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MONITOR 13: Dance on my head and scratch my heart

Monitor 13: Dance on my head and scratch my heart.
Monitor 13: Dance on my head and scratch my heart.
Rungh Readings @ Vancouver Art Book Fair

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Western Front is pleased to host SAVAC’s experimental South Asian film and video program, MONITOR.

Co-curated by Toronto-based artist and filmmaker Sharlene Bamboat and Delhi-based filmmaker Priya Sen, MONITOR 13 is the latest in a bi-yearly experimental film and video program organized by SAVAC that engages an international community of artists, curators and critics.

MONITOR 13: Dance on my head and scratch my heart invites the viewer to consider the indecipherable traces and charges of the past. It is an invitation to dance to the meditative, moving images in the program. Through letters, biographies, surfaces, sounds and architectures, the curators have assembled the films that initiate dialogues around the shifting nature of South Asian politics, economies and landscapes through artists’ film.

The following week, a reading and discussion will investigate themes of identity, diaspora and migration that arise with MONITOR 13.

Hosted and organized by Simranpreet Anand, this program will be co-presented with Rungh and Western Front.

Selected Films

Pictures of Departure, Faraz Anoushahpour & Parastoo Anoushahpour, 12 min, 2018

In winter of 1986 our mother writes in her diary: “To scratch the surface of a subject does not penetrate deep into the subject”. Almost three decades later, Pictures of Departure takes this entry and sets off to explore the surfaces and the scratches that linger across generations.

Tell Me the Story of All These Things, Rehana Zaman, 23 min, 2017

Tell Me the Story of All These Things is an accumulation of several narrative threads drawing together intimate conversations between the artist and her two sisters, ominous animated visions of a metamorphosing body and the UK government’s e-learning training on Prevent. The work takes its title from Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, a novel that deploys a variety of texts to examine themes of dislocation and fragmentation. Taking Cha’s work as a departure point, the film explores the processes of disassembling as constitutive of lived experience, conjuring the amorphous figure of a woman emerging from a barren landscape – a figure placed at the convergence of terror and desire.

Shape of a Surface, Nazli Dinçel, 9 min, 2017

The ground holds accounts of once pagan, then Christian and now Muslim ruins of the city built for Aphrodite. As she takes revenge on Narcissus, mirrors reveal what is seen and surfaces, limbs dismantle and marble turns flesh.

House of Women, Michelle Williams Gamaker, 14 min, 2017

In 1946, auditions were held for the character of the silent dancing girl Kanchi in Black Narcissus (1947), an upcoming film by British directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The coveted role finally went to Jean Simmons. To fulfil the role, the white English actor wore dark Pan Stick make-up and a jewel in her nose to become the “exotic temptress” of Rumer Godden’s novel of the same name. House of Women recasts the role, auditioning only Indian ex-pat or first-generation British Asian women and non-binary individuals living in London. Shot on 16mm film, the four candidates introduce themselves to an anonymous reader and recite a personalized alphabet including references to the history of photography and gender politics. Drawing on tension between construction and illusion, House of Women explores the gaps in representation and the spaces opened up by the “fiction machine” of the 1940s British studio system, which presented a controlled colonial vision of the British Raj and its people, often replacing Indian actors with British actors.

Celestial Vault, August Fröhls, 8 min, 2017

This film is a collage of syncopated hand gestures (mudras) and vocal exercises by cult-figure Asha Puthli in her response to a James Turrell sculpture. On a bitter cold, windy January day along the North Sea, we filmed Puthli in this artificial elliptical form titled Celestial Vault. At the base of the ellipses, there is a stone bench (somewhat resembling a tombstone) from which one can gaze at the expansive sky above, engaging in an awareness of observation.

Now 72 years old and still a consummate performer facing her own mortality, this film is less a biographical account, and is instead a collaboration that delves into the spiritual realm through a response to an artwork.

Herat in my Head in my Heart, Weeda Azim, 2 min, 2016

A long-distance telephone call from Canada to Afghanistan remedies misplaced cultural nostalgia and explores the longing for a home.

were here, Oliver Husain, 13 min, 2017

A woman repeatedly revisits her former home on St. Marks Road, Bangalore, and descents deeper into her memories with each visit.

Curator Biographies

Priya Sen works as a filmmaker and artist across film/video, sound and installation. Her work has screened at various festivals and venues including The Kitchen NYC, BFI London Film Festival, Forum Expanded Berlinale, Experimenta: International Festival of Moving Image Art, VIBGYOR International Short and Documentary Film Festival and IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival, among others. She has been at residencies at Gasworks and Nottingham Contemporary in the UK, and Khoj Studios in New Delhi. She was an India Foundation for the Arts fellow at the AIIS Archive & Research Centre for Ethnomusicology from 2016-2017. Sen’s work with film and sound has been around questions of form, urban ethnography, music and migration. She lives and works in New Delhi.

Sharlene Bamboat works predominantly in video and installation. Her works have exhibited at galleries and festivals internationally, including the Forum Expanded section of the Berlin Film Festival, Aga Khan Museum (Toronto), Art Gallery of Windsor (Canada), BFI London Film Festival (UK) and Vasakh Film Festival (Lahore). Sharlene often works collaboratively, most notably with artist Alexis Mitchell under the name Bambitchell. She recently completed a fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany (2016-17), and was a resident at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, USA (2018). Bamboat currently lives and works between Toronto and Montreal.