November 16, 2020 - Artist Cinemas - Here is where we are: Week #4
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November 16, 2020

Artist Cinemas

Gabriel Abrantes, Birds (clip), 2012.

Here is where we are: Week #4
Gabriel Abrantes, Birds

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Join us on e-flux Video & Film for an online screening of Gabriel AbrantesBirds (2012), the fourth installment of Here is where we are, on view from Monday, November 16 through Sunday, November 22, 2020., and featuring an interview with the filmmaker by Mirene Arsanios.

Here is where we are is a six-part program of films, video works, interviews, and texts put together by Laure Prouvost. It is the fourth program in Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Video & Film

Artist Cinemas presents Here is where we are  
Week #4: Monday, November 16—Sunday, November 22, 2020
Gabriel Abrantes, Birds, 2012
18 minutes

An upstart theater director named Gabriel Abrantes attempts to stage a faithful production of Aristophanes’s The Birds in Haiti, only for the locals to lose their patience with his rather excessive approach.

Excerpt from the conversation between Gabriel Abrantes and Mirene Arsanios:

Mirene Arsanios:
Your email address is artificial humors. I’d like to ask you about the different types of humors you deploy in your movies. There is a certain militancy to satire, an excess and exaggeration that serve a didactic purpose or message. In Birds, two characters in a car denounce the “foolishness” of the filmmaker’s project, his ambition to deliver a political message or prompt a healing process by staging an ancient Greek play performed by locals. You said you arrived in Haiti without a script; at what stage of the filming process did you choose to incorporate this moment of self-criticism? I’m also curious about why the director never features in the film. He is mentioned but remains invisible. 

In one of your interviews, you talk about researching indigenous humor for one of your movies. Can you say more about what prompted you to do that, and say more about the relationship between humor and colonialism? 

Gabriel Abrantes:
My email is artificial humors because that is my production company name, which I named after my film Os Humores Artificiais (2016) about an artificially intelligent robot that is learning how to use language and conceptual thinking in non-linear forms by trying to learn many varieties of humor. It is a film that mixes anthropology, the history of humor, and artificial intelligence. The name also evoked “the humors,” the theory of how certain emotions are related to the dominance of certain fluids in the body, and that this was the source of an individual's personality. 

[...] When I started making work, I had no idea that I would end up trying to make “funny” work. A lot of the art that I started responding to during my time at university was imbued with playfulness, irony, sarcasm or wry humor, and I naturally started making work that tried to have similar qualities. There is a film that I really love, Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges, that follows a hot-shot Hollywood comedy director who is tired of making what he considers “fluff” films and sets out to direct a socially relevant drama about inequality in the US, but is reminded by his producer that he doesn't know the first thing about inequality, being a very wealthy Hollywood film director. Sullivan doesn't waste any time and sets out on a trip across the US pretending to be homeless in order to learn about the suffering of the poor, only to find out throughout his ill-begotten journey that many comedies or “fluff” films seemed to be more relevant and connect with the people he wanted to make a film about than the “prestige” social drama he was setting out to make. I think there is something to this idea, and that it is a root of the politics of cinema, which was born as a cheap mass-media spectacle—the inheritor of slapstick vaudeville and burlesque comedy routines thought to be too gauche for the elites, and marketed to the poor through cineodeons and nickelodeons located in the poorest neighborhoods of urban centers. Charlie Chaplin is a really iconic character in this history, clearly political, satirical, and humorous. There is a beautiful scene in Modern Times (1936) where a red warning flag falls off the back of a pickup truck and Chaplin grabs it and chases after the vehicle, waving the flag trying to get the driver's attention, and while he is doing this a massive union protest rounds the street corner behind him, making him seem like the red-flag-waving leader of an anti-capitalist march. I think this scene is a good metaphor for Chaplin's career: comedy is used as a way to camouflage progressive politics.

Watch the video and read the full conversation here.

About the program  
Here is where we are highlights a variety of ways of representing the real across the realms of the living. How do we—humans. animals, plants—leave a mark? The contributors in this selection move across a spectrum of criticality and lightness, each finding a unique way of expressing their inner drive. We are together in this world and travelling along the road as it curves. We traverse geographic and geological borders as well as a (mountain) range of styles, sensations, and cultures. Hopefully you are here where we are!

Here is where we are is a program convened by Laure Prouvost as part of the series Artist Cinemas. It will run for six weeks from October 24 through December 7, 2020, screening a new film each week accompanied by a text or interview with the filmmaker(s) by Prouvost and invited guests.

About Artist Cinemas  
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@e-flux.com.

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