive material) or comic books, such as the pioneering work of Bernard Krigstein or Art Spiegelman’s famous graphic novel.

All together, they forge a rich and multiple legacy of inscriptions in memory. A monolith of representations that inscribe the important concept of never forgetting what happened. In addition, we also find a hope of a future heritage, a hope that the history lived in the twentieth century, the Holocaust and all its causes and consequences will be part of the memory of the future. As though a common knowledge that impedes their repetition might be shared by human beings, instilling the extreme lessons and experiences of that time in their cognitive learning.

 

BEATRIZ CARAVAGGIO  |  DIFFERENT TRAINS  

Idoia Hormaza

Existen episodios de la historia que a pesar del trauma, o quizás precisamente para que éste no se repita, no pueden ser olvidados. Al estilo de las grandes historias clásicas, o en el sucederse estipulado de la acción, posee tres tiempos: introducción-desarrollo-desenlace, lo que en el lenguaje musical se traduce en tres movimientos. Tres movimientos para la pieza homónima, Different Trains (1988), del compositor de música minimalista Steve Reich interpretada por el mítico Kronos Quartet. Tres movimientos desgranados en combinaciones de tiempos monocordes -algunas veces simultáneos, otras, ligeramente desplazados- en la obra de videoarte de Beatriz Caravaggio.

Como metáfora la imagen del tren se asocia a la vida o a las oportunidades: “coger un tren”, “dejar pasar un tren”, “perder un tren”, que determinan el destino de un individuo o de un colectivo. Pero no siempre se puede elegir. Steve Reich vivió forzosamente, siendo niño, la separación de sus padres, lo que le obligó a surcar los Estados Unidos de este a oeste montado en trenes cada vez más veloces, más asequibles. La admiración por la velocidad, el juguete de dimensiones reales, le permitieron obviar el verdadero motivo del viaje que no era el del pasatiempo ni el del juego, sino el de la ruptura familiar.

Si pensamos en viajes, en vidas quebradas, la gran ruptura tuvo lugar en los mismos años en la Europa de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. La peor parte se la llevó la comunidad judía que alcanzó en la fase llamada “la solución final”, coincidente con la infancia de Reich, el cómputo de miles de personas deportadas por día tan sólo desde la estación de Varsovia de donde proceden las imágenes de archivo. Una fábrica, un sistema industrial para exterminar en tiempo récord a un pueblo entero.

El tiempo transcurre aunque a menudo quede éste surcado por cicatrices, fragmentos de película documental, vidas que continúan a pesar de las heridas. En algún momento de su vida adulta, Steve Reich relativiza lo acontecido en su infancia porque su suerte hubiera sido bien distinta de ser un niño judío al otro lado del Atlántico. Incorpora el trayecto sonoro, el traqueteo del tren, los silbidos de la locomotora, los tintineos de las barreras… como lenguaje musical de ritmos escanciados, repetitivos, de motor industrial, en la composición de una pieza reflexiva, un recordatorio del terror que en aquellos mismos años vivieron otros.

Unos prisioneros que se dirigían directamente a la muerte, sin conocimiento. Dispuestos en filas con sus únicos objetos personales en mano, en pequeñas maletas y sin alternativa.

Beatriz Caravaggio se ha servido de fondos documentales procedentes de numerosos archivos, públicos y privados, de todo el mundo para establecer un tríptico visual, otra forma de ruptura, en este caso gramatical, el número tres de nuevo. En una obra concebida en gran formato envuelve a un espectador que difícilmente puede escapar de la fuerza de las imágenes que, como la música y siguiendo su ritmo y cruces melódicos, percuten al espectador. En principio se es cautivado por fotogramas que ilustran el avance de la tecnología locomotriz de la época. Poco se puede sospechar que la deriva visual de la potencia del tren, sus infraestructuras, el paisaje en continuo movimiento, los viajeros cómodamente sentados y concentrados en un periódico, va a concluir y a servir de nexo a Beatriz Caravaggio como contraste intenso de esa cotidianeidad, a otra más brutal, que también hizo posible el avance de la tecnología. De los viajeros a los prisioneros de los trenes de deportación del Tercer Reich. La música se va ralentizando y el tema, siempre el mismo, va tornándose angustioso y va cayendo en notas de ánimo apagado.

La mayoría de las tomas que Caravaggio ha usado para un montaje contemporáneo de esa realidad, proceden de un propósito escalofriante, de la intención del comandante Gemmeker de evitar el cierre del campo de tránsito Westerbork que la cancillería de Berlín consideraría en su momento oportuno. Del mismo modo que los judíos eran obligados a las mayores tropelías en detrimento de los suyos, fue también un judío austriaco y fotógrafo, el encargado de filmar esas escenas. Rudolf Breslauer. El pago le era demasiado caro como para negarse, conservar un poco más, unos meses más, su vida y la de su familia. Tres meses después tan sólo sobreviviría una hija.

Trenes bien distintos a los americanos, herméticos, sin vistas, abarrotados, varados durante días esperando una orden y con un fin: la muerte en ese mismo recorrido de cuatro días, o bien bajo la asfixia del verano o bajo la congelación del frío invernal, o el exterminio en las fábricas del crimen sitas en Auswitch y Treblinka. Las únicas escenas en aquel momento imposibles, desde el interior de los vagones, han sido extraídas por la artista de otro material de archivo de época distinta, un documental conmemorativo a las víctimas en los años 60 en otro de los más cruentos campos de concentración, Jasenovac en Croacia. Tomas fijas de pequeños agujeros, ridículamente pequeños en las traviesas de los furgones y rejillas metálicas ortogonales que forzosamente tenían que servir de respiradero a personas hacinadas en la oscuridad de un vagón concebido para animales. Tomas que fueron filmadas desde los trenes empleados en la deportación.

Las voces con sonido de casete, samplers, de la niñera de Reich y un revisor en el primer movimiento, y las de los supervivientes entrevistados procedentes de material de archivo de la Universidad de Yale, nos acompañan en lo auditivo de la composición de Reich y en lo visual en la obra de Beatriz Caravaggio. Palabras que comienzan con la excitación infantil “los trenes más rápidos”, “desde Nueva York a Chicago”, a las más oscuras “tenía un profesor muy alto”, “cuervos negros”, “invadieron nuestro país”, “y me señaló a mí”, “no más escuela”.

La guerra acaba, los campos son liberados por los americanos y por el ejército rojo, el armisticio llega y los pocos supervivientes, que sujetan fija la mirada a la cámara, son liberados. Las sonrisas exultantes “la guerra ha terminado” y una cierta incredulidad “¿estás seguro/a?”. El nuevo arranque del viaje, de la vida, muchos de ellos emigraron a Estados Unidos. Los rascacielos estáticos como fondo de esos trenes lanzados por los raíles, “los trenes más rápidos”, “pero ya no existen”. La memoria, sí.