Filming Ruins

‌Monday 29 October 2018
6.00pm - 8.00pm
Andrew Stewart Cinema
Free – no booking required

Film works by: FILIPA CÉSAR, JESSE JONES, BEN RIVERS and MELANIE SMITH.

‌FILMING RUINS is a screening and discussion programme organised by the University of Glasgow’s Carl Lavery (Theatre Studies) and Dominic Paterson (History of Art / The Hunterian) and funded by the University of Glasgow Chancellor’s Fund.

Over the course of three events held through 2017-18, the programme explores the politics and poetics of ruination through moving image works by a range of artists and filmmakers.

For this, the second screening event in the series, four works have been selected which draw on political and ecological shadows as well as current urgencies. After the screening, the films will be discussed by Dominic Paterson and Carl Lavery.

‌Filipa César’s Cacheu (2012, 10 minutes, digital) is a 10-minute film of a lecture. Performed by Joana Barrios, the lecture revolves around four colonial statues, which are stored today at the Fortress of Cacheu, one of the first bastions constructed by the Portuguese in 1588 in order to facilitate slave trade in the West African country of Guinea Bissau. Barrios evokes symbolic conflicts by tracing back different contexts in which the statues make an appearance: on a pedestal during Portuguese colonialism, dethroned and broken in pieces after Independence in the film Sans Soleil by Chris Marker, as background ghosts in Mortu Nega by Flora Gomes, and finally displayed at the Cacheu fort. The montage is a process that takes place before shooting, so that the image production is a result of a performative assemblage between text, acting, projected image and the framing of the camera by the director of photography, Matthias Biber.

Jesse Jones’ Mahogany (2009, 35 mins, 16mm transferred to digital) is re-scripted from the final scene of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's 1927 opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Jones's film tells the story of a city outside of society, whose inhabitants are offered a space of 'infinite freedom' as long as they pay enough money. This freedom manifests itself in an excessive indulgence of pleasures. Mahogany, shot in the Australian outback, restages this fictitious city in the wake of its collapse, as a dialogue between the city's architect Begbick, and a Whisper Choir made up of its inhabitants. With the suspension of time, and setting the action in the void of the desert, the video takes the allegorical geographical location and historical moment as a starting point for a critique of present political conditions. Whilst Brecht intended his Mahagonny to be a criticism of the false freedoms of the Weimar Republic, Jones tests the marginality of political gesture and the crisis of forms of viable political action in contemporary post-utopian society.

Ben Rivers' Urth (2016, 20 minutes, 16mm transferred to digital) was filmed inside Biosphere 2 in Arizona and offers a cinematic meditation on ambitious experiments, constructed environments, and visions of the future. Writer Mark von Schlegell contributes a text relaying the final log entries of a woman sealed inside an unforgiving environment. The film considers what an endeavor such as Biosphere 2 might mean today and in the near future, in terms of humanity’s relationship with the natural world.

Melanie Smith’s Fordlandia (2015, 29 minutes, digital) depicts a small settlement on the River Tapajos in the Brazilian part of the Amazon. Here Henry Ford attempted to found a rubber industry in the 1920s. Mainly due to the resistance of nature, the project failed and was finally abandoned some twenty years later. Fordlandia is a voyage of (de)colonization whereby the drifts and detours of modernity in uncertain places are highlighted, turning away from whatever their historical imaginaries were. The tensions between industrial and natural landscape are leveled off in a certain horizontality of hierarchies between form and content, and at the same time the animal resignifies possibilities the community of the living.

Admission free, all welcome. No booking required.

Andrew Stewart Cinema
Gilmorehill Halls
University of Glasgow

Summary image: Ben Rivers, Urth, 2016. 16mm transferred to digital. 20 minutes. Courtesy of the artist, LUX and Kate Macgarry, London.

First published: 22 October 2018

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