‘Whoever enters the forest leaves behind the open world’
William J Pomeroy*
Sensory, colourful and widescreen, the forest is already naturally cinematic. In the past decade, this natural landscape has become a site of creative exploration for contemporary art filmmakers in Asia. Curating a programme of Asian cinema usually ends up with a selection of films grouped according to the supposed importance of their auteurs and to the identity and history of each nation. Screening the Forest takes nature as a point of departure. By placing the forest at the centre of a curatorial practice, we emphasize that cinema is not only culturally and aesthetically, but also naturally, constructed. Moreover, through certain aesthetic choices, this programme investigates the ways in which cinema communicates the sense of being in a forest in a mode that other art forms cannot.
The programme weaves together the cinematic forests of Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Taiwan (and in some cases, the forest refers to nothing but a world construed in its own territory).
Like the real forest where many genus of trees coexist, several short films and artist videos by up-and-coming filmmakers are curated in order to show a variety of themes and strategies each filmmaker adopts. Some filmmakers depict the forest in folklorish narrative form, while others treat the forest as experimentation in what has come to be known as ‘slow cinema’. Some use the forest as a site to access national trauma, while others trace the memory of cinema in their sojourning through the archival forest. These forests blur the lines between nation and nation, reality and dream, human and nonhuman, life and death, memory and forgetting.
The programme is curated by Tay Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn. The screening is also the closing event of the AHRC-funded project, the Screening Nature Network, a collaboration between the Department of Film Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, the University for the Creative Arts, the Whitechapel Gallery, Goethe-Institut, and the Horse Hospital.
The programme is approximately 80 minutes. Admission is free. The screening will be followed by music and drinks at the bar.
Films in the programme:
Sharing the theme of the forest in local myth with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady, but made with a low budget aesthetic, Forest Spirit (2012, Dir. Teera Prachumkong / Thailand) tells the story of a folklorish forest where an evil spirit tricks a wanderer. In stark contrast, the forest in Endless Realm (2013, Dir. Eakalak Maleetipawan / Thai- land) is not a mythic but a contemporary one. Along Thailand’s border with its neighbouring countries, mountains and forests are always used as a natural demarcation. At first glance, the forest looks peaceful. But the longer we linger, the more we recognize the past violence hidden beneath. The film won the top prize at the Thai Short Film and Video Award in 2013.
The theme of the forest’s political resonance also runs through Not a Soul (2013, Dir. Jet Leyco, The Philippines). A man hides out in the mountains after accidentally killing a priest. But, the area is far from safe. Soldiers and rebels hunt one another there. The fateful location is visualised with a mixture of oppressive, moving and still, black-and-white archival images. Not a Soul was screened at the 2013 International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Continuing with the theme of the archive, The Legend in the Mist (2012, Tony Chun-Hui Wu, Taiwan) is a tribute to King Hu, the king of martial art cinema in East Asia. Originally screened as a three-channel video installation at the King Hu retrospective exhibition in Taiwan, the work is a montage of sequences from Hu’s classic Raining in the Mountain (1979) and Legend of the Mountain (1979). Experienced visual artist Tony Wu was inspired by the highly symbolic mist, which is often used by Hu. Mist is transient by nature. It paradoxically seems devoid of form, yet real. Mist can create atmospheres which are poles apart, from the poetic and romantic to the unsafe, precarious and empty. The assemblage of various misty and forest scenes highlights the ever-present theme of the Eastern poetic landscape, similar to ink washing paintings, in Hu’s films, as well as the creation of a Zen philosophy of life.
The programme is also haunted by the theme of death. Originally exhibited as a two-channel video projection at the Singapore Art Museum, Mirror (2013, Dir. Boo Junfeng, Singapore) was inspired by the artist’s visit to Bukit Brown Cemetery, where exhumations of over 3000 graves are taking place for the construction of a new highway, cleaving the old burial ground into two. This bifurcation is also visited upon the soldier, a recurring figure in Boo’s cinema: one serves the present-day armed forces; the other the Malayan Communist Party from the past. Finally, the programme ends with an immersive long-take Entropy Machine (2011, Dodo Dayao, The Philippines). The director describes his film as ‘a caveman movie about the world’. The film makes use of the garden of Eden metaphor, but remember that Eden is its own double-edged sword. It is a paradise and a crime scene both, and as such, it is the beginning of decay.
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For further details, contact Tay Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn or Anat Pick: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Acclaimed Documentary Filmmaker, Vladimir Tyulkin (Kazakhstan) will present a double bill of his films: Lord of the Flies and Experiment of the Cross (in Russian with English subtitles).
Thursday 20 March, 5pm, Arts One G. 19 (Hitchcock Cinema)
Queen Mary, University of London
Following the screenings, Vladimir will be in conversation with Anat Pick (Film) and Jeremy Hicks (Russian), and will take questions.
Admittance is free.
Lord of the Flies (Povelitel´ mukh, Kazakhfilm, 1990) 49 minutes
Lord of the Flies is character study, a dialogue with a pensioner and self-declared visionary, a man who has discovered and implemented in his own smallholding a gruesome solution to humanity’s and nature’s problems through an ingenious use of cats, dogs, flies and chickens. Tyulkin’s film permits his subject to expound his views on the world, reflecting on his experience of his country’s traumas, and extrapolating on the political analogies of his home as a system. The film comments on its subject sardonically through editing, animal sounds and music.
Experiment of the Cross (Opyt kresta, 1995) 40 minutes
For this film Tyulkin teamed up with Taras Popov, who had worked for over ten years in a young offenders’ penal institution. Through its insider’s understanding, the film presents a picture of systematic dehumanization and degradation that belies the authorities’ claims to be rehabilitating and reforming the inmates.
About Vladimir Tyulkin
Born in 1955, in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, Vladimir Tyulkin studied film at the Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinematography in St Petersburg, Russia before completing the advanced director’s course at Mosfilm. From 1987 to 1990 he was head of the documentary film department of Kazakh Film. Vladimir has worked as a director at various national TV stations and directed 500 episodes of a TV series named The Crossroad for Phabar, the Central Kazakh TV station. At present he is a director for ‘Kazakh TV’ (owned by the Khabar Media Holding Company) and a Senior Lecturer at the Academy of Film and TV at the Turan University in Almaty. His film credits include Lord of the Flies (1990), About Love (2005), and Experiment of the Cross, co-directed with Taras Popov (1995) which was broadcast in more than 30 countries and went on to win a host of international awards including the Grand Prix at the Amsterdam International Film Festival. In 2004, Vladimir won the award for Best Russian Documentary Series for his nine-part series Tattoo Under Heaven. His recent work includes Not about Dogs (2010) and his works have been shown and acclaimed at international festivals, including Nion (1991), Leipzig (1995), London (2005), and Oberhausen (2011).
for further details, contact Anat Pick: email@example.com
Screening Nature is a proud flock member of Our Hen House, a place to find our way to change the world for animals. This online magazine and media hub has a special section on The Art of the Animal, with regular features on animal films and visual art.
Please click the link below to see the full screening schedule of Screening Nature at the Whitechapel Gallery, 18-19 May 2013:
Book for Day 1, Saturday May 18
Book for Day 2, Sunday May 19
Join us for a free plant and booze-based reception on Saturday night in the gallery space.
Dog Rose Afternoon, Bev Zalcock and Sara Chambers, 2004, Beta SP (8mm), colour, 4’30, sound
Booking for the international symposium on Screening Nature, the one-day symposium on the subject of visual culture and the natural world, has now been extended. In addition to keynotes by Professor W. J. T. Mitchell, and Professor Claire Colebrook, filmmaker and artist Rose Lowder, whose work will be screened at the Whitechapel Gallery later in the evening, will be speaking. With presentations by Dr. Silke Panse (UCA), and Professor Jody Berland (York University, Canada).
** Book via Eventbrite at: http://screeningnature.eventbrite.co.uk
The symposium kickstarts our weekend of moving image work on nature, humans, and animals, and the convoluted relations between us. All screenings take place at the Whitechapel Gallery from Saturday evening through to Sunday night. We are pleased that many of the filmmakers and artists whose work we will show, will be present for an after-screening Q&A.
Please see the Provisional Program for details.
For the full schedule of screenings and booking see FULL SCHEDULE.
Three frames from Rose Lowder’s Bouquet 4 (1994)
Elegy is a short film in memory of a cat. It depicts her nocturnal space as imagined by us. This space is our “garden,” a dank and decaying backyard full of weeds and wildlife, a place that belonged more to her than to us. Various creatures join in the process of mourning, on and off screen.
Elegy, Ian Wiblin and Anthea Kennedy, 3’25” b/w, 2001.
Elegy will be shown on Day 2 of Screening Nature at the Whitechapel Gallery, 19th of May. The filmmakers will be present for a Q & A.
In English, the film is known, perhaps tellingly, as Mrs. Pussy Loves Animals. Released by Pathé in 1911, this is an example of early French farce in which animals serve as living props, the objects of Madame Babylas’s excessive affection. The film thrives on a transparent pathology: Mme Babylas’s filling up of her apartment with more and more animals–guinea pigs, caged birds, ducks, and a pig–displaces her childless, supposedly sexless, marital relationship. In the end, an angry Monsieur Babylas wreaks his revenge by setting a tiger on his wife’s collection of herbivores. A hectic chase sequence ensues in which the tiger attacks the pig, and leads to the film’s closing shots of the bandaged pig, sprawled seductively across a bed, fussed over by the corpulent Mme Babylas.
The Babylas household becomes, in the final shot, a frightening place in which animals are no longer just substitute children, but victims of what looks a lot like Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, played for laughs. Viewed today, from the distance of time and the safe consensus on “animal welfare,” the film reveals not Mme Babylas’s zoophilic pathology, but the pathology of film itself: the compulsion and cruelty so central to our relations to animals, and the power of animus to animate–to move images, the essence of film.
Its title states that Mme Babylas loves animals, and we soon learn she loves them too much, to the detriment of her normal desires within the framework of a proper, heterosexual marriage. Her husband’s revenge, carried out through and against animals, uses the fetishistic objects of Mme Babylas’s affection against her. Strange, then, that the violent act of revenge does not cure her. Instead, it exacerbates her condition by providing it with new avenues and even more perverse outlets.
Might a different reading of the film be in order, one that suggests that husband and wife in fact present a most compatible and even exemplary partnership? After all, if it wasn’t for M Babylas, his wife might have stuck with collecting small animals and merely keeping them indoors. M Babylas introduces a new and terrifying thrill to their domestic love nest: an exotic predator, an obvious avatar for Babylas himself.
Madam Babylas aime les animaux (Alfred Machin, France, 1911, silent, b/w, 9′)
This titillating game between husband and wife that sees their desire intensify in the presence of captive animals casts doubts on the meaning of amour. We are not dealing here, it seems, with a woman’s perverse sentimentality manifested through an overly feminized love of animals, and a man’s rational humanity that necessarily rejects them. Neither zoophilic nor zoophobic, what gives this film its farcical vitality is a deep-seated hatred of animals, a “zoomisia,” characteristic of a number of early animal films that predate modernity’s coverup of the productive forces of hatred (through animal cuteness, as dispassionate scientific observation, or the discourse of animal welfare). This film captures the creative exuberance of violence as an engine of cinema and filmic attraction.
You can see Madame Babylas aime les animaux on day two of Screening Nature at the Whitechapel Gallery, on Sunday the 19th of May, in the program called “Love.”
Chen Sheinberg is a filmmaker, artist, and curator whose work has been screened internationally at festivals like Oberhausen. We are delighted to be showing three of Sheinberg’s films, Convulsion (1998), Blind (2001), and The Mute Dove (2012) at Screening Nature.
The Mute Dove (Chen Sheinberg, 2012)
Sheinberg’s films observe and attend to the daily lives of ordinary creatures. By focusing on the small detail, the faltering and unspectacular existence of urban animals, ordinariness imperceptibly gives way to the extraordinary. Sheinberg chooses the common dung beetle, the dove who cannot fly, or a blind stray cat to express something about the heartbreaking creaturelinesss of the everyday.
Chen Sheinberg will be present to discuss his work.
Our May 2013 launch events are coming up!
- SYMPOSIUM: Saturday 18 May 2013
Symposium on nature, animals, and the moving image: Queen Mary, University of London (10am-4.30pm), Arts One, Lecture Theatre. Keynotes & speakers: W. J. T. Mitchell, Claire Colebrook, Rose Lowder, Jody Berland, Silke Panse.
Admission: free; booking essential. To book, please visit our EVENTBRITE page.
SCREENING NATURE SYMPOSIUM
10.00am Introduction (Anat Pick and Silke Panse)
10.15am Keynote: W. J. T. Mitchell, ‘Art X Environment’
11.15am Coffee and tea break
11.30am Jody Berland, ‘A Visitor’s Guide to the Virtual Ménagerie’
12.10pm Rose Lowder, ‘Interpreting Nature at the Present Time Within an Ecological Context’
12.50pm Lunch break
2.00pm Keynote: Claire Colebrook, ‘Sex and the (Anthropocene) City’
3.00pm Coffee and tea break
3.15pm Silke Panse, ‘Planes in the Plane of Immanence or: Who or What Moves the Leaves?’
3.45pm Roundtable Q&A
4.15pm Travel to Whitechapel Gallery for the 5:30pm screening programme
- SCREENINGS: Saturday-Sunday 18-19 May 2013. Go to full screening schedule
A mini-festival on cinemas of flora and fauna, at the Whitechapel Gallery (Sat 18 May 5:30-8pm; Sun 19 May 11am-7pm). Films by the Lumière brothers, Joris Ivens, Percy Smith, Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Joyce Wield, Mike Marshall, Vladimir Tyulkin, Susanne Bürner, Rose Lowder, Helga Fanderl, Peter Kubelka, Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, Ed Chell, Mike Blow, Silke Panse, Erin Espelie, Johanna Hällsten, David Chapman and David Cottridge, Chen Sheinberg, Ian Wiblin and Anthea Kennedy, Lucy Powell, Sergei Dvortsevoy, Zalcock and Sara Chambers, and a selection of rarely seen early films.
Anthea Kennedy and Ian Wiblin, Elegy, 2001
Admission: Sat 18 May, £8/ £6 concs.; Sun 19 May £11/ £8 concs. (morning or afternoon programme), £20/ £15 concs. (full day).
Online booking available on the Whitechapel Gallery website. Booking essential.*
* Booking for the symposium and screenings is separate, and on a first come first served basis. Book soon!
Curated by Anat Pick and Silke Panse.
E-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org