Disasters of Peace, vol.6, Whitechapel Gallery, 29 November 2018, 19.00
Co-curated with Sam Jury as part of the Disasters of Peace initiative. With Shubhangi Singh, Cecelia Condit, Reed O'Beirne, Richard Ashrowan, Sam Jury and Kamila Kuc present for the Q&A.
Major disasters seem to characterise our age: refugee crises, genocides of indigenous populations, Chernobyl and Fukushima, catastrophic hurricanes of increased intensity and the inexorable destruction of our habitable ecosystem. How can we represent these disasters to expose the slow violence their aftermaths continue to enact? What languages can convey and transform the legacy of recent histories into an alternate view? This touring programme draws together artist filmmakers who in a myriad of ways, challenge the prevalent representations of disaster, beyond the apparatus of mass-media spectacle. The works presented respond to ideas of transformation and re- imagining of past and present and in so doing, raise questions about the shape of our future.
Dawn to Dust | Shubhangi Singh | 6’ | 2011 | India
Tales of a Future Past | Cecelia Condit | 8’ | 2017 | USA
Popehelm | Sam Jury & Sarah Goldstein | 15’ |2017 | UK
Sky Room | Marianna Milhorat & Brian Kirkbride | 6’ | 2017 | USA
$O$ | Reed O'Beirne | 4’ | 2002 | USA
Gone is Syria, Gone | Jazra Khaleed | 7.5’ | 2016 | Greece
Paperbox | Zbigniew Czapla | 9’ | 2011 | Poland
Cubiculum Umbrae | Richard Ashrowan | 8’ | 2014 | Scotland
I Think You Should Come to America | Kamila Kuc | 21’ | 2017 | USA/UK/Poland
TOTAL RUNNING TIME: 84.5 mins
Dawn to Dust | Shubhangi Singh | 6’ | 2011 | India This film examines the position of humanity in relation to environment and contemplates the impact of cyclical plundering of resources on the personal, as well as collective, human existence. Set amid an ethos of geo-political displacement, mass exodus, mindless invasions and lost resistance, Dawn to Dust is intended as an elegy to the present - an elegy that laments the cataclysmic involvement of mankind in its own indiscriminate obliteration. Here, the work draws the viewer into a moment of collective mourning, an act of rebellion cloaked in communal suffering.
Tales of a Future Past | Cecelia Condit | 8’ | 2017 | USA Part of a longer series of works exploring our symbiotic relationship with our environment and the species we share it with, this two-channel video presents a giraffe and a zebra who fight over an undefined baby creature, in hopes of making it one of their own kind. Using toy masks and a sparse theatricality, Cecelia Condit creates a contemporary reflection on species extinction and the lonely, silent world that might ensue from it.
Popehelm | Sam Jury | 15’ |2017 | UK Popehelm is a short film about a societal decline and its aftermath. Merging three distinct langUAGES, that of dystopic cinematic, the personal, poetic narrative, it employs an innovative use of voice to create atmospheric acoustics. Structurally, Popehelm maps a journey from a vast, empty, landscape to the intimate details of unused objects in abandoned interiors, accompanied by the monologues of three women that chart a more personal journey from loss to obsession. Ultimately, while Popehelm holds no definitive narrative, the texts, soundscape, and filming are shaped together to suggest not only the wake of unexplained calamity, but also the post-traumatic repetition of narratives that exist around such events.
Sky Room | Marianna Milhorat & Brian Kirkbride | 6’ | 2017 | USA Someone is missing. Plants grow, but at what cost? Technology threatens and seduces as humans attempt to solve a mystery through telepathy and mirrors. Stainless steel and broken glass strewn about an intergalactic discotheque. Commissioned by the Chicago Film Archives and made in collaboration with sound artist Brian Kirkbride. Sky Room is a work formed from footage and sound from the archive chopped, manipulated and arpeggiated into a fertile mix of anthem and narrative.
$O$ | Reed O'Beirne | 4’ | 2002 | USA Though a debt of $206 million remained on the structure, the Seattle Kingdome was demolished by "implosion" on a cheery Sunday morning in March 2000. Over 50,000 tons of concrete and steel came crashing down causing the equivalent of a magnitude 2.3 earthquake. $O$ documents that morning through time lapse photography and other experimental film techniques. The destruction was the result of Referendum 48, a ballot initiative backed by $5 million in advertising (the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in Washington state history.) The theme for this ad campaign was "Save Our Seahawks" from which came the name for the film.
Gone is Syria, Gone | Jazra Khaleed | 7.5’ | 2016 | Greece From Chechnya-born Greek poet Jazra Khaleed, Gone is Syria, gone is a delicate yet powerful visual lament on the recent Syrian refugee crisis. Here Syria is embodied female, and through the words of a narrator, recalls her memories in melodic Greek. Syria remembers body mutilations, shootings and various scenes of torture. She leaves her home because ‘her body could not bear any more deaths.’ This gentle meditation on the contemporary world in crisis is made even more powerful by the filmmaker’s own experience of living in the country where there is ‘one grave for every thousand corpses, one shadow for every thousand survivors.’
Paperbox | Zbigniew Czapla | 9’ | 2011 | Poland In May 2010, after record rainfall, catastrophic flooding in Poland deprived thousands of people of all their possessions as well as the roof over their heads. In his family house, ravaged by the deluge, the artist finds a box of old photographs - mementoes destroyed by water, mud and mold. What remained were the fragments of compositions, shreds of portraits and barely recognisable silhouettes. This work recreates the mournful and desperate attempt to preserve these disintegrating documents of memories, reconstruct the images of loved ones and significant events of the past. Ultimately, Paperbox is testament to the transitory nature of our material world and a meditation on memory touched by a disaster.
Cubiculum Umbrae | Richard Ashrowan | 8’ | 2014 | Scotland Shot on 16mm, in Svalbard/Spitzbergen, Cubiculum Umbrae is a film that questions the impact of cultural tourism in the high Arctic. Implicit is an argument about the inevitability of changing lifestyles, and the threat to ways of life in the arctic. At times claustrophobic, this haunting film also serves as a critique of surveillance in contemporary society, because even in the depths of the arctic we cannot seem to escape the mediated image.
I Think You Should Come to America | Kamila Kuc | 21’ | 2017 | USA/UK/Poland In I Think You Should Come to America the correspondence between two young and naïve penfriends serves as a vehicle to explore the dangers of seeing cultures different from our own as ‘other’. Here a young Polish woman (Kuc herself), coming of age in the dying embers of Communist Poland, seeks escape in the re-imagined romance of the Native American life, through her correspondence with an incarcerated young Native American. Using only his letters to her, Kuc presents her pen-friend’s own need to escape, voiced to a montage of mostly archival footage, presenting multiple views of both Poland and America at pivotal points in their history. What results is a complex and often contradictory picture that is left to the viewer to disassemble.
Dr Richard Ashrowan is a moving image artist and film curator. He works with video and 16mm film, creating short single channel films, immersive video installations and live multi-projector performance experiments. His works are exhibited at artist-led spaces, galleries and film festivals around the world. He was awarded a PhD in 2016 (Edinburgh College of Art / Edinburgh University) for his practice-based research on 'Alchemical Catoptrics of the Moving Image'. Since 2010, he has been Creative Director of Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in Scotland since 2010 and was curator for Scotland + Venice at the Venice Art Biennale 2017.
Cecelia Condit is an American artist filmmaker who work puts a subversive spin on the traditional mythology of women in film and the psychology of sexuality and violence. Exploring the dark side of female subjectivity, her “feminist fairy tales” focus on friendships, lovers, mothers, families, old age, and childhood. Condit has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, American Film Institute, National Endowment for the Arts, among others. Her work has shown internationally in festivals, museums, and alternative spaces and is represented in collections including the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and the Centre Georges Pompidou Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA.
Zbigniew Czapla is a screenwriter, director, animator, painter and graphic artist. He is a graduate of the Graphic Arts Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Poland. Recent screenings include Animator, Message to Man, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Krakow Film Festivals among many others.
Sam Jury is an artist working with moving image and installation. Her work investigates the psychological impact of moving image and societal narratives of trauma. Recent projects include To Be Here (2012 – 16) a series of films, and film installations depicting the suspended trauma of mass displacement of Sahrawi refugees living in the Sahara Desert, commissioned by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, USA, and All Things Being Equal, video installation at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Ireland.
Sarah Goldstein is a Canadian writer, poet and visual artist. Her work explores a tension between the known and the unknown. Ostensibly familiar, her writing gently unfolds to create a sense of unease as it is punctuated by moments of startling rawness. Goldstein is the author of Fables (Tarpaulin Sky, 2011) and her writing has appeared in Caketrain, DIAGRAM, Denver Quarterly, and Verse among others, and most recently in the anthology Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence.
Jazra Khaleed is an Athens-based poet, translator, editor and filmmaker. His works are protests against the injustices in contemporary Greece, especially the growing xenophobia and racism. His poems have been widely translated for publications in Europe, the US, Australia and Japan. He is co-editor of the poetry magazine "Teflon", which publishes cutting edge literature from Greece and the world.
Kamila Kuc, Ph.D., MFA, is a filmmaker, writer and curator. Her work is concerned with the impact of apparatuses on the creation of personal and collective memories as well as societal myths and narratives. Her films have screened worldwide: Ann Arbor Film Festival, Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Montreal Underground Film Festival. She is the author and editor of numerous sources on experimental media, most recently, Visions of Avant-Garde Film (Indiana University Press).
Marianna Milhorat is a Chicago-based filmmaker and educator. Working in film and video, she utilizes landscape and duration to disrupt and transform notions of space and perspective. Her work has screened internationally at festivals and galleries, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Videonale, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. She has received awards at festivals including the Images Festival, EXIS, and the Chicago Underground Film Festival.
Brian Kirkbride is a musician, sound artist, DJ and programmer based in Chicago whose cross-disciplinary practice integrates data, field recordings, synthesizers and sound appropriated from records and films using conceptually-driven audio processing. Inspired by the marvels of the natural world and the monstrosities of the human one, his work has generated birdsong from photographs of ferns and drowned post-World War II travelogues under waves of over-driven 80s pop melodies.
Reed O'Beirne Originally from Natchez Mississippi and now residing in the UK, Reed is a graduate of the creative writing program at Vanderbilt University, and founder of Emerald Reels, an organization dedicated to supporting artistic filmmaking. His films have screened widely at film festivals and art events including the Ann Arbor Film Festival, AVIFF Cannes, and OCAT Shanghai.
Shubhangi Singh Shubhangi Singh was born in Mumbai, India. She is a filmmaker and visual artist living between Mumbai and Sydney. Her works includes documentaries, video poetry, public art projects, sound pieces, sketches and video installations. She is interested in archives, folktales and the vague blurring between facts and fictions in narratives.
Jury and Kuc began collaborating in 2016 through shared concerns around trauma and memory in their own filmmaking practices. Their interest in investigating and developing critical languages in which disaster is represented in mass media and moving image lead to the formation of the Disasters of Peace - a creative initiative, which incorporates research-led media production, writing and curating. Presented here is vol.6 of their curated programme, which had screened internationally (Experiments in Cinema, Ann Arbor Film Festival, USA; the Bienal de la Imagen Movimiento, Argentina) and included filmmakers such as Heba Amin, Lynne Marsh, Bryan Konefsky, among others. While continuously developing new iterations of the programme, Jury and Kuc are currently working on a body of film work in response to the loss of an archive in the de-facto state of Abkhazia - a project which is an outcome of an Artist Residency programme they completed in 2017. The result will be a collaborative multichannel sound and video work developed over 2019.