Casting, fixing, catching Films about looking and seeing

As much as they offer the products of observation, the films in this programme describe, via survey, document and aleatory harvest, the act of looking itself – and in turn implicate us as viewers.

A programme for MK Gallery as part of their Scratch Nights series.

Flash in the Metropolitan
Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer UK 2006 3′

As much as it is about looking at objects, Flash in the Metropolitan is about looking at how we look at objects, how we use them as ciphers and symbols, and how – perhaps – we abuse them. Perhaps the museum is where objects go to die. But Nashashibi and Skaer’s nocturnal staccato disabuses the museum of neat taxonomy, curatorial conceits, even visitors and instead works to re-enchant – re-animate – the objects by allowing them to look at and speak to one another, for one night only, in an entirely looser and more oblique way.

Phantoms of a Libertine
Ben Rivers UK 2012 10′ silent

Ben Rivers’ film tracks the traces of a person now departed via the ephemera he left behind. Eschewing the formal catalogue or any conventional narrative in favour of an associative, lyrical yet always inquisitive trajectory, Phantoms of a Libertine summons a ghost from the ashes, a man from his effects, and, like Marcel Broodthaers’ A Voyage on the North Sea, an inspiration of sorts, manages to wrest a spectrum diverse from so hermetic a source.

Karl Kels Germany 2008 30′

Over the 30 minutes of its length, Karl Kels’ Sidewalk gradually draws something universal and transcendent from the quotidian. A survey, literally; a watching-over, a processing of overseeing, it is precisely via the extreme asceticism of its approach – filming from the same window in an apartment in New York for four months; never deviating; never digressing – that the film traps both a formal eloquence and a poetic rumination on the everyday, and the processes of looking and watching themselves.