Daniel Cockburn, born in 1976, lives in Toronto, Canada. Since completing his film- and video production studies, he works as a video artist. In 2008 he shot his first full-length feature film, “You Are Here”. Up to the present, he has produced over twenty short films screened at festivals, galleries, and art collections around the world, and his works are repeatedly honored with awards.
Cockburn cites the Argentine writer Jorges Luis Borges as essentially influencing his reality-deconstructing stories. He too, presents his artistic figures as imprisoned in narrative leitmotifs that they themselves arrange. And ultimately, language plays an important role in Cockburn’s undertakings as well—namely the search for the great order. Whether a Wittgenstein quote or a fragment of Hollywood dialogue, whether inside or outside the frame, Cockburn’s texts are as obsessed with language as skeptical of it. They jump from the breakfast butter to discussing the universe and back again. His cascades of words devour themselves and create rhetorical spirals. In addition to content, what especially interests him is the rhythm of speech and singing. Most recently, his work increasingly deals with montages of text of the same meter. Cockburn is interested in rhythm as a possible ordering principle on every cinematic level. Rhythm is a component of time, and time is the determining dimension of the film medium. A film exists exclusively in the sequencing of images and never in the frozen image alone. All in all, Cockburn’s interest is directed at the essence of film, at the essence of conveyance.
He loves movies and consciously draws from their means. His musical background and training in traditional narrative filmmaking remain perceptible even in his experimental films. His works combine abstract investigation with narration, shifting as it were, back and forth through the borders between video art, film essays, and narration. With his film “You Are Here,” a work in progress, he tears down the border to narrative feature filmmaking again.
In the short film that Cockburn produced in 2002, “Metronome” (10’40”), he goes on another essay-like, cinema-manic as well as literary-philosophical journey through the course of a day. He explores mental patterns in life, language, rhythm, and movies. In the process, he subjects an entire day to the same rhythm: 144 beats per minute. This is the beat that the film’s protagonist unceasingly pounds out on his chest. The film’s voice-over part, recited in this staccato as well, is inspired by the Hollywood movie “Fight Club”—one of the many cinematic or written sources that Cockburn quotes and weaves into his network of associations. At the Media City 9 Festival, this film won the jury’s Best Canadian Work Award. In addition, at the Images Festival, together with “The Other Shoe,” this same film, completed in conjunction with a residency grant for Charles Street Video, received the Homebrew Award.
Cockburn’s short film “Brother Tongue/Langue Fraternelle” (15’ 48’’) parodies the obsession that an artist has with language: a filmmaker, portrayed by Cockburn himself, is giving an interview on his fascination with language when he literally runs out of words. The second, speechless half of the film consists of a long, camera zoom, which passes though the window and glides into a more or less abstract image. Though words are no longer spoken, the French subtitles continue, leaving the viewer with a typically “Cockburnian” paradox: the translation exists without anything to translate.
In Berlin, Daniel Coburn plans to continue his investigation of narration, speech, rhythm, and repetition in the form of two series of short films. In the “Translators” series, German and English texts with unalike meanings but identical meters become connected. In the second series, entitled “Orderers,” Cockburn plans to have what appear to be meaningless actions and sentences tossed together, and afterward, when shown again reassembled, to have their meaning revealed.