“What you make should be something that hasn’t been made before,” advised artist Xu Bing at a lively lunch with CMP students and FSC fellows last Thursday.  Xu was visiting Harvard to show his film “Dragonfly Eyes” at the Harvard Film Archive and deliver a Kim and Judy Davis Dean’s Lecture in the Arts at Radcliffe Institute.

Xu described his desire to push people’s ways of thinking into a corner – to take things to a logical extreme so that they must question their assumptions. This approach definitely shows in “Dragonfly Eyes” and many of his other fascinating projects, including his wordless “Book from the Ground” which tells an entire story with only emoijis, icons, and punctuation.  Xu said he was interested in the idea of this “new type of pictograph that is emerging globally – something everyone can read.”

Students sought advice on how to approach their own media projects, thoughts about working with found materials, and Xu’s feelings as one who collects things to be the object of contemporary art world collectors. Xu responded with inspiring words and great humor.  Thank you to Radcliffe, Xu Bing, and translator Menglan Chen for making this happen!

Ali Cherri master class on Sept. 28

We just finished a very inspiring master class with Lebanese filmmaker and artist Ali Cherri – part of his visit to Harvard that includes last night’s Artist Talk and tonight’s Harvard Film Archive screening.

A gathering of Critical Media Practice Students, Film Study Center Fellows, and undergraduates who are engaged in artistic practice got to hear in detail how Ali conceptualizes and technically realizes his work.  Ali explained how his trilogy of “The Disquiet,” “The Digger” and work-in-progress “The Dam” began with an interest in how moments of catastrophe in his home region – from natural disasters to war – can become extended forever in time as the agony seems to never end.  How does one represent the experience of violence when it’s not always “spectacular”?

Ali sometimes starts from a place of documentary, gathering images observationally and building relationships with people in their daily lives, and then slowly moves into fiction as he choreographs scripted using involving people in their space as actors to create the meaning he seeks.  His imagery can ultimately cross over into the supernatural, as in the striking last shot of “The Disquiet.”

Participants seemed particularly interested in Ali’s process of creating installations, including those related to single-channel works and free-standing pieces like the striking “My Pain is Real” that explores ideas about the digital mediation of violence through manipulation of his own face.

Thanks to Ali Cherri, HFA, and CCVA for this inspiring visit!

Undergraduates interview Ali Cherri for a publication after the master class.

Last night marked the first-ever gathering of CMP students from across the university in our welcome event for the new semester.  It was great to hear from graduate students in Anthropology, Literature, Design, Public Health, and other fields describe their research and media projects.

We look forward to more opportunities to build community through regular critique group meetings, workshops, and other gatherings.

“Unspecified Objects, Marfa TX: The Built Wall” by Lindsey Lodie and Megan Alvarado-Saggese

This summer three Film and Visual Studies graduate students from the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies and the Critical Media Practice secondary field presented installations at the Graduate School of Design’s Kirkland Gallery in a series titled “Neither/Nor, Any/All”. These exhibits explored “the limits and possibilities of research as practice, exposing and probing the nature of art-making as a multi-modal activity.”

Lindsey Lodie and Megan Alvarado-Saggese’s “Unspecified Objects, Marfa TX: The Built Wall” explores the contradictions of site-specific practice at America’s borderlands, in particular the case study of Donald Judd, who in the mid-1970s used Marfa, Texas as a backdrop for his art installations while “largely ignoring the cultural, demographic and geo-political dimensions of the region”.

Brandon Evans presented “By Listening, Pain and Sin Are Eradicated,” which included a performance in audio works, curated materials, and textual translations of gurbani (Sikh sacred text) exploring “the dimensions of language, performance, and listening as shared spheres of practice in the Sikh religious tradition and in Western contemporary art”.

“By Listening, Pain and Sin Are Eradicated” by Brandon Evans

Jessica Bardsley’s installation “Unearthed” mapped “an internal geography, exploring relationships between surface and interiority, matter and affect. Taking inspiration from topography, geology, and theories of emotion, this exhibition assembles artifacts from a quiet, eerie galaxy, a desaturated land, light-years from within.”

“Unearthed” by Jessica Bardsley

“Unearthed” by Jessica Bardsley

halde hanielThree Landscapes
by Cynthia Browne

Thursday April 12th, 4:00 pm. Linden 109 (Linden Street Studios at 6–8 Linden Street)
Viewing begins at 3:00 pm on Thursday 4/12 and by request.

Caught between a past no longer viable and a future not certain, Germany’s Ruhr (aka Ruhrpott, das Revier) is a landscape full of spatial and temporal disjunctures.  For those unfamiliar, the Ruhr was arguably the former industrial heartland of Germany —mostly mining and steel production—reaching its peak production in the mid-20th century before experiencing a slow, steady, but also uneven decline in second tier industry over the past fifty years. Three Landscapes is a video triptych and media installation that offers a perceptual experience of the Ruhr’s “specious present,” in which a passage of time, the recent past and the near future, are brought together and made palpable within the duration of the exhibition space.