by Shireen Hamza
I wasn’t really sure what the Flaherty seminar was, beyond a large group of people gathering to watch and discuss films, three times a day for seven days. I knew about the principle of non-predisposition, that I would be walking into each day’s three programs without knowing what I would be watching beforehand. But before arriving and speaking with some of the participants who had attended previous seminars, I did not know of the many significant changes that the organizers of Flaherty have made over the last few years. Though the seminar has a long history of being a place for international film, the organizers have of-late been choosing programmers who could uniquely center communities of artists whose work is marginalized in, and not widely accessible in, the US.
In 2018, the programmers were African American artists Kevin Jerome Everson & Greg de Cuir Jr., and next year’s programmer will be Professor Janaína Oliveira, a Brazilian scholar and programmer focused on Black filmmakers across Latin America. And organizers have responded to the call by Sky Hopinka and others to change the logo, which used to be an objectionable representation of an Inuit character from the eponymous Robert Flaherty’s famous film, Nanook of the North.
I had been so drawn to the description of this year’s seminar — Action! — and interested in what kind of films might be programmed by Shai Heredia, an organizer of India’s first experimental film festival, that I had not reflected on the broader shifts that this specific seminar was a part of at The Flaherty. Entering this art space, which centered artists from across Asia, I was also pleased to see that there were many attendees (and fellows, specifically) from Asia, and of various Asian diasporas, as well as artists and curators of other historically marginalized identities within the US. (more…)
In “Tali/Khali (Empty Beat),” Brandon aka Bunty Singh uses a concept from Hindustani classical music and Sikh music traditions to interrogate the dynamics of live performance and vernacular media practice in the Punjabi and diasporic Sikh community. Khāli means “empty,” and is contrasted with tāli, meaning “clap/beat.” While the latter indicate beats to be emphasized in a rhythmic cycle, the former indicate a lack of a clap, making the beat unemphasized and thus empty. Here, media infrastructures take on the nature of the emphatic, with electricity responsible for the empty ground of possibility, for the transmission of a beat. The conspicuous absence of the performer corresponds to the empty beat: the emphatic presence of the performer surfaces only in the midpoints and endpoints of media transmission processes. The identity of the absent performer also brings up questions of center and periphery in the context of a newly globalizing religious tradition. However the removal of a performer suggests both the moral imperative to diminish ones ego (haumai) within Sikh religious thought, while also critically assessing the agency of mediated transmission in religious performance adjuncted by electronic media. Likewise, removal of the performer’s live presence emphasizes the notion that creative processes are not, as in Sikh religious thought and in process philosophy, the products of individual human agency—they are, rather, inflorescences of the Divine.
The garden. A butterfly alights a flower, flutters and flies away. Bhai Vir Singh speaks to two visitors walking in his garden:
“Dear Disciple of the Guru, having seeing this, what did you see?”
Visitor 1: I saw a butterfly come, sit on a flower, then fly away.
Visitor 2: I saw one beauty kissing another. What did you see, Bhai Sahib?
Bhai Vir Singh: “Godself is delighted with God’s very own Sweet Nectar, God Themself is the Enjoyer of All.”
(As told by Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki in his memoir Asal Vidya (Sakrit Trust, Ludhiana, Punjab, India))
In “Notes from The Fringe” the left projection is set in a butcher’s home in the riverside slum area of Ciliwung, Jakarta, during the 2014 monsoon season – just a few months before a massive forced eviction started as part of a World Bank-funded flood mitigation project. The right projection was recorded immediately after one of the sporadic forced evictions. The graffiti reads: “We might have lost, but one day we will…” with the last word buried in the ruins.
“Artificial Tears” is an artistic research project that explores the aesthetic interface where research protocols, performance reenactment, and genre film intersect in laboratory studies of emotion. Taking the ostensible substance of affect—tears—as a concrete site of symbolic and material investigation, this project seeks to unravel what Bruno Latour has described as the “scenography of empiricism.”
The highly constructed nature of historiography is willfully ignored as educational and political institutions continue to consider historical narratives more valuable than artistic representations. “History Lesson” proposes an alternative history curriculum for Cyprus based entirely on film productions shot on the island before its division in 1974. The installation was made possible thanks to the support of the Min da de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.