Op zondagavond 7 mei was Béla Tarr te gast in KASK om de eretitel van Magister Artium Gandensis in ontvangst te nemen. Dit is een erkenning die de school samen met HoGent sinds 2010 uitreikt aan een persoon die zich verdienstelijk gemaakt heeft in de kunsten. Deze biijzondere uitreiking is ook de pers niet ontgaan: zowel De Morgen, de Standaard, Knack als Klara hebben hierover bericht. Zo schrijft De Morgen het volgende over Béla Tarr: "Een man die naar de kern van cinema boort en beseft dat de ware betekenis van een film in de beeldvoering ligt, véél meer dan in het verhaaltje."
Het gesprek tussen Béla Tarr en Edwin Carels kun je hieronder herbeluisteren:
Decaan Wim De Temmerman gaf een toespraak bij de overhandiging van de Magister Artium Gandensis en David Slotema, student film, sprak een laudatio uit in naam van zijn medestudenten. Je kan hun tussenkomt hier herlezen:
Dear students and collegues, distinguished guests, dear president of the university college Ghent and pro-rector of Ghent University, prof. Paul Van Cauwenberghe,
a warm welcome to you in this academic meeting in honour of Béla Tarr.
Dear Mister Béla Tarr,
speaking on behalf of all collegues and students, as dean of our Royal Academy of Fine Arts and of the Royal Conservatory, I want to thank you and Amila for being with us today, for the inspiring dialogue we just witnessed and for your work tomorrow with the students.
Let me start with a book - and I should not forget to invite you to sign it! I am referring to the book that is on this socket. It dates back to 2 the year 1770, when our Academy was 19 years young, and must have flourished at the time, as the frontpage shows an illumination by Pieter van Reysschoot of a woman with five breasts. It bears the signature of ’die weltseele zu Pferde’ Napoleon Bonaparte, as Hegel called him, his brother, but also our king Willem van Oranje Nassau… (this last name might please David and our other students from the Netherlands, with whom we were once united). But while our School of Arts has an agelong history, the Magister Artium Gandensis is brand new and ads new pages to the book. We therefor invite you to solemny sign a page that was illuminated for this occasion by the artist Henri Jacobs, who teaches in our drawing department.
Dear Mr. Tarr, University College Ghent, and its School of Arts in particular, honours you with the epitheton of ‘master’. To us, an intimate, valuable and passionate gesture. The Magister Artium Gandensis is awarded to artists who are and will be an inspiration to the students of our Academy and Conservatory. Previous laureates were the jazz composer and musician John Zorn, the artist duo Gilbert and George, and the actress and performer of contemporary music Salomé Kammer.
It is clear that semantically, a ‘magister’ or master is much more than a mere academic degree or an honorary title. But what is mastership? Musing and philosophizing on this subject might easily lead us into shady ‘new age’ territory where gurus often take the guise of ‘masters’. We should also be careful not to fall back on a reactionary discourse, as the terms of ‘master’ and ‘apprentice’ take us back to a pre-modern approach to education.
There are, however, traditions on mastership that are intellectually sound and not conservative. In those traditions, a master is someone who is authoritative in a certain field of human activity. You could compare it to the way that saints are authoritative in their religion. Masters then become points of reference, by which the rest of us can find their bearings.
Today these points of reference are more necessary than ever, as more and more opposition and conflict prevail, be it inspired by religion, by nationalism or by ideology, and almost always driven by economic interest. The ensuing destruction of human life, of animals, plants, places and objects in the area of industrial and financial capitalism, the devaluation of human values … only makes our gathering here today more meaningful and valuable.
For countering this destruction and devaluation, there are images, words, sounds, movements, consciously crafted and designed spaces and objects… that retain their value no matter what happens. Works of Art. Their essential function is not derived from practical or financial value, from political or military power, from their nationalist or religious canvassing qualities.
Quite the contrary, they stand ridiculously vulnerable in their uselessness. And yet accomplished works of art are carefully passed on from one generation to the next, protected more than anything else, admired and cherished through the ages. In most cases these sounds, images, words, movements and shapes originated with one specific person, in a particular context, in a distinct culture … but they are of enduring, never devaluating value for many – often, virtually all – people.
Works of art succeed in elevating us, in uniting all humanity while simultaneously respecting their singularity, their otherness.
How remarkable it is, that from past ages it is mainly the works of art we wish to safeguard – why? Because they say something about us as well, and actively speak to us, without ever devaluating us as human beings, on the contrary.
Art-academies are places where young people are trained as makers of such remarkable things that retain their value throughout the turbulences of history, also throughout our nationalist and capitalist 4 area of history, and that are passed on from generation to generation as being valuable in themselves.
Therefore, teaching art and searching to become an artist, is essentially a political and ethical activity. Not in the sense of teaching and learning from within one particular ideology, or theory or point of view, on the contrary. It is a political and ethical activity in the sense that it relates to a realm of life that retains its value no matter what happens. And in the sense that it requires an assembly of very different points of views and practices as the only productive way to proceed.
To open the doors of perception for that realm of life, and to grow into that assembly, in other words to become a master in the arts… young people need a multiplicity of masters as points of reference.
Of course, essentially these masters and students are equals, as they are both on the same impossible quest for understanding, cherishing and moulding life. There lies the difference between saints in their religion, and the masters we are talking about tonight: the master always stays an apprentice himself. Luckily the apprentices and students are not aware of that. Could it be that becoming a master is nothing more than acquiring, through life, the deeply experienced awareness that all of humanity is stuck in its first bacheloryear?
Dear Mister Tarr, we believe you are a point of reference to the community of our school. It is therefore that David Slotema, student in the filmdepartment of the masterprogram in Audiovisual Arts, will adress you a ‘laudatio’.
After the Laudatio, our president prof. Paul Van Cauwenberge will hand you the trophy of the Magister, which is a sculpture by one of our Alumni Johan Tahon. He made five copies of the same mold, which all differ in some details from each other. One of these five is with John Zorn, one is with Salomé Kammer, one with Gilbert and George. The fourth one will be yours.
Dear Béla, thank you very much for accepting this honorary titel of Magister Artium Gandensis.
It may seem as if I’m standing here on my own, speaking only for myself, but in fact I will speak with the voices of many if not all the students, teachers and alumni of this school.
Ever since the first rumors about your visit at our school made their rounds here at KASK everyone here has been excited. No one ever asked a question why you would receive this honorary award since your work has carved a deep trail not only in the film department, but throughout the institution.
Your films are the source of inspiration for people to come here and make films themselves, we watch them together and reflect on what we saw in our papers and dissertations. Teachers across the many art departments we have here rely on your work to fortify their lectures.
To accurately describe any of your work here is an impossible task for me since I’m neither poet nor a writer. Besides that, I think that your work defies any description. The only rightful thing to say, in my case, is that I never watch your films but I experience or perceive them. They contain this rare quality, that is only shared with great music, of communicating directly, bypassing any form of intellectual reasoning, with something inside, which you might call the soul.
The experience you offer to us prioritizes sensing over understanding. It’s filmmaking that cuts straight to the essence.
I came to this school to explore ways of expressing myself through visual means, helped by teachers that don’t preach or teach but kindly show me possible paths to follow, never forcing me in any direction. The only demand is to find your driving force and to work with uncompromised commitment. Why do I want to make something, what do I want to express, what am I doing here?
What strikes me most in your work , aside from the artistic mastery, is the presence of your relentless driving force throughout your whole oeuvre. From the first film to the last, in every scene and every shot, down to the smallest fiber of a frame, we feel your compassion for humanity.
And although it seems like an impossible endeavor to make films of such beauty for a beginning filmmaker, I don’t think that any student should ever give up on his or her aspirations to make such monumental work but maybe it’s not the starting point. When considering your work, we should acknowledge that the The Turin Horse could have never have come into being without all the films that preceded it all the way up to Family Nest. A film you started shooting today exactly 40 years ago.
With every consecutive film you worked your way closer to your thematic essence, while guarding over the dignity of your characters. With every step the all-encompassing image of the core you want to express became clearer and clearer until everything that could be left out was carved away.
I think that’s a valuable lesson for everyone here, and the main reason to honour you with this award: Commit yourself and follow your driving force, the thing that makes you want to wake up in the morning, and fight the rest of your life, in every work you make, to express it in the most truthful way possible. And until then, to quote the bartender driver Kelemen from Satantango: “... keep plodding and plodding and plodding..’
And now I would like to invite you to sign our schoolbook and add your name to a long lineage of other people that were of importance to our school.