Films, Facts, and Fiction

Films, Facts, and Fiction

Michael Rakowitz, The Ballad of Special Ops Cody (still), 2017.

ArteEast presents
Films, Facts, and Fiction
April 27, 2018, 7pm
311 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002

Join us on Friday, April 27 at 7pm for Films, Facts, and Fiction—the first in a series of screenings presented by ArteEast to be held at e-flux this spring. The evening features a selection of short films by Michael Rakowitz, Basim Magdy, Roy Samaha, and Oraib Toukan, followed by audience Q&A with artist Basim Magdy and ArteEast’s Sarah Rifky.

Made in the last two years, the four films presented are poetic and political meditations on the image: of real sites, imagined or represented, and fantastical sites rendered real through film, GIFs, and animation. The works intersect in drawing on sites of war, migration, and ecological destruction that, across them, create an arc that suspends viewers between fact and fiction, and undoes how we see—and feel—through contemplative encounters with the moving image.

Michael Rakowitz, The Ballad of Special Ops Cody, 2017
Video, 14’42”

The Ballad of Special Ops Cody is a dreamlike, stop-motion video featuring a sentient G.I. Joe action figure who speaks to Iraqi artifacts at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. The doll—models of which were sold on US bases in Iraq and Kuwait for parents to send their children at home—has its own bizarre history as a deceiving surrogate: in 2005, it featured in a convincing hostage photograph believed to be shared by insurgents; the media circulated the photograph widely before its creator admitted that it was a hoax. In Rakowitz’s video, Cody, voiced by veteran and artist Gin McGill-Prather, describes the traumas of war to lifeless votive figures and tells them he can free them from their glass prisons. While his speech is pitiful for its powerlessness, the anguish of the statues’ shared experience of entrapment is moving.

Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973, New York) is an artist living and working in Chicago.

Roy Samaha, Residue, 2017
Video, 13’38”

Residue began as a trip from Beirut to Izmir on Turkey’s Aegean coast. From there, Samaha headed northward to Ayvalik, an old seaport village in the country’s northwest region, where he caught a ferryboat that took him to Greece’s ancient city of Mytilene. The artist retraces the journey of successive waves of migration, following the route of people moving from the Aegean, Anatolian, and Southern European regions to the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt. Historians believe that the collapse of Bronze Age culture caused this exodus, an event that was likely abrupt and turbulent for those on both sides of the Mediterranean. Today, Samaha proposes that the end of our Aluminum Age bears witness to mass migrations on this same route albeit in the opposite direction, as if in a return to ancestral shores. Based on Samaha’s journey, Residue is a moving image diary comprised of over 85 GIFs that explore the recurring movement of waters, peoples and cultures.

Roy Samaha (b. 1978, Beirut) is an artist living and working in Beirut.

Oraib Toukan, When Things Occur, 2016
Video, 28’

When Things Occur is based on Skype conversations with Gaza-based photographers, fixers, and drivers who were behind specific images that were transmitted from screen to screen in the summer of 2014. The film probes the face of mourning and grief—its digital embodiment, transmission, and representation. It asks how the gaze gets channeled within the digital realm, and how empathy travels. Equally, how the documentary signifier—and its abstraction—operate when viewing suffering. What exactly is viewing suffering “at a distance”—and how many meters or kilometers is that? What is the behavior and political economy of the image of war? Who is the “local” in the representation of war? What is the daily routine of those who represent war?

Oraib Toukan (b. 1977, Boston) is an artist living and working in Berlin.

Basim Magdy, No Shooting Stars, 2016
Super 16mm and GIF animations transferred to Full HD, 14’25”

In No Shooting Stars, a narrative by a mysterious being interweaves with footage of an oceanic world that has been left out of history books and occupies only the margins of our consciousness. Having neither a beginning nor an end, the film drifts from one dreamlike scene to another, with only a tangential association to its organic narrative structure. Parts of the physical film have been pickled in chemicals that alter and saturate colors, muddling the quality of the image and estranging us from a familiar sense of the body of water and the life it sustains. Over time, the ocean seems to emerge as the film’s wry protagonist without revealing its depths.

Basim Magdy (b. 1977, Assiut) is an artist living and working in Basel.

This program is part of ArteHub 2018, and is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

For more information, contact

Film, Migration & Immigration

Sarah Rifky is a writer and curator living in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Oraib Toukan is an artist and a post-doctoral EUME fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. Using post-production as a medium, she is currently working with photography, film, and speech to study representations of encounters with violence. Toukan holds a PhD in Fine Arts from Oxford University, Ruskin School of Art. Until fall 2015, she was head of the Arts Division and Media Studies program at Al-Quds Bard College, Palestine, and visiting faculty at the International Academy of Fine Arts, Ramallah. She is author of Sundry Modernism: Materials for a Study of Palestinian Modernism (Sternberg Press, 2017).

Roy Samaha is a video artist from Beirut. He explores the boundaries of cinematic language, perception of reality, and the memory of personal objects.

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