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Terra Incognita

Programmer of the Future Aileen Ye presents a two-day elemental cinema series from 9 July, in Eye and on the Eye Film Player. Terra Incognita will resculpt our focus to the deeper relationship with the natural elements we sometimes take for granted, complain about, swim in, dance in, sunbathe in, destroy, touch, and play.

By Aileen Ye22 May 2024

To Aurore, George Sand

Nature is all we see,
All we want, all we love.
All we know, all we believe in,
All we feel within ourself.

It is beautiful for whom sees it,
It is kind for whom loves it,
It is just when we believe in it,
And when we respect it within ourself.

Look at the sky, it sees you,
Embrace Earth, it loves you.
Truth is what we believe in
In nature, it is thyself.

still from Salt (Mateusz Miszczyński, JO 2024)

still Salt (Mateusz Miszczyński, JO 2024)

Subash Thebe Limbu, NINGWASUM (2021, video still) (courtesy of the artist)

Subash Thebe Limbu, NINGWASUM (2021, video still) (courtesy of the artist)

Elemental Cinema

In the vast tapestry of our natural world, there are tales of mimicry, cooperation, resilience, and transformation. Orchids, with their clever mimicry of female insects, use floral morphology to lure unsuspecting males into pollinating their flowers, much like how George Sand (1804-1876) adopted a masculine pseudonym to navigate the conservative literary landscape of 19th-century France.

still from UNDR (Kamal Aljafari, PS/DE 2024)

still UNDR (Kamal Aljafari, PS/DE 2024)

Similarly, in meerkat communities, cooperative breeding defies traditional caregiving roles, showcasing a harmonious approach to nurturing the young. These anecdotes, seemingly disparate yet interconnected, underscore a crucial point: our human-centric worldview often overlooks the richness, similarities, and sophistication of natural ecosystems, which often function more harmoniously than our own.

Like the natural world, can our knowledge and value systems mutate, adapt, evolve?

still from Solo la luna comprenderá (The Moon Will Contain Us) (Kim Torres, CR 2023)

still Solo la luna comprenderá (The Moon Will Contain Us) (Kim Torres, CR 2023)

In Susan Sontag’s ‘Against Interpretation,’ she implores us to engage with art not merely through logical analysis, but through our emotions and senses. We are too used to asking ‘What does it mean?’ as opposed to ‘What do I feel about it?’ And so, this programme invites you to feel differently - what if we approach cinema from the perspective of the natural elements?

Terra Incognita

This two-day interdisciplinary programme, Terra Incognita, will resculpt our focus to the deeper relationship with the elements we sometimes take for granted, complain about, swim in, dance in, sunbathe in, destroy, touch, and play. Nature, often relegated to the sidelines of our consciousness, is not a separate entity but an integral part of our existence.

Consider it like couples therapy where we must ask ourselves: Are we communicating effectively with our environment? What truths have we been neglecting?

After this programme, I hope it leaves you seeing, touching, hearing and tasting the world around us a little differently.

still from Can A Mountain Recall? (Delfina Carlota Vazquez MX/AR 2021)

still Can A Mountain Recall? (Delfina Carlota Vazquez MX/AR 2021)

Eye Film Player

Programmer of the Future Aileen Ye selected seven films to watch at home: listening to the wind, a mountain that remembers, lava like blood in a landscape. Several films can be viewed for free.

Visit the Eye Film Player

Dirty Shapeshifters

We’ll explore how different cultures and geographies derive meaning from the elements. From mythologising to spiritualising, capitalising to embedding technology, each film offers a unique perspective on our relationship with nature.

With contemporary shorts, features, and artist moving-image from Costa Rica, Mexico, the US, UK, Nepal, Palestine, Jordan, Vietnam, China, and Tuvalu, we’ll embark on a cinematic voyage. Firstly, looking at the body’s relationship to nature, followed by escapism, resistance, and futuristic unknowns.

An example of this cerebral exploration is Raven Jackson's All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt which masterfully weaves human memories with the Mississippi landscape, reminding us of the intergenerational moments that shape our being. Through her lens, we see how sudden drops of rain can evoke recollections of the tender familiar, blurring the lines between past and present.

“All these drops might be a river someday. Might be snow. Might be in you.”

(All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, Raven Jackson)

still from Salt (Mateusz Miszczyński, JO 2024)

still Salt (Mateusz Miszczyński, JO 2024)

still from All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson, US 2023)

still All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson, US 2023)

Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall

As we immerse ourselves in the elemental narratives, we confront not only the beauty but also the injustices ingrained within our relationship. Warfare, capitalism, displacement, and ecological injustices are laid bare, challenging us to confront our human complicity.

But in darkness, there is also resilience to be found. Much like the natural strength of flowers weathering the rain despite their fragility, the works of filmmakers such as Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Subash Thebe Limbu, Petra Kuppers, and Kim Torres echo the ability to endure and adapt. Through their films, we witness the symbiotic relationship between humans and the elements, as both overcome adversities and forge paths towards resistance and renewal. From meditatively floating in the Dead Sea to a drone dancing with a Mountain God to a home so beautiful you’d rather die here than go to heaven; these windows offer glimpses of tranquillity and connection, and the profound solace the natural world can provide.

Similarly, we’ll also see how volcanoes shed light on social constructs and the politics of creating elemental art. In Werner Herzog's films, his narration plays a pivotal role, often becoming a spectacle in itself. In The Fire Within he imbues volcanic eruptions with almost divine significance, portraying them as an ever-present danger to life on earth. Contrasting this perspective, Heavy Flow by Feminist Land Art Retreat offers a satirical take on traditional views of masculinity in land art and provocatively likens lava to menstrual flows. Examples of these juxtapositions throughout the programme invite us to reconsider perceptions of violence and natural phenomena, and how societal constructs shape our responses to the world around us.

still from The Fire Within: Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft (Werner Herzog, GB/US/CH/FR 2022)

still The Fire Within: Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft (Werner Herzog, GB/US/CH/FR 2022)

still from Stitching the Future with Clues (Allison Leigh Holt, US 2021)

still Stitching the Future with Clues (Allison Leigh Holt, US 2021)

Cyber Chants for the Future

To round off this journey, we'll immerse ourselves in a sonic ritual to navigate our hopes and fears of the unknown future. This will be devised with a live audio-visual performance by renowned Berlin-based artist Alex Guevara and music artist Katarina Gryvul. blending sound and light that blurs the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds. And finally complemented by two films: Colectivo Los Ingrávidos’ Xiuhtecuhtli- a rhythmic tribute to ancestral fires, and Allison Leigh Holt’s Stitching the Future with Clues - a neurodivergent-futurist manifesto exploring cybernetics and environmental existence, for our urgent efforts in world-building.

After this programme, I hope your body feels rested. Feet more grounded. Eyes more brighter. Mind more quiet. Remember to loosen your chest, stretch, breathe, laugh, cry - for an optimal experience.

See you before sunset.

still from Annea Lockwood: A Film About Listening (Sam Green, US 2021)

still Annea Lockwood: A Film About Listening (Sam Green, US 2021)

P.S.

And for those engaging with the programme online, Annea Lockwood: A Film About Listening on the Eye Film Player offers a fitting conclusion, enriching this journey through sensory immersion. And I promise, after watching you’ll never hear the breeze the same again.

P.P.S.

Me + a kitty looking at the luna! (this could be us…on July 9+10)

© Aileen Ye

© Aileen Ye

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