Living Things

I curated the film programme Living Things as a part of my contribution to the the group exhibition Source Material, that took place from May 14th until June 28th 2009 in TENT. Rotterdam.

Programme

  1. Jef Cornelis – Marcel Broodthaers: Musee d’art du XVIIe siecle (1969), 5 min
  2. Walerian Borowczyk – Encyclopedie de grand-maman (1963), 6 min
  3. Alain Resnais & Chris Marker – Les statues meurent aussi (1953), 30 min
  4. Walerian Borowczyk – Une collection particuliere (1973), 12 min

For the film programme I collected short documentary films, as well as one animation, that all show objects in a very literal way, in order to question the act of looking and the relation between looking and the presentation of the objects.

In 1969 Belgian television maker Jef Cornelis made an item about Marcel Broodthaers’ Museum of the 17th Century. Later in the film we also get a glimpse of his Museum of the 19th Century. Broodthaers collected lots images, often of eagles, and brings them together in installations which become the actual artworks. Cornelis has an interesting way of documenting the show. In a way he just shows and does not comment much, even Broodthaers is not asked to explain his work. It is a highly original, yet humble way of documenting an event.

The animation Encyclopedie de grand-maman, made by Polish film maker Walerian Borowczyk in 1963, is surreal, funny and a perfect introduction to a filmmaker who, as far as I know, has the most interesting career you can think of. He started making surreal animations but is remembered mostly as the director of classy softporn like Emmanuelle 5. The animation has a collage like quality and is visually not far from stop motion animation. One could say that this is one of the classic ways of bringing objects to life.

The 1953 documentary Les statues meurent aussi (Statues Die Too), directed by Alain Resnais and Chris Marker, not just shows objects, but questions the political implications of the act of looking. The film is a critique of western colonialism by showing how Africans and their art are exploited. As soon as an African sculpture is taken out of its original context, namely the cultus, and send to a European museum it dies, Resnais and Marker argue. Looking is just another way of executing the same power over people and objects, by objectifying them and placing them in a western order of things. In the film sculptures are brought back to life again by filming them in a very dramatical manner. Resnais and Marker use cinema to confront the viewer with his way of looking, in order to make him contemplate colonialism and his responsibility in it.

The programme ends with another short film by Walerian Borowczyk, Une Collection Particuliere. Borowczyk shows to the viewer his collection of vintage erotic images and objects. Often the actual meaning of the things are hidden, the erotic image often is a little secret that needs to be discovered. By filming the things and how they function in a very tactile manner, the viewer becomes part of the conspiracy.