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From Afar
Filipa Cesar & Louis Henderson, Mania Akbari & Marc Cousins, Simon Starling

From Afar presents the work of five artists and filmmakers whose use of narrative, storytelling and diaristic interrogation, evoke powerful and intelligent connections between narration and the image.


Presented individually as multiple, synched, facsimiled projections and screenings each artist’s work, individually appropriates MCA’s gallery spaces for the duration of the film. Thinking about visual and spatial orientation and contrast, specifically in the context of the cinematic experience and its relationship to film, From Afar renegotiates the presentation of each film through multiplicity and repetition creating a disorienting relationship. Articulating ideas of appearance and disappearance, detachment and physical and philosophical distance, the five selected films address themes of cartography and technology and political, social and cultural conflict.


Simon Starling’s Black Drop (2013) (produced in association with Modern Art, Oxford and the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford), unfolds in a 35mm editing suite as an editor tries to bring structure and understanding to a varied array of material including: footage made on location in Hawaii and Tahiti on the occasion of the June 2012 transit of Venus, archive images, and ultimately footage of himself editing. As the editor cuts and splices, the complex narrative unfolds. The film tells the story of the relationship between astronomy, photography and the beginnings of moving image technology. Predicated on the idea that the 2012 transit may be the last to be recorded on 'celluloid' (the next transit will occur in 2117), Black Drop tracks the development of the French astronomer, Jules Janssen’s innovative photographic revolver – a device that was designed to counter human error in timing the crucial moments of Venus’ contact with the edge of the sun and was influential in the development of Etienne Jules Marey’s photographic rifle and the Lumiére Brother’s cinematograph.


"Trying to think the revolution is like waking up and trying to see the logic in a dream." Chris Marker and Edward Saïd are the spiritual influences of Logical Revolts, which is named after a poem by Rimbaud. In Logical Revolts (2012), Louis Henderson takes an annotated script of Blue Vanguard (1957) - the UN commissioned film by Thorold Dickinson on the 1956 Suez crisis. References to any implication of guilt on the part of Israel’s contribution to the crisis, are emphatically erased by the censor’s red pen. The Dickinson script attempts to unravel the complexities of the Anglo-French colonial legacy at Suez. Henderson travels to Egypt with this film script as his guide. Dealing with the human and political complexities of a post-revolution reality in Egypt, Henderson as an outsider, encounters great resentment and threat in his endeavour to pursue his narrative, creating this powerful, tense and questioning historic relationship between the viewer and the viewed and the will to understand a new reality.


In Mania Akbari & Mark Cousins’ feature film Life May Be (2014) a series of “essay films” between the two filmmakers unfold revealing a series of reflections on cinema and culture. Akbari’s rigorous film trajectory and detailed cultural narratives are analyzed and contextualized by Cousins’ thought provoking and stunning confrontations ranging from cultural issues to gender politics to deeply thought provoking physical, emotional and tactile reactions. Akbari’s use of language, personal storytelling and the landscape, poetically and intellectually flirt with an analysis and devotion to film and it’s powerful and rigorous connections to culture.


Louis Henderson’s Lettres Du Voyant (2013) is a documentary-fiction about spiritism and technology in contemporary Ghana that attempts to uncover some truths about a mysterious practice called "Sakawa" - internet scams mixed with voodoo magic. Tracing back the scammers’ stories to the times of Ghanaian independence, the film proposes Sakawa as a form of anti-neocolonial resistance. The film takes the form of a voyage through a network of digitised mine shafts that lead the viewer to each of the film’s locations; a gold mine, an e-waste dump, a voodoo ritual or a discotheque. A character recounts a story through reading a series of letters that he has written to the film’s author - letters that speak about the colonial history of Ghana, of gold, of technology.


Co-commissioned by Gasworks, London; Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen; and the Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia, Lisbon, the collaborative film Sunstone (2018) by Louis Henderson and Filipa César tracks Fresnel lenses and their materiality, from their site of production to their exhibition at a museum of lighthouses and navigational devices. Reflecting upon the lighthouse and its maritime, social and cultural value of commerce and strategic importance, Sunstone shifts between historic power structures of navigation and the lighthouse’s own technological demise through a new age of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).

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