Take Me Back: Week #2

Take Me Back: Week #2

Artist Cinemas

Caroline Monnet, Mobilize (clip), 2015.

August 26, 2020
Take Me Back: Week #2
Caroline Monnet, Mobilize
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Join us on e-flux Video & Film for the online screening of Caroline Monnet’s Mobilize (2015), the second installment of Take Me Back, on view from Wednesday, August 26 through Tuesday, September 1, 2020 and featuring an interview with the filmmaker by Jumana Manna.

Take Me Back is a six-part program of films, video works, and interviews put together by Jumana Manna. It is the third program in Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Video & Film

Artist Cinemas presents Take Me Back
Week #2: Wednesday, August 26–Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Caroline Monnet, Mobilize, 2015
3:34 minutes

Mobilize takes us on a journey from the northern lands to the urban south. The rhythmic montage, composed entirely from the archival footage of the NFB (National Film Board of Canada), follows Indigenous bodies constantly on the move through radically different landscapes, performing the strength and skill of everyday life. Edited to the beat of Tanya Tagaq’s song “Uja,” hands thread sinew through snowshoes, axes peel birch bark to make a canoe, a paddler navigates icy white waters, young men and women arrive into the city as construction workers and city drifters. Mobilize negotiates notions of labor and its representation between urban/modern and traditional/native lands.

Excerpt from the interview with Caroline Monnet by Jumana Manna:

Jumana Manna (JM):
The movement from country to city narrated through the assemblage of Mobilize speaks directly to the framework of this series, Take Me Back. How did this clear direction of movement come about?

Caroline Monnet (CM):
I feel that in some ways it’s representative of my own family’s history. I did not grow up in my mother’s community, and my grandparents left the region when my mother was still young. With this comes displacement, and it builds on a new narrative in the city. There’s a level of privilege that came with my maternal family’s migration to the city, accessing jobs and education. But that privilege came with the harsh price of assimilation, trauma, and identity struggle. Notions of labor are very different in the city than on the land, or in a place where lumber is the principal industry. It doesn’t require the same set of skills and knowledge. And these traditional skills are often what ground you in your culture and community. Indigenous people were instrumental in building Canadian society, to the extent of contributing physically to building skyscrapers. Our presence in this country can no longer be ignored. 

I noticed two very different lineages of crafts in the film. The first, let’s call it traditional crafts made from organic materials embedded in the landscape; and the second, the crafts of industrial construction. How do you consider the relation between the two—have they existed alongside one another, or would you say the latter has erased the first? 

I don’t think the latter has erased traditional building techniques. I consider traditional crafts and skills to be very much present in today’s world. Most people have this belief that our traditional knowledge is dying and our culture is disappearing. On the contrary, there’s a strong renaissance of Indigenous pride and culture. With the help of social media and the democratization of filmmaking equipment, a new generation is active in learning their traditional languages as well as making sure their elders’ knowledge is passed down. What happened over the last century was that most of these traditional skills were not recognized for their merit, and often relegated to mere folkloric crafts. But tradition is not necessarily regressional—it is constantly adapting and inventive. 

Watch the film and read the full interview here.

About the program
In the weeks before we began mourning and raging over the destruction of one of the last few livable cities of the Middle East, the region, like many others, was experiencing new heights of precaution and paranoia with the second wave of Covid-19 cases. We would cross to the other side of the street to avoid germ-carrying humans, and make ourselves smaller amidst supermarket racks—spaces of potential virus transmission that are also a reminder of the world’s ecological imbalance. We planned for the great escape to quieter and greener landscapes, either temporarily (although we don’t quite understand what that means anymore) or, for some, permanently—as a lifestyle change we had been meaning to make but didn’t yet have the time, guts, or excuse to. The city that before signaled pioneering lifestyles and progress appears today as a symbol of danger and defilement, of overconsumption, overpopulation, claustrophobia, and deferred futures. And the countryside and wilderness are projected as the place of safety and liberty, cleanliness and truth: of original happiness where age-old wisdoms were born and aged, only to suffocate into the amnesia of the city. This dichotomy has been set up since early modernity, sustained with each new historical rupture and economic turn, and now gains new optics with the spread of the pandemic. 

In parallel to the urge to “return,” from early cinema till today filmmakers have been going back to the land, to study and draw inspiration from it—its traditions, its music, its cultural behaviors as a place of authenticity—either to critique ideological representations and claims to the countryside, or to perpetuate its imaginary in the name of the Nation. Sometimes, unwillingly doing both. The films compiled in this program are from different localities, not because we are all the same now, but because the impacts of global capitalism, of which the pandemic is mutant, have created uncannily similar forms of violence and resistance.

Take Me Back is a program convened by Jumana Manna as part of the series Artist Cinemas. The program will run for six weeks from August 19 through September 29, 2020, screening a new film each week, accompanied by an interview with the filmmaker(s).

About the series
Artist Cinemas is a new e-flux platform focusing on exploring the moving image as understood by people who make film. It is informed by the vulnerability and enchantment of the artistic process—producing non-linear forms of knowledge and expertise that exist outside of academic or institutional frameworks. It will also acknowledge the circles of friendship and mutual inspiration that bind the artistic community. Over time this platform will trace new contours and produce different understandings of the moving image.

For more information, contact program [​at​] e-flux.com.

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Artist Cinemas
August 26, 2020

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