Previously at the ICA - Films

Frames of Representation: Symposium: Imaginaries Of The Desert

Frames of Representation: Symposium: Imaginaries Of The Desert

28 Apr 2018

Full programme below, including special guest Walter Murch, triple Oscar and triple BAFTA-winning sound designer and editor of iconic films such as Apocalypse Now, The Godfather and The Conversation

Engaging with the ICA's Frames of Representation 2018 film festival theme of 'landscape', this symposium invites critical responses to the expanded notion of the desert. Taking as a starting point anthropologist Elizabeth A. Povinelli's discussion of the 'Desert' as a category of thought, this forum explores some of the ways the figure of the desert becomes a receptacle for our imagination, particularly in regards to our relationship to the earth, life and non-life.

The aim is to engage the preconceptions of both developing nations and future landscapes as 'empty' and stripped of life, while at the same time being open to technological experimentation and the insertion of life.

The Desert comprises discourses, tactics, and figures that restabilize the distinction between Life and Nonlife. It stands for all things perceived and conceived as denuded of life— and, by implication, all things that could, with the correct deployment of technological expertise or proper stewardship, be (re)made hospitable to life.

…The Desert is the affect that motivates the search for other instances of life in the universe and technologies for seeding planets with life; it colors the contemporary imaginary of North African oil fields; and it drives the fear that all places will soon be nothing more than the setting within a Mad Max movie. - Elizabeth Povinelli, Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (Duke University Press, 2014 p. 17-18)

The Desert is not therefore a literal space that is inhospitable to life due to a lack of water, but could be a lens for any place that is figured as silent: a place waiting to be made visible, lacking memory, available as a resource for more 'valuable' forms of life, requiring de-toxification and needing the establishment of boundaries on maps. This vision serves a particular form of life linked to capital and anthropocentric destruction.

The artists, filmmakers, researchers and writers contributing to this symposium explore how particular landscapes and their inhabitants resist this perspective through different forms of artistic imagination.
Panel 1: Silence, lack and interior landscapes 
Chair: Sarah Keenan
11:00-11:15 Introductions
11:15-11:40 Walter Murch
11:40-12:05 Andrew Asibong - Get Out: sunken place, deserted self *
12:30- 12:55 Louise K Wilson - Notes on recording the Eerie
12:05 – 12:30 Helen Hughes - Green deserts in contemporary European documentary
12:55-13:30 Discussion
13:30 – 14:30 Lunch
Panel 2: Mappings, memory and community
Chair: Lisa Blackmore
14:30-14:45 Introductions
14:45- 15:10 Madi Piller - Traversing Time: the tensions between time and memory.
14:10-15:35 Ozlem Koksal - Deserts, Mountains and Meteors: Political Landscape of Contemporary Turkey as Pictured in Film  
15:35-16:00 Judith TuckerFitties: Once was Holiday.
16:00- 16:30 Discussion
*Due to unforeseen circumstances, Andrew Asibong is no longer able to be present as part of the Symposium.
Speaker bios:
Sarah Keenan is Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck Law School and co-director of the Centre for Research on Race and Law. Originally trained as a lawyer in Australia, her research uses feminist and critical race theories to rethink questions of land and identity. Her book Subversive Property: Law and the Production of Spaces of Belonging was published by Routledge in 2014, and she is currently a Leverhulme Fellow working on her project Making Land Liquid: The Temporality of Land Title Registration.
Walter Murch has been working in Hollywood since contributing to Francis Ford Coppola's film The Rain People (1969). He edited the sound for American Graffiti (1973) and The Godfather: Part II (1974), won his first Academy Award nomination for The Conversation (1974), his first Oscar for Apocalypse Now (1979), and an unprecedented double Oscar for sound and film editing for his work on The English Patient (1996).
More recently he helped reconstruct Touch of Evil (1958) from Orson Welles' original notes, and edited The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). Walter Murch has also written several books, including In the Blink of an Eye (1995), universally considered the bible of film editing.
Andrew Asibong is Reader in Film and Cultural Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, and a psychodynamic psychotherapist, trained at the Tavistock Clinic. He is the author of two monographs, François Ozon (MUP, 2008) and Marie NDiaye: Blankness and Recognition (LUP, 2013) and the novel Mameluke Bath (Open Books, 2013).
Louise K Wilson is a visual artist who works in time-based media. Her writings includes book chapters for 'In the Ruins of the Cold War Bunker' (2017) and 'Contemporary Archaeologies: Excavating Now' (2009). Her programme 'Cold Art', exploring artists' fascination with sites of Cold War ruination, was recently broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She is a lecturer in Art and Design at the University of Leeds. More information at
Helen Hughes  is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Surrey where she has taught since 1994. She obtained her PhD in German from University College London, and since has worked as a translator and language teacher and lectured in linguistics and film studies. Her current research focuses on environmental humanities topics in documentary cinema. She is co-editor of Documentary and Disability (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017); and author of Green Documentary (Intellect, 2014). She has written journal articles on environmental issues for Screen, Continuum, and Environmental Education Research and several book chapters on German-language cinema. She is currently working on a British Academy funded project entitled Radioactive Documentary.      
Lisa Blackmore is Lecturer in Art History and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Essex. She obtained her PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies from Birkbeck College, has lectured at universities in Venezuela and the UK, and worked as a curator and journalist. Her two main strands of research focus on the aesthethic legacies of modernity under dictatorship, and on art and the environment. She is the author of Spectacular Modernity: Dictatorship, Space and Visuality in Venezuela 1948-1958 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017); co-editor of Downward Spiral: El Helicoide’s Descent From Mall to Prison (Urban Research, 2018) and Natura: Environmental Aesthetics After Landscape (diaphanes/University of Chicago Press, 2018); and co-director of the research-led documentary film After Trujillo (2016). From 2014-2017 she was a Postdoctoral Researcher on the project “Modernity and the Landscape in Latin America: Politics, Aesthetics, Ecology” at the University of Zurich. She joined the University of Essex in August 2017.
Madi Piller is a filmmaker, animator, programmer and independent curator currently living and working in Toronto, Canada. Her abstract, nonrepresentational and poetic images are drawn from film explorations in Super 8, 16mm and 35mm, as well as photography and video. The resulting images are influenced by a diverse range of animation techniques and styles. Her films have been screened at film festivals, alternative spaces and contemporary art venues nationally and internationally including: TIFF Wavelengths (Toronto, Canada); the Festival du Cinema Jeune (Paris, France); Bienal de La Imagen Movimiento (Buenos Aires, Argentina); and the Melbourne Animation Festival (Melbourne, Australia). Curatorial projects include: Eleven in Motion: Abstract Expressions in Animation; Hello Amiga; OP ART Re-Imaged: Imaginable Spaces; The Frame is the Keyframe: Frame Anomalies; and most recently From A to Z in Vienna, Austria. 
Ozlem Koksal is a lecturer at University of Westminster, Faculty of Media Arts and Design. Her research interests include representations of race and ethnicity, narrations of the past, as well as notions of rupture, loss and displacement in visual culture. Her book titled Aesthetics of Displacement: Turkey and its Minorities on Screen (Bloomsbury, 2016) looks at representation(s) of displacement in cinema, taking Turkey and its minorities as its case study. 
Judith Tucker is an artist and academic, her work explores the meeting of social history, personal memory and geography; it investigates their relationship through drawing, painting and scholarly writing.  As well as working in her studio she is senior lecturer in the School of Design at the University of Leeds. She has exhibited widely both in the UK and abroad. Recent exhibition venues include London, Sheffield, Cambridge and many other regional galleries throughout the UK, and further afield Brno, Czech Republic, Vienna, Austria, Minneapolis and Virginia USA and Yantai, Nanjing and Tianjin in China. Later in 2018 she will be one of eight UK artists exhibiting in the Yantai Landscape Biennale in China. She is co-convener of the Land2 and of Mapping Spectral Traces networks and is part of Contemporary British Painting, a platform for contemporary painting in the UK. Tucker also writes academic essays which can be found in academic journals and in books published by Rodopi, Macmillan, Manchester University Press, Intellect and Gunter Narrverlag, Tübingen.

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