Joan Braderman, stil from The Heretics, (USA), 2009, DigiBeta shown on DVD, 95 min.

Searching for Identity and Self-Efficacy in a Changing World

Jacqueline Goss, still from Stranger Comes to Town, Jacqueline Goss (USA), 2007, video, 28:30 min.

Ursula Biemann, still from Contained Mobility, Ursula Biemann (Switzerland), 2004, video, 21:25 min.

Ursula Biemann, still from X-Mission, (Switzerland), 2008, video, 36:18 min.

Ursula Biemann, still from Sahara Chronicle, (Switzerland), 2006-07, video, 51:14 min.

Deborah Stratman, still from, In Order Not To Be Here, (USA), 2002, 16 mm film shown on video, 33:00 min.


Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City

Lives on Hold: Searching for Agency
and Identity in a Changing World

Electromediascope, Fall 2011.
September 9-September 23, 2012

Electromediascope, the award-winning popular series at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, is an international survey of contemporary film, video and new media. For its fall series, September 2011, Electromediascope offers three programs of film and video called Lives on Hold: Searching for Agency and Identity in a Changing World, presenting works by artists from the United States, Switzerland and China.

The works included in Lives on Hold examine different cultural, social-ecological and political instances where the socially determined rights of agency and mobility that exist between individuals, institutions and governments are increasingly challenged, systematized and withheld. In recent history the actions of individuals and numerous civil rights movements have gained critical international support for issues of freedom in specific locations around the world, and this has led in many instances to more tolerance, cultural diversity and empathy for alternative points of view. In the West, feminists re-defined the gendered territory of the male-dominated art world, and helped re-contextualize what it means to be feminine from a non-male perspective for peoples around the world.

Electromediascope is co-curated by Patrick Clancy, professor and chair, Photography and Digital Filmmaking, at the Kansas City Art Institute, and artist Gwen Widmer. At the Nelson-Atkins, they work with Jan Schall, the Sanders Sosland Curator, Modern & Contemporary Art, and Leesa Fanning, Associate Curator, Modern & Contemporary Art. Films featured are shown in Atkins Auditorium at the Museum. All starting times are 7 p.m.:

• Friday, September 9 — The Heretics, Joan Braderman (USA), 2009, DigiBeta shown on DVD, 95 min. The Heretics reveals the inside story of Heresies, a feminist art collective that was at the epicenter of the 1970s art world in lower Manhattan. Director Joan Braderman, who joined the group in 1971 after moving to New York to become a filmmaker, charts the collective’s story for the first time in a feature-length film, revealing its pivotal role in the “second wave” of the Women’s Movement. Unlike more traditional documentaries, the film is framed with striking digital motion graphics. Braderman combines intimate interviews with former collective members, archival footage from the 1970s, and documents of the collective — including the journal HERESIES: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, published from 1977 to 1992 — to put the Heresies in the context of the larger second-wave movement, which was made up of thousands who met in small, private group settings to discuss issues and launch programs and actions relevant to women. The hundreds of Heresies members, now scattered around the globe and working as artists, writers, architects, painters, filmmakers, designers, editors, curators, and teachers, speak intimately about the extraordinary times they shared as they challenged the terms of gender and power and reimagined the lives of generations to come.

• Friday, September 16 — Lighthouse, Chi Jang Yin (China/USA), 2009, video, 16:15 min.;Lighthouse From the darkness, the camera captures its unwitting prey: the armies of Chinese laborers who work by night and barely ever see the light of day. They do not know that the camera is rolling, filming fragments of their lives — fragments that the viewer will invent stories around all by himself. These men play cards during their break or smoke cigarettes outside, while women work away on endless assembly lines, attend a nocturnal drawing lesson, or a massive dance rehearsal. Just as the outside world is invisible to them because they sleep during the day, they are also invisible to it. As soon as they come outside, director Chi Jang Yin depicts them as ghosts. Many people hold multiple jobs out of dire necessity, while others left their children behind in the country and raise them by phone. And what does this nocturnal existence mean for their social lives? Despite the anonymity and lifelessness of the gloomy factory buildings, they become a point of reference for the lives of these people. They define them, even if the people would prefer that not to happen. Lighthouse captures reality without comment and leaves the questions and answers to us.

X-Mission, Ursula Biemann (Switzerland), 2008, video, 36:18 min.;X-Mission explores the logic of the refugee camp as one of the oldest extrateritorial zones. Taking the Palestinian refugee camps as a case in point, the video engages with the different disc ourses – legal, symbolic, urban, mythological, historical – that give meaning to this exceptional space. According to International Law, the Palestinian refugee represents indeed the exception within the exception. In the course of 60 years they had to build a civil life in the camps, fostering an intense microcosm with complex relations to homeland and diaspora. The refugee camp harbors an intense microcosm with complex relations to homeland and to related communities abroad. Given the vital connections among the separated Palestinian populations, the video attempts to place the Palestinian refugee in the context of a global diaspora and considers post-national models of belonging which have emerged through the networked matrix of this widely dispersed community. The video also reflects on the fine distinctions between humanitarian and artistic missions. The narrative relies on a series of interviews made with experts, interspersed with multiple-layer video montage deriving from both downloaded and self-recorded sources. Speakers include Susan Akram, Bilal Khabeiz, Samar Kanafani, Ismaël Sheikh Hassan, Beshara Doumani.

Sahara Chronicle, Ursula Biemann (Switzerland), 2006-07, video, 51:14 min.; Sahara Chronicle (2006-2007), is a collection of videos on the modalities and orientations of migration across the Sahara; it chronicles the sub-Saharan exodus towards Europe as a social practice embedded in local and historical conditions. The project introduces the migration system as an arrangement of pivotal sites, each of which have a particular function in the striving for migratory autonomy, as well as in the attempts made by diverse authorities to contain and manage these movements. Video documents include the transit migration hub of Agadez and Arlit in Niger; Tuareg border guides in the Libyan desert; military patrols along the Algero-Moroccan frontier in Oujda; the Mauritanian port of Nouadhibou on the border to the Polisario Front; the deportation prison in Laayoune, Western Sahara. With its loose interconnectedness and its widespread geography, Sahara Chronicle mirrors the migration network itself. It does not intend to construct a homogenous, overarching, contemporary narrative of a phenomenon that has long roots in colonial Africa and is extremely diverse and fragile in its present social organization and human experience. No authorial voice, or any other narrative device, is used to tie the carefully-chosen scenes together; the full structure of the network comes together solely in the mind of the viewer who mentally draws connecting lines between the nodes at which migratory intensity is bundled.

• Friday, September 23 — In Order Not To Be Here, Deborah Stratman (USA), 2002, 16 mm film shown on video, 33:00 min.; In Order Not to Be Here An uncompromising look at the ways privacy, safety, convenience and surveillance determine our environment. Shot entirely at night, the film confronts the hermetic nature of white-collar communities, dissecting the fear behind contemporary suburban design. An isolation-based fear (protect us from people not like us). A fear of irregularity (eat at McDonald's, you know what to expect). A fear of thought (turn on the television). A fear of self (don’t stop moving). By examining evacuated suburban and corporate landscapes, the film reveals a peculiarly 21st century hollowness… an emptiness born of our collective faith in safety and technology. This is a new genre of horror movie, attempting suburban locations as states of mind.

Contained Mobility, Ursula Biemann (Switzerland), 2004, video, 21:25 min.;Contained Mobility Upon entering the harbor, the voyager leaves the exceptional condition of the boundless sea--this traversable space of maritime immensity--to come ashore in an offshore place, in a container world that only tolerates the trans-local state of not being of this place--nor of any other really--but of existing in a condition of permanent not-belonging, of juridical non-existence. He comes to signify the itinerant body, bound to string along a chain of territories, never reaching a final destination. Probing the protocols of access time and again, he moves through non-civil places, waits for status in off-social spaces, only to remain suspended in the post-humanist lapse. What used to be a state of temporary exemption — survival in the fluid time-space of legal deferral — has slowly consolidated into the prime mode of migratory subsistence. The site of this existence is connected but segregated; it is the world system of contained mobility.

Stranger Comes to Town, Jacqueline Goss (USA), 2007, video, 28:30 min.; Stranger Comes to Town They say there are only two stories in the world: man goes on a journey, and stranger comes to town. Six people are interviewed anonymously about their experiences coming into the US. Each then designs a video game avatar who tells their story by proxy. Goss focuses on the questions and examinations used to establish identity at the border, and how these processes in turn affect one's own sense of self and view of the world. •Stranger Comes to Town• re-works animations from the Department of Homeland Security —combining them with stories from the border, impressions from the on-line game World of Warcraft, and journeys via Google Earth to tell a tale of bodies moving through lands familiar and strange.

The Heretics DVD and image stills courtesy of the artist.

Chi Jang Yin, still from Lighthouse, (China/USA), 2009, video, 16:15 min.