Spooky Action at a Distance

Film screening at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art MMCA  Changdong, Seoul programmed by Michael Just

Monday, September 10, 5 pm / 257 Deongneung-ro, Dobong-gu, Seoul, Korea (01469)

Relation exists, especially as the particulars that are its interdependent constituent have first freed themselves from any approximation of dependency.

Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, Distancing/Determining

As is well known, the dissent among physicists in the early 1930s over the interpretation of what later became known as nonlocality was situated between local realism, assuming an essence of physical reality not yet uncovered, and the fundamental indeterminacy thereof with its temporary physical manifestation coming about only on the occasion of observance.

The framework within which I have positioned this screening is situated between Edouard Glissant’s concepts of relation, distance and opacity and Catherine Malabou’s conception of (feminine) essence as an essence of absence, both impossible and undeniable. All four artists seem to be negotiating notions of absence, distance and more uncertain notions of invisibility as mediated through transparency and opacity.

Consider the Bedouins in Shadi Habib Allah’s Daga’a (2015), whose identity seems both invisible and as such transparent, and yet it is a transparency brought about only through their being opaque subjects. Their lack of land rights and their cross-border ties between Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi-Arabia positions them at the very margins of the nation, both physically and ideologically. Using this legal and physical marginalization to defy surveillance, the Bedouins are located largely in uncharted terrain and have developed an economy of cross-border smuggling. In Daga’a, the artist himself becomes a smuggled good. Moving from one Bedouin network into another, he seems increasingly cast adrift notions of spatial and geographic transparency such as represented in the map he is using in his film to localize his journey. Daga’a is a Bedouin term for either land or a particular location within that land. Therefore, its meaning per se is rather ambiguous and it is only through the discursive context that it is more accurately determined.

Consider the notion of absence in Ivor Shearer’s Shooting the Road (2013): located between repetition and negation, Shearer refers to an absence which reveals the conditions that are constitutive of that which is being rendered either opaque or transparent. As Shearer states in the beginning of his film, the repression of a haunting only implies its ongoing repetition. It is this concept of repetition that the curator Andrew McNeely is referring to as “restlessness” in his exhibition “Restless Debris” (UAG Irvine, CA, 2016): “Any aesthetic program that negotiates the politics of decline must take as its guiding focus ruination as an ongoing process that informs the present as much as it preserves the past. … In short, debris for these artists is restless;

Miguel Amat’s Ghas (2013) combines the dialectics of hospitality and occupation with the notion of how contemporary warfare constructs the concept of the other as both opaque and transparent so that it can ultimately be negated. The visual component of his work is a chain of video files collected from a former mercenary who either shot them himself, gathered them from colleagues or just found them on the internet. Hospitality shares a common etymological root with hostility, which can be traced back to the Sanskrit word ghas, meaning “to eat”, “to devour” or “to burn” in this ancient Indo-Iranian language.

The title of Sara Eliassen’s film A Blank Slate (2014) immediately positions itself between implying both transparency, as in that which is blank is as such revealing its essence, and opacity in that there is a constitutive behind, so to speak, even to (and masked by) radical blankness. Eliassen’s female protagonist takes on exactly this identity of being an affirmed and denied female subject constituted through representations of the feminine in film history. Malabou’s concept of feminine essence is one of both violation and resistance and it seems that, in a similar way, Eliassen’s strategy of undermining the male gaze is one of acknowledging and even affirming violation, however only to show how it is constitutive of resistance. This to me is what lies at the heart of her film: the slate may not be entirely blank. Constituted through a history of violation, what it reflects back in this moment, namely what lies ahead, is the potential for agency.

Michael Just


Shadi Habib Allah: Daga’a, 2015

Shadi Habib Allah embarks on an unlikely journey near gunpoint across the heavily militarized Sinai Peninsula in Egypt led by a network of Bedouin smugglers, who navigate an unmapped terrain. The only signposts are the stories they share about the stakes of living, dying, and moving through this mysterious space. Anecdotes transition into directions and allegiances are blurred, as is the state of the Bedouins, who remain unrecognized citizens of this no man’s land.

Their navigation tactics, a formation of discipline of movement and coordination developed by necessity to evade military patrols, mirrors the militarized mentality of the Egyptian army. These desert outliers who quietly continue their lineage with the help of snakes.

Born in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1977, Shadi Habib Allah received a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in 2003 and an MFA from Columbia University in 2010. His practice ranges from film, sculpture and drawing to installation. He lives and works in New York City.

He was twice awarded 2nd Prize for the Young Artist Award from the A.M. Qattan Foundation, and has attended residencies at Delfina Foundation Cittadelarte, Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella, Italy and Gasworks in London, England. He was the 2012 recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. His work has been exhibited at the 13th Sharjah Biennial, Palestine c/o Venice at the Venice Biennale, Art Statements Art Basel 43, and the New Museum Triennial amongst others. Exhibitions include ‘Biscuits and Green Sox Maaike’ at Reena Spaulings, New York, ‘30KG Shine’ at Rodeo Gallery, London, ‘Empire State’, curated by Norman Rosenthal & Alex Gartenfeld, at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, and at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris; ‘Frozen Lakes’, at Artists Space, New York; and ‘Nouvelles Vagues’, curated by Jason Waite and Antonia Alampi, at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Upcoming solo exhibitions include the Renaissance Society, Chicago in 2018.

Ivor Shearer: Shooting the Road, 2013

“Shooting the Road” is a cinematic experiment that examines the conditions that made possible the production of the 2008 film “The Road.” The original film made use of real sites of disaster for set design in order to construct an escapist post-apocalyptic fantasy world.

Many of the more sensational shots in the film were captured in the wreckage of post-Katrina New Orleans and economically depressed post-industrial towns in the Pittsburgh area.

In an attempt to engage with the locations used in “The Road,” this film reshot as many shots for which the locations could be found and proven. Shot in 35mm, using the same film stock as “The Road,” this project replicates with near precision the camera position, frame, camera movement, and duration of the shots. Shearer then matched the original audio with each of our corresponding shots. Whatever existed at these locations between 2012 and 2013 is what was filmed.

Born in New York City in 1976, Ivor Shearer received a BA from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, in 2003 and an MFA from Columbia University in 2010. He participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 2010/11. His practice is focused on film, video and installation. He lives and works in Houston, TX.

Residencies include the Antonio Ratti Foundation, Como, Italy, 2009, Santa Fe Art Institute Residency, 2013, ArtPace, San Antonio, TX, 2013, and the Core Fellowship, Museum of Fine Arts Houston 2014-2016. He has been awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award in 2011. Exhibitions and Screenings include Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Houston, 2016; UAG Gallery, University of California, Irvine, 2016; ArtPace, AIR exhibition. San Antonio, 2013; San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, 2012; The Mason Gross Galleries at Rutgers University. New Brunswick, 2011, The New Orleans Museum of Art, 2008; The Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, 2007

Miguel Amat: Ghas, 2013

Ghas slices together recollections of an ex-contractor of a private military company (former Blackwater) that detail in how many ways acts of hospitality by host countries and occupying forces are used as tactical strategies to gain military advantage. Cooking and eating are at the core of this interview that posits being a host serving food as one of the most effective interrogation tactics. Sharing his memories over a meal that mirrors the type of situation he used to set up for “interviews” with detainees, the former mercenary here assumes the role of the interviewed.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1971, Miguel Amat received a BFA from the University of Advanced Studies in Arts Armando Reverón, Caracas. His practice is situated between video, photography, collage and drawing. He lives and works in Chicago, IL.

Residencies include the Duncan Artist in Residence at Rice University, Houston, 2011. He was a Core Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston also in 2011 and participated in Project Row Houses, Houston, in 2012. Awards include Young Artist Caroni Prize, Museum Alejandro Otero, Caracas, 2007, the Cisneros Fontanals Foundation, Miami, 2009 and the Trans Arts Foundation Commission, 2016. He has had solo exhibitions at the Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, 2014 and Project Row Houses, 2012. Group Exhibitions include the Cisneros Fontanals Foundation, Miami, 2015, Site Santa Fe, 2014 and Dallas Contemporary, 2012.

Sara Eliassen: A Blank Slate, 2014

A character is passing time in a desolate beach town. Slowly, the loneliness and alienation she experiences in the foreign town makes her enter into an uncanny delusional realm, that blurs the memory of her own experiences with that of female protagonists from film history.

Born in Oslo, Norway in 1977, Sara Eliassen holds an MFA in Experimental Filmmaking from San Francisco Art Institute and was a studio fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 2010/11. Her practice is focused on the moving image. She lives and works in Oslo, Norway and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts.

A Blank Slate has been screened at Ex Teresa Arte Actual, Mexico City, 2016 / Toronto Photographer’s Workshop, 2017 / SBC Gallery, Montreal, 2016 / Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco, 2016 / Cine Tonala, Mexico City 2015 / UKS, Oslo, 2015 / Abrons Art Center, NYC 2015 / International Film Festival Rotterdam 2014 / Phi Arts Centre, Montreal, 2014 / Fotogalleriet, Oslo, 2014 / Cinemateket, Oslo, 2014 / Norwegian Int. Short Film Festival, 2014 / Bergen International Film Festival, 2014. Her work has been shown at international film festivals, amongst them Venice Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam and Sundance. She recently completed an interdisciplinary project on screen culture with the Munch Museum, Oslo in 2018.

Michael Just, born in Frankfurt/Main, Germany in 1979, studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with Daniel Buren and received an MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2009. Subsequently he participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York City in 2010/11. He is currently a fellow in the International Artists Program at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. His interdisciplinary practice is located between the studio and site-specific, process-based and performative projects. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.