The term "arena" refers to the genius loci: the grounds on which the competition is carried out, hence, where the spectacle is redeemed. In Björn Kämmerer´s film, this ARENA remains hidden. Or, in other words: it becomes the object of a positioning. Rather than the oval, the stage, or other promises, Kämmerer moves the space of the spectator into the image—gray, unoccupied seats, row after row, from an outdoor stadium.
The twist to it: the view of the spectator´s block is immediately made dynamic in two ways. While the camera travels backward at a snail´s pace, that is, slowly distances itself, the rows of seats describe a circular motion. The effect is not as superficial as with a dolly zoom, in which only the background changes. With the gradual expansion of the field of vision, the expanded picture detail, however, contains a similar moment of indefiniteness. The gradual movement itself becomes the attraction.
In his films, Kämmerer has repeatedly transferred cinematic processes and forms into sophisticated experimental arrangements that shift viewers into a spatially and sensually destabilizing situation. Similar to his earlier film Gyre, ARENA is also a single take, a planned sequence, which nonetheless quite deliberately avoids steering toward any end or purpose. The rows of seats are framed in such a way that very few points of orientation remain: although ever more rows become visible, the picture does not open to the outside, it remains consistent within the arrangement of its elements.
Kämmerer´s ARENA is conceived as a 70mm film; a format that due to its enormous aspect ratio is predestined for the theatrical, and is especially suited to horizontal movements. As a sophisticated expansion study, here, as the essence of a schematics, it offers an image that grows, yet grows out of nowhere. Rather than the spectacle of visibility, at the center of ARENA is the space of the spectator and the cinema; therefore, apparatus as collaborator. (Dominik Kamalzadeh)
Translation: Lisa Rosenblatt