Still, the last surviving communards, La Commune, Armand Guerra, 1914.
Postcard for Global Revolt: Cinematic Ammunition, Flaherty NYC screening & discussion series, Anthology Film Archives, Fall 2013.
Still from film Garbage, New York Newsreel, USA, 1968.
Still, toy skeleton from Garbage.
Still from film Ausfegen, Joseph Beuys & Jurgen Boch, Germany, 1972.
Still, Joseph Beuys & collaborators sweeping up in Ausfegen.
Still, McDonalds in St. Petersburg, Russia, Expulsion From Paradise, Andrey Ustinov & Natalya Nikolaeva, 2002.
Still, ‘Eve’ in the ‘Garden,’ Expulsion From Paradise, Ustinov & Nikolaeva, 2002.
Still, women & kids, Isle Of Flowers.
In planning to produce State of Emergency, as we did, we had only thought of its potential reception by U.S. audiences. The fact that the program was silent was in fact an advantage in non-U.S. venues—the problem of translation was in practice elided. The fact that we needed to introduce to non-U.S. audiences the terms of the project’s production and the unconventional ways and venues in which we had presented it effectively became part of its reception for such audiences. In Sofia, when shown at a social center, State of Emergency was drawn into larger debates there about the role of state violence and the militarization of the police in Sofia itself….And so the program functioned as a political spark for what was already on people’s minds—as with the young Vietnamese artists in the Hanoi audience, who had clearly begun to wonder how and when and how far to challenge the cultural norms of the situation in Hanoi. The politics of the local situation overtook what we had thought were the obvious politics of the program itself, which for us revolved about the role of the U.S. as imperial police force. As with our other art work during the past decade, our curatorial projects, beginning with State of Emergency, pretty much embodied what seems in the present era like an almost de rigeur tension between the local (often focused as resistance) and the global (the domination of capital). But the local usually took over in these discussions—and we often found ourselves articulating the degree to which such issues, whatever they were, were in fact common ground in cities across the globe.
But how do we structure our programs—so as both to encourage and to leave room for such challenging discussions? How is it possible to structure programs as deliberate interventions, in other words? Or how is it possible to elicit the kinds of unexpected connections that we are interested in provoking? To begin to answer this, I will use the “Global Revolt” series as the prime example. For Global Revolt, with the immeasurable assistance of the folks at the Flaherty Foundation, which sponsored the series, and Anthology Film Archives, which was amazingly flexible, we further refined the approach we took at the Oberhausen and the Subversive Film Festivals. The Flaherty’s aim and achievement has always been to create a forum for serious discussion of documentary films. Thus a basic event structure was already in place.
Assuredly, we must find the films first. For this, Sherry is very largely responsible as she is an extremely dedicated, unceasing researcher. However, even when she is able to find a film or a reference to a film on some usually obscure website, it can take weeks sometimes to track down the filmmaker/collective, to contact them, and involve them in the project. Nevertheless, pretty quickly, specific themes emerge from this ever-growing accumulation (and it is definitely ever-growing). Naturally, these themes are obviously reflective of our own interests, commitments, passions—and therefore, in a sense, already in advance make up a fairly coherent range of possibilities. These themes could be current enough to already on people’s minds but then be refreshed from an unexpected angle—or be provocatively contradictory, to operate against assumptions securely in place. In the case of the latter, for instance, I inverted the familiar terms, truth and reconciliation, which everyone is routinely expected to agree with—in advance. As it happens, we don’t altogether agree with those terms as such: so we put together a program titled, “Falsehood and Non-reconciliation.”
For seven years now we have been seeking out short-form political/experimental films—rarely longer than 30 minutes—rather than features. We rarely screen films on either end of the spectrum—neither purely political conventional documentaries nor purely experimental, formalist, apparently apolitical works add enough to the mix we’re after. We don’t accept the arguments commonly put forward in favor of accessibility to a wide audience brought to bear in favor of conventional documentaries, nor do we accept the conventional avant-gardist argument in favor of the overriding value of the politics of form, in its seasonal variants. What interests us instead are the myriad ways and means in which experiments of radical politics and the politics of radical experiment overlap and enhance each other to create a third element. And this adventure is key to how we put individual programs together. We are interested in how apparently disparate films (films made in different countries, at differing historical conjunctures) comment and speak to each other. Therefore in a single program of around 90 minutes we must choose a number (five to eight) of films that we hope, in their unexpected range of connections, will create for audience/participants the texture of an event. Like all curators, we create the terms for a potential experience by selecting and ordering the films, with program notes that I write and a brief introduction (and welcome). We also schedule speakers, often the filmmakers themselves, and provide a knowledgeable moderator to take up those terms, or others if they so choose, from the actual experience of the program. Quite often, we also provide something extra, a supplement, of a kind. Consider the first program of the Global Revolt series, titled “Refuse and Refusal: Anti-Authoritarian & Avant-Gardist Interventions.”
The notes for this program
The previously unquenchable spirit of the modernist avant-garde seems to have evaporated at almost the same moment as anti-authoritarian, autonomist, and anarchist movements re-surfaced in the 21st century. These films, which explore the unmistakable correspondence between refuse and refusal, should tell us a thing or two about this wholly unpredicted emergence.
Speakers: Ben Morea, Ayreen Anastas & Rene Gabri
Films in the series
FOR JOACHIM GATTI Jean-Marie Straub (France, 2009, 3 min)
GARBAGE New York Newsreel (USA, 1968, 10 min)
AUSFEGEN Joseph Beuys & Jurgen Boch (Germany, 1972, 26 min)
EXPULSION FROM PARADISE Andrey Ustinov & Natalya Nikolaeva (Russia, 2002, 2.5 min)
ISLE OF FLOWERS Jorge Furtado (Brazil, 1989, 12 min)
THE LAND BELONGS TO THOSE WHO WORK IT Chiapas Media Project (Mexico, 2005, 15 min)
About the filmmakers
The many films of 80-year-old Jean-Marie Straub and his now-deceased partner Daniele Huillet are internationally celebrated for their rigorous disregard for the conventions of film and the social order. As Martin Walsh put it, “Straub’s [& Huillet’s] radical conception of film creation presupposes our critical intelligence’s being brought to bear constantly upon what we are viewing.” Among their other films are Class Relations (1984) and Not Reconciled (1965).
Started in 1967, New York Newsreel was easily the most influential and productive radical film collective of its era Their many films, made very quickly in the heat of battle, still resonate with the spirit and the letter of their original intransigence. Among their films: Columbia Revolt, People’s Park, and Off the Pig (Black Panther).
Joseph Beuys—one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, the inventor of “social sculpture,” and a pioneer of performance art—and television director Jurgen Boch collaborated on this very rarely screened film.
Andrey Ustinov & Natalya Nicolaev are Russian artists and performers, who collaborated on this film/performance announce: ”Art belongs to vandals!” Ustinov lives and works in Cologne. One current project: “Molotov Cocktail” which involves a hilariously quixotic attempt to gather up the scattered fragments of said Cocktail to reconstruct in its original form, hearkening, say Ustinov, to a global “landscape of incessant guerilla warfare.”
Based in Porto Alegre, Brazilian director Jorge Furtado is a master of the subversive collage film, which aligns his work with a great tradition in Brazilian modernism/postmodernism from Carlos de Andrade onwards. His most recent feature, The Man Who Copied (2003), like Isle of Flowers, moves effortlessly, and with graceful irony, from genre to genre.
Since 1998 The Chiapas Media Project has distributed over 6000 indigenously produced videos, documenting autonomous Zapatista communities. The videos shot by and in Zapatista communities cover a wide variety of subjects. Titles include: Water and Autonomy, We are Equal: Zapatista Women Speak, and Education in Resistance.
What we hadn’t counted on in putting the program together was that filmmaker John Greyson and physican/activist Tarek Loubani had been imprisoned in Cairo during protests (by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi) that had been violently disrupted by Egyptian security forces. We had already programmed one of Greyson’s many fine films (14.3 Seconds) for the fifth program. Alarmed and concerned as we were, I read aloud to the packed audience at Anthology Film Archives, the letter from prison that Greyson and Loubani had written and that had just begun to be circulated on the Internet. In the end, shortly before the fifth program came around, the two men had been released after weeks in jail. I wrote John (who is an old friend) and asked if he’d like to appear on Skype in the discussion period following the screening (for which Nadja Millner-Larsen, a remarkable writer on radical culture, was to be the moderator). He graciously agreed—and we also added to that fifth program his short video, finished the day after he returned home, Prison Arabic in 50 Days. My overall point here is perhaps too hastily summed up by the word immediacy: very probably an irreducible aspect of any prospective advance in political struggle. In one sense, without intending to we framed one dimension of the “Global Revolt” series in an ongoing specific political struggle and its consequences for one Canadian filmmaker. This validation of immediacy (an affective immediacy shared by our audience, thereby brought together that much more certainly) gave the still new idea of Global Revolt, which we were trying to measure and understand, a sharper edge.