September 19, 2020 - Artist Cinemas - Take Me Back: Week #5
September 19, 2020

Artist Cinemas

Mikhail Lylov and Elke Marhöfer, Soils-Habit-Plants (clip), 2018.

Take Me Back: Week #5
Mikhail Lylov and Elke Marhöfer, Soils-Habit-Plants
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Join us on e-flux Video & Film for the online screening of Mikhail Lylov and Elke Marhöfer’s Soils-Habit-Plants (2018), the fifth installment of Take Me Back, on view from Saturday, September 19 through Friday, September 25, 2020 and featuring an interview with the filmmakers by Sahar Qawasmi and Nida Sinnokrot.

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 #5: Saturday, September 19—Friday, September 25, 2020
Mikhail Lylov and Elke Marhöfer, Soils-Habit-Plants, 2018
11:21 minutes

The short film Soils-Habit-Plants poses the question: Is it possible to understand nature not only as background for a proceeding human history and human consciousness? Can soils and plants, with their specific habits and image politics, teach us for example a useful, yet less human-centered way of looking at the world?

Excerpt from Mikhail Lylov and Elke Marhöfer's conversation with Sahar Qawasmi and Nida Sinnokrot:

Elke Marhöfer:
Ogawa Productions made films in collaboration with Japanese rice farmers almost in the manner of scientific research, and in order to film the blossoming and pollination of a rice plant they moved the plant into a film studio. However, we felt the need to include environmental disturbances, and rice, like millet, are plants that are pollinated by wind. We can say that wind and soil provide the infrastructure which make plant and animal life possible. We understand how easy it is to destroy soil, and we also know how difficult it is to make it healthy again, to care for it. It takes more than a human lifetime to generate fertile soil. I was reading similar things on your website about the infrastructure of soil and also the care for soil.

Mikhail Lylov:
I was actually thinking about Sakiya’s open call Infrastructure as Art, and how infrastructure can be considered an art-object. It is an interesting idea to create infrastructure as an artistic contribution. Infrastructure, one can say, is still an object, but it has a very different status—it's not the conventional art object which is shown in the urban art institution and whose functionality is suspended. So, when one articulates a call for art as a creation of an infrastructure within the setting of a farm, it's certainly some kind of strategy to rework the understanding of an art object.

Nida Sinnokrot:
Yes, within the farm but also within a broader relationship that speaks to our not-so-distant mythologies that governed our relationship to nature and the spirit world that we describe in the open call. Those invisible forces that guard and govern the infrastructure of our hillside are associated with rituals and collective imagination. 

Sahar Qawasmi:
It’s also an effort to revive some of those traditions, celebrations, songs that held people together in shared labor—and to make new ones as well. So, can infrastructure-as-art address, as did the spirit order, the anxieties that narrate our relationship to nature? 

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 October 3, 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

Artist Cinemas
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