As the culminating project of my curatorial residency with the Images Festival, the short-film program All Our Memories Significant in Retrospect will screen on Friday, 08 April 2011 at Jackman Hall.
All Our Memories Significant in Retrospect takes a formal consideration as its organizing principle: text-based cinema. In my conception of the term, text-based cinema is moving image work where the use of the written word is conceived as integral to the formation of meaning acquired through the cinematic experience.
The moving image and the written word are both time-based mediums in that their reception as works of art requires passage. This passage, though, is distinct: whereas the moving image’s presentation of time is a somewhat passive experience for the viewer, the written word requires active participation for every bit of its revelation. Further, language invites the creation of meaning on behalf of the viewer, whereas cinema is, practically and inevitably, much more dictatorial. As Pierre Machery notes in his Theory of Literary Production, reading is a form of production that separates the writer’s intent from the reader’s explication.
When I began research for this project, I imagined that setting text in motion might make it possible to read anew, creating opportunities to recalculate the authority of language. However, the opposite seems to have happened. When textual elements are incorporated into moving image work, they hold powerful sway over the eye of the viewer, not only focusing their attention, but influencing how the image itself is understood. This screening explores the possibilities inherent in the cinematic act of reading.
The program features the following films:
We Began By Measuring Distance
(2009, 19 min, Video, Egypt)
Long still frames, text, language, and sound are weaved together to unfold the narrative of an anonymous group who fill their time by measuring distance. Innocent measurements become political ones, drawing an examination of how image and sound communicate history, tragedy, and the complication of Palestinian nationalism. We Began By Measuring Distance explores the ultimate disenchantment with facts when the visual fails to communicate the tragic.
The Future’s Getting Old Like the Rest of Us
(2010, 48 min, Video, UK)
The Future’s Getting Old Like the Rest of Us is conceived in the format of a TV Play and set in an older people’s care home. Part documentary, part fiction, the script for the film is a collaboration with writer and critic George Clark and was constructed from verbatim transcripts of a discussion group held over a period of five months with the residents of four of Camden’s Care Homes. Taking B.S. Johnson’s 1971 experimental novel House Mother Normal as its formal departure point, and employing the structural logic of a score, the script is edited into a vertical structure in which eight voices or eight monologues occur simultaneously.
The Beautiful Language
(2010, 16 min, Video, France)
L´Enfant Sauvage, by Francois Truffaut (1970) is the backdrop for contemporary reflections on racism and its historical (colonial) matrix. In Truffaut’s original film, a feral child is adopted for the purposes of “civilization.” Quotes in Arabic and of thinkers like Hannah Arendt are juxtaposed to the original footage to explore notions of hegemony and knowledge in our current political climate. fatmi transposes the topic of the film–a child found in the wild in late 18th century France–as well as Truffaut’s emphasis on portraying moments of mutual communication and misunderstandings to the worrisome “clash of civilizations” thinking of today.