“It’s really nice this meeting of two worlds.” –Rosalind Nashashibi
Allied Productions, Inc., the Millennium Film Workshop, and Magic Lantern Cinema present an outdoor screening of films by the British artist Rosalind Nashashibi. Featuring 16mm films drawn from the collection of the London-based distributor LUX, the program is conceived as a site-specific screening for the Lower East Side community garden, Le Petite Versailles.
Nashashibi’s work pairs nicely with Le Petit Versailles. Her films often unfold within semi-public realms defined equally by their apertures and enclosures, echoing the mixed composition of this open-air green space encased by apartments and concrete. A cruising ground in a wooded section of a North London park, a working-class neighborhood in a Midwestern city, an Italian cargo ship at sea: Nashashibi gravitates toward places where the inner and the outer coexist with a sort of mesmerizing duality, observing closed communities as they congregate in open view, and analyzing the codes of appearance that organize and shelter such communities. Her films revolve around intimate spaces and relationships that are observable but not fully accessible, presenting images of interiors that feel disarmingly proximate yet perpetually out of reach.
Presenting five of Nashashibi’s films from 2002-2010, this program combines a pair of the artist’s early works, which observe daily rituals being conducted in unfamiliar locales, with three recent films in which Nashashibi more actively reorganizes the scenes and activities she depicts through various production techniques and editing strategies. The program thus spans two distinct periods of Nashashibi’s film practice – the observational and the constructive – while also revealing these periods to be bound together by her sustained investment in cinema as a technology for examining our relationship to outer and inner spaces.
“That’s what’s really attractive about making films. You go into a situation knowing that you’re interested and even knowing why you’re interested, but it’s the filmmaking that gets you closer to the parts of your knowledge that are inaccessible or not yet accessible… [I]t’s really only about trying to find out why I’m going back to this place or situation in the first place.” –R.N.
“Midwest,” 2002, 16mm, color, sound, 12 minutes
Day and night in a working-class section of Omaha, Nebraska. “The films [Midwest and Midwest: Field] transparently reflect their subject. The environment dictates the ways the characters will move. The way the characters move informs how the film will be edited. Also choreographed by a system, the camera behaves on the street according to the rules of public space. The point of view is detached for the same reasons we avoid peoples’ eyes on the street, and don’t walk close to strangers.” –Lucy Skaer, “Rosalind’s Patterns,” The Fruitmarket Gallery
“Midwest: Field,” 2002, 16mm, color, sound, 3.5 minutes
A counterpoint to Midwest. “A group of middle-aged men fly remote-control glider planes and spend a lazy afternoon in the wide, flat fields outside Omaha.” –LUX
“Bachelor Machines Part 1,” 2007, 16mm, color, sound, 30 minutes
“Bachelor Machines Part 1… chronicles the voyage of the cargo vessel Gran Bretagna as it ventures from Italy to Sweden. Following the captain and crew as they go about their business, Nashashibi uses images, not words, to tell the story. The men talk sometimes, but not always in English, so we settle in to the task of intuiting emotion, motivation, and social relation through facial expressions and bodily cues. And, although the film treats a closed company of subjects—the men who form a forced community for the three months of confinement on an isolated shipping vessel—the artist’s interest is not merely anthropological. We witness their interactions in recreational and work contexts with the fixed detachment of an embedded participant observer, but Nashashibi spies the ocean and the vessel itself with equal intensity. The framing of the oceanscape, bobbing with the rhythm of the waves through a porthole, transports us to the ship’s deck, and we are distinctly apart from the world. Surrounded by a vast horizon of nothingness, but containing us in a confined space, the ship has its own reality, its own time. And the ocean itself is timeless, an eternity of shifting waves that have appeared the same since the beginning of the world.” –Elizabeth Thomas, UC Berkeley Art Museum
“[W]e didn’t share a language with the people on the ship, and so they felt protected by their language… [I]t really helps for people to have an illusion of privacy. This wasn’t a deliberate choice with the sailors, but it allowed us to get really close.” –R.N.
“Jack Straw’s Castle,” 2009, 16mm, color, sound, 17.5 minutes
Shot in and around the western section of north London’s Hampstead Heath, a popular cruising ground, Jack Straw’s Castle is divided into two connected, but seemingly incompatible sections: the first, featuring observational footage of anonymous men cruising; the second, featuring scenes of a hired film crew staging shots of the same location. Along the way, we encounter images of chimeric figures that seem to embody the heterogeneous form adopted by the film.
“I find it easier to be hidden or almost hidden… [L]ike in Jack Straw’s Castle, where it was really the cinematographer, more than I, who communicated with the crew. It allowed their language to develop without my interfering in it. I found that to be a liberating experience.” –R.N.
“This Quality,” 2010, 16mm, color, sound, 4.5 minutes
“This Quality is a film shot in downtown Cairo. It comprises two halves: the first shows a 30-something woman looking directly at the camera, and sometimes acknowledging the existence of others around her who we cannot see. She has beautiful face with eyes which seem to see internally rather than outwardly, they almost have the appearance of being painted on, suggesting the blindness of a mythological seer. The second half shows a series of parked cars covered with fabric. Each car suggests a sightless face, as the fabric stretched around the machine turns it into a face but also seems to hood the car so that it is conspicuously hidden, like a child covering his eyes.” –LUX
TRT ca. 68 mins
Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are taken from Drawing Room Confessions: Rosalind Nashashibi issue no. 6, London, 2012.