Visible Evidence 2021

Extractions: Energy, Oil, Minerals

Zane Balčus
Sanaz Sohrabi
Jason Livingston
Chair: Rembert Hueser
Sat, Dec 18
90 Min
Mousonturm (Studio 2), Online
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Representation of Soviet Latvian Industrial Infrastructures in Uldis Brauns short documentaries (1961-1963)

Latvian director Uldis Brauns (1932-2017) made his directorial debut with a short film The Beginning (Sākums, 1961), documenting the construction of the hydroelectric station at Plavinas on the largest river in Latvia, Daugava. It was also the first wide screen film in Latvian cinema, allowing for greater visual detail in depicting the construction process. It was continued in the next short The Construction (Celtne, 1962) on building of the chemical fibre factory in Daugavpils, the second largest city in Latvia. The concluding film The Worker (Strādnieks, 1963) focused not on a specific character or site, but an image of worker, filmed at various factories in Latvia.

Brauns’ short film trilogy started the movement in Latvian documentary filmmaking Riga style or Riga School of Poetic Documentary Cinema, which flourished in the 1960s. Brauns challenged formal approaches to documentary and proposed a specific poetic look for depicting current events in society and expanding of infrastructure. Without a direct reference, Brauns’ films can be linked to the works of Dziga Vertov in the scope of their representation of the subject and cinematic techniques. Representing a generation of post war filmmakers, who received their education in filmmaking in Moscow, Brauns’ became an important figure in breaking away from the existing tradition of documentary filmmaking in the Soviet Latvia. Through analysing his films, the questions of socialist realist representation in documentary, the combining of necessary topics coupled with artistic expression, and the specific filmmaker’s approach will be explored disclosing Brauns as an important filmmaker of his generation.

Zane Balčus

Zane Balčus is a junior research assistant at the Advanced Research Centre of the Latvian Academy of Culture and a PhD candidate at the Latvian Academy of Culture. Balčus is a co-author of the book Inscenējumu realitāte. Latvijas aktierkino vēsture (Reality of Fiction. History of Latvian Fiction Film, Riga: 2011), Rolanda Kalniņa telpa (Cinematic Space of Rolands Kalniņš, Riga: 2018), and a freelance film critic writing on cinema for various publications (including websites Film New Europe, Kino Raksti, etc.). Her main research interests are documentary cinema and audience studies.

Sites and Sights of oil: Visual Regimes of Extraction in Iran

Investigating the relationship between petromodernity and photography and film as embodied technologies of visuality and eradication, this project seeks to unpack the visual and cultural manifestation of this emergent image economy which operated in tandem with the larger petroleum complex during the Anglo-Persian oil Company’s operations in Iran. I ask: what visual analysis can we perform to understand the colonial nexus, beyond simply reiterating “the camera’s complicity in the subjugation of racial others?” (Amad, 2013, p.53). Following oil as an ethnographic phenomenon helps us connect and map different colonial technologies of order and control such as: photography and film (archival regime), geography (urban segregation and industrial development), and geology (oil exploration and natural dispossession). Addressing the question of the recovery of the subaltern voice in the context of photographic visibility in the archives, I seek to further reconsider what constitutes presence and absence once we move from the written to the visual document.

I will address the formations of early modernist infrastructures of leisure such as cinemas vis-à-vis the broader “social engineering” (Ehsani, 2003) project and asymmetries of power in the oil towns of South-Western Iran. I trace the paths in which the oil company’s visual regimes of petromodernity were reclaimed and countered by a growing anti-colonial cinema in which oil was a protagonist and cinemas had become the contested emblem of colonial development. Reading the Iranian New Wave cinema against the backdrop of growing “raw material sovereignty” (Dietrich, 2011) movement globally and resource nationalism within Iran, I look at two influential films of this period, namely A Fire by Ebrahim Golestan (1961) and Amir Naderi’s The Runner (1984). I seek to further reframe oil not solely as an exchangeable commodity but rather as an archive itself; one that constitutes a web of imaginations, aspirations, and struggles.

Sanaz Sohrabi

Sanaz Sohrabi (b. Tehran) is a research-based artist, filmmaker, and Fonds de Recherche du Québec Société et Culture (FRQSC) doctoral fellow at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture at Concordia University, Montréal. Her work at large engages with the politics of recovery in photographic archives and the role of photography and film as technologies of public-making and subject positioning. Sohrabi’s works have screened internationally at Montréal International Documentary Film Festival, 50th International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), Videonale 16 Bonn, Sheffield Doc/Fest, IndieLisboa, European Media Arts Festival, Kasseler Dokfest, Images Festival, and Beirut Art Center.

Interspecies Poesis

In this talk, I will present an excerpt from Ancient Sunshine in the context of my creative practice and research into an anti-capitalist bestiary. How can human beings think politically with and through nonhuman representation? Ancient Sunshine interweaves the industrial remaking of the Western landscape with labor history and interspecies economies. The film proposes solidarity against the violence by which earth becomes resource.

I will present a 5’ excerpt which enacts a politics of horizontalism. The excerpt features an audio interview with key a Utah Tar Sands Resistance leader reflecting on Occupy Wall Street, the Rainbow Gathering, and anarchism, while trespassing a mining site. In cutting this audio over a visual track that combines high-contrast black and white location footage with processed video of sunsets from US national parks, the passage remaps romantic visions of the West onto contemporary territorial contestation. The passage concludes with a rupture into animal form at a bronze foundry, suggesting that the nonhuman may rest – conceptually, materially, necessarily – in human hands mediated by industry.

Where do science and poetics sit with nonfiction media? I will suggest that experimental anarchist poesis is uniquely poised to grapple with interspecies relations, extinction, and extraction.

Jason Livingston

Jason Livingston is a media artist, film programmer, and writer. His award-winning work has screened widely, including Rotterdam, Anthology, the Austrian Museum, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Jason is pursuing a practice-based PhD with the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees with the Flaherty Seminar.

Chair: Rembert Hueser

Rembert Hueser is Professor of Media Studies at the Goethe University, Frankfurt. His work focuses on film and media studies, history of science, cultural studies, contemporary art and architecture. He is particularly interested in the rhetoric of scholarly writing. How do you observe something that already observes itself within its own respective media? How do you get engaged with a certain topic? How do you get rolling? “There is always a way out” (A. Kluge).