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The Bartlett Screening Room

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The Bartlett Screening Room is a new forum to screen short films and artist moving image works in virtual space across lockdown.

About this Event

Projects are international in scope, all set out to address vital questions around critical urbanism, using film as a testing site. Core themes - beginning with the topic of ACTIVATING THE ARCHIVE - will be explored through a rolling program and collective viewing will be followed by a Q+A with artist/filmmakers.

We will gather in virtual space on Wednesdays (bi-weekly) in the London lunchtime golden hour to allow us to be joined by students and publics from Bogota, to the Bartlett, to Beijing. Watching together, talking together, thinking together.

The Bartlett Screening Room is a collaboration from Henrietta Williams, an artist/researcher based at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and Oliver Wright, programmer of Open City Documentary Festival.

Contact: henrietta.williams@ucl.ac.uk

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Running bi-weekly on Wednesdays 13.00-1400 (GMT)

Please register for this event and before every screening we will send you a short description of each film before the session and the joining link to join the Zoom on the day of the screening for all the listed screenings.

This Eventbrite will be updated weekly with the titles of the films that will be shown along with a short description.

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SCHEDULE OF SESSIONS:

EXTRACTION 3.1 Wed 28 April – 13.00-14.00 (GMT)

Splitting Stone, 2019, 19 mins

Adlais, 2018, 10 mins

James Davoll & Tim Shaw

The 2 short films ‘Splitting Stone’ and ‘Adlais’ can be read as companion pieces that tell the story of the Welsh slate industry in binary opposites: occupied and abandoned . In ‘Splitting Stone’ we are introduced to the Penrhyn Quarry, a vast hollowed out mountain that has been quarried since the 16th century and remains in use today. The scene Davoll presents to the viewer feels out of time and place, Caterpillar diggers are dwarfed against the backdrop of a vast dark grey terraced mountain. This is a scene of an industrial past, and one now unexpected in the valleys since the invention of the concrete roof tile led to the slow demise of the Welsh slate industry.

Having presented this ruined landscape, artist/filmmaker James Davoll sets up his narrative with a careful focus on the material itself. This is presented through a series of lingering frames tracing the process of quarrying slate from mountain, to tile, to crate. It is not until halfway through ‘Splitting Stone’ that we even see a human being. These workers serve the material as actors in a Fordist production line, masters of their repetitive actions, splitting stone in a cacophony of machine noise.

The bird song of Davoll’s film ‘Adlais’ comes as welcome relief from the intensity of the slate cutting factory. This second film was made in collaboration with sound artist Tim Shaw, here the focus is on the presence of absence, both visually and sonically. Abandoned houses of the slate workers sit in empty fields, stone factory buildings crumble, trees take root in huge piles of inert slate. Sonically Shaw fills these voids with a sound score of industrial spaces, as viewers we are in past and present all at once.

EXTRACTION 3.2 - Wed 12 May – 13.00-14.00 (GMT)

All that Perishes at the Edge of Land, 2019, 31 mins

Hira Nabi and the Gadani shipbreakers

The short film ‘All that Perishes at the Edge of Land’ takes as its site of investigation the Gadani Shipyard in Pakistan, a location of multiple incidents of fire, explosions, and environmental disaster. The global ship recycling industry operates at a monstrous scale with little regard for human life and the rights of workers. Gadani is one of the largest ship breaking yards in the world, workers here break up over 150 vessels each year salvaging 100 million tons of steel in the process. However, this process of so-called recycling has led to such an increase of toxicity levels in the water that the local fishing trade is in collapse.

Artist/filmmaker/writer Hira Nabi presents to us this beautiful and terrible landscape, one of vast rusty dying ships and Lilliputlian workers as they carry out their work of destruction. In the course of the film we are led to understand that the Gadani shipyard has been well documented by the international media as a case study of the chaos and danger of the recycling industry.

Nabi's contribution offers up a more detailed and pertinent study. Rich visual imagery presenting the spectacle of the yard in action, with elderly locals coming to set up deckchairs for front row viewing. The romance of these rusty hulls bathed in golden light is undercut by the voices of a series of workers describing the brutal reality of their daily life. Nabi skillfully oscillates between the voices of her ship breaker collaborators and a fictionalised narrative voiced by the ship herself as she tells the tale of her own achievements as a Korean container ship and her ultimate demise on the sands of Pakistan.

EXTRACTION 3.3 - Wed 26 May – 13.00-14.00 (GMT)

Title TBC

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PAST SCREENINGS:

ACTIVATING THE ARCHIVE 1.1 - Tues 12 Jan – 12.00-13.00

Uppland, 2018, 30 mins

Killian Doherty & Edward Lawrenson

A collaboration between Killian Doherty (from the Bartlett PhD program) and Edward Lawrenson, ‘Uppland’ traces the journey of a European architect and filmmaker to the site of a now dis-used Liberian mine and the town built to serve it. Yekepa, once an iron ore extraction site of Swedish mining company (LAMCO), is now almost entirely abandoned.

Archival images, depicting thriving industry and a polished modernist settlement built for Swedish mining families, are set against contemporary images shot by Lawrenson – abandoned machinery, overgrown ruins, the trope of a waterless swimming pool – traces of absence of a misplaced colonial past. In its wake, New Yekepa emerges alongside. This second settlement is built by the displaced Mano community, the people who lived this place before and operate now in a land stripped of natural wealth.

The resulting short film is a knowing interrogation of the processes of place-making and the voids that the architectures of international development can leave behind.

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ACTIVATING THE ARCHIVE 1.2 - Tues 26 Jan – 13.00-14.00 (GMT)

Miasma, Plants, Export Paintings, 2017, 28 mins

Bo Wang & Pan Lu

Originally created as a two-channel video installation, the short film ‘Miasma, Plants, Export Paintings’ presents, disrupts, and spatialises concerns around the British Imperialist project in China. The project is a collaboration between artist/filmmaker, Bo Wang, and Pan Lu, researcher and writer.

The narrative charts the story of John Reeves, a tea officer in the East India Company, focusing on his interest in paintings and the documentation and exportation of plants from Canton. These seductive botanicals are interwoven with a European fear of the concept of miasma – the notion of airborne disease borne out of the humidity of the exotic East. Contemporary footage shot in darkened greenhouses, the fluorescent lighting reminiscent of the lurid early coloration of botanical watercolours commissioned by Reeves, is woven together with stories of a Chinese plague.

A wide array of archival material is presented and skillfully subverted: Pathé newsreels, pop culture 1960s British films, the V&A, the British Library, and of course, the living archive of Kew Gardens. Kew is presented here as an assemblage of exotic botanical species - the narrative of the film segueing to an analysis of colonial systems of human classification. Core to the film is an unravelling of the conflicting nature of the colonial gaze, a desire for the exotic interwoven with fear of the natural world and the people that come from this distant land.

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ACTIVATING THE ARCHIVE 1.3 - Tues 9 Feb – 13.00-14.00 (GMT)

No Archive Can Restore You, 2020, 5 mins 53 seconds

No Dance, No Palaver (trilogy), 2017-18, 18 mins

Onyeka Igwe

with Dr Thandi Loewenson acting as respondent.

The short film ‘No Archive Can Restore You’ and trilogy of shorts ‘No Dance, No Palaver’ present a series of carefully crafted narratives to reveal a slice of the problematic history of the British Empire in Nigeria. London-based artist Onyeka Igwe focuses closely on the role of the Colonial Film Unit as a way to rework and reconsider the specific role of filmmaking in discourses of Empire.

Across Africa the British authorities had a policy of utilising cinema as a tool of propaganda. In 1939 this technique was formalised through establishment of The Colonial Film Unit with the primary aim of producing so-called education films to be screened free of charge via a series of mobile film projection vans across the country – later this would morph into the Nigerian Film Unit.

In ‘No Archive Can Restore You’ Igwe returns us to the former site of the Nigerian Film Unit as it lies abandoned on Ikoyi Road in Lagos. Humidity and the passing of time have warped the surfaces of discarded wooden desks still littered with microphones, rusty canisters spill open as dusty film unspools across the floor. The site acts as an artefact of British operations in West Africa. The building is now without use, it’s filmic history no longer wanted and a residue of a colonial past.

In the trilogy ‘No Dance, No Palaver’ Igwe takes as her starting point material that would have been filmed across Nigeria by Colonial Information officers. These men were encouraged to shoot their own films with 16mm cameras and raw stock film provided by the British administration. The resulting archive material is radically transformed and reworked with the simple technique of layering drawings and text slides over original footage. Igwe leads us to a new understanding of this problematic material and the resulting art works speaks to the complexities of a British Colonial past whilst also asking broader questions related to the ethics of filmmaking practice.

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CRITIQUING TECHNOLOGIES 2.1 - Tues 23 Feb – 13.00-14.00 (GMT)

Operation Jane Walk, 2018, 16 mins

Robin Klengel & Leonard Müllner

A city tour through the New York streets and architecture of an Online Shooter Game, Operation Jane Walk is based on the dystopian multiplayer shooter Tom Clancy’s: The Division. In this work, the game’s digital war zone is appropriated with the help of an artistic operation. Within the rules of the game’s software, the militaristic environment is being re-used for a pacifistic city tour. The urban flâneurs avoid the combats whenever possible and become peaceful tourists of a digital world, which is a detailed replica of Midtown Manhattan. While walking through the post-apocalyptic city, issues such as architecture history, urbanism and the game developer’s interventions into the urban fabric are being discussed.

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CRITIQUING TECHNOLOGIES 2.2 - Tues 9 March – 13.00-14.00 (GMT)

Your father was born 100 years ago, and so was the Nakba, 2017, 7 mins

Canada Park, 2020, 8 mins

Razan Alsalah

With Dr Merijn Royaards acting as respondent

‘Al Nakba’, meaning ‘The Catastrophe’ is an Arabic word used to describe the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. Between 1947-49 at least 750,000 Palestinians were made refugees, 530 villages and cities were destroyed. Nakba Day is commemorated annually, the day after Israeli Independence Day, the two days of memorial linked but acting in binary opposition with each other.

The work of Lebanese-Palestinian artist Razan Alsalah uses the Nakba as a lens to investigate the politics of disappearance. The short film ‘Your father was born 100 years old, and so was the Nakba’ enacts this through a personal family history. Using the form of a documentary fiction the artist imagines her grandmother returning to her hometown of Haifa through the technology of Google StreetView. This is now the only way the artist’s Arab grandmother can return to the streets of her former home, as it now is located within the State of Israel. In her more recent short ‘Canada Park’ Alsalah returns to the theme of the Nakba but relates the notion of the specifics of the politics of disappearance of Palestine in contemporary Israel to the displacement of the Iroquis Mohawk from so-called Canada. We shift from one park of the disappeared, to another.

Within both these short films the limitations of Google Street View are made apparent. This is a flattened and temporal gaze, a moment in time shown from a single perspective. Alsalah critiques this singular gaze of the Google kino-eye through the addition of a floating layer of archival photographs. This offers up a much needed duality of vision, a way to present these contested landscapes as palimpsests, a multiplicity of layered histories playing out in the same space.

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CRITIQUING TECHNOLOGIES 2.3 - Tues 23 March – 13.00-14.00 (GMT)

Watching the Detectives, 2017, 36 mins

Chris Kennedy

With Max Houghton acting as respondent

The silent 16mm film ‘Watching the Detectives’ consists almost entirely of excerpts gleaned from Reddit and 4Chan in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. On that day, two homemade pressure cooker bombs were detonated near the finish line on Boylston Street, killing 3 and injuring hundreds of others.

Three days later the FBI released images of the suspects – two Chechen-American brothers who later described their actions as defending Islam from the US. A wild FBI manhunt ensued for the brothers that saw thousands of police officers on the streets of Boston resulting in a final shootout between law enforcement and the perpetrators.

In the short film ‘Watching the Detectives’ Chris Kennedy presents the high tension interior world of Reddit and 4Chan in the direct aftermath of the bombing. Kennedy sifts through a flood of data to present a refined narrative that interrogates the notion of unauthenticated truths. This problematic internet landscape is critiqued through a series of screengrabs that present crude annotations, glib remarks of racial profiling, and doxing.

Kennedy is working in a tradition of experimental filmmaking that uses found footage to subvert the original meanings through re-use. The detournement of the original material from Reddit and 4Chan is enforced by Kennedy’s translation of this internet ephemera to 16mm film. In so doing Kennedy creates lasting documents from the throw-aways of chat rooms, forcing the viewer to reflect on the inherent power and dangers of social media as contemporary truth teller.

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Follow the bartlett_screening_room Instagram page for more regular updates

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The Bartlett Screening Room will be streamed live through Zoom.

Please ensure you download Zoom and create an account prior to the event.


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