BFF 2017 Curator’s Notes – “Art/World” Film Series

There are few things in western culture quite as ripe for parody as the art world. To be clear, art and the art world are two different things. Art is a fundamental way means of expression and reconciliation with ourselves and the larger world. The art world, however, is where art gets regulated, commoditized, sanitized and/or processed into edifices of power. This happens through classist market structures and academic pretension, and leaves many people feeling excluded from art as a whole.

Hence, the “Art/World” film series starts with two uproarious films that take the art world and its glittering denizens down a few notches. I cannot keep from laughing at just the thought of the first film, Buffet, by Alessandro d’Ambrosi and Santa de Santis. It is followed by an interview with a budding artist in Entretien avec Robert, who may be earnest or just a disgruntled homeowner. In all events, the premise of his work is not far-fetched, given some of what one sees come out of art schools.

Interspersed in the series are documentaries featuring visual artists, dramas featuring fictional artists, and a few curve balls, too. At the center of the sequence is the documentary You left the feast at the last supper, about Georgian poet Paolo Iashvili, whose legacy lives on in the small town where he lived, and eventually died by his own hand, after refusing to buckle to state pressure to denounce fellow writers. Though not a visual artist, Iashvili represents a formidable and uncompromising creative mind unwilling to become a mere tool for authoritarian control.

Meanwhile, the exuberant Aahe Nila Saila is a total fusion of traditional Odissi dance, folk sculpture, poetry and music from Jagannath culture, whose non-sectarian deity inspires gladness in even the Muslim traveler singing his song of praise. The short film (or music video of sorts) is a jewel of sacred arts that reconciles faiths with common love and uncommon beauty.

We see something quite different play out in the fraught psychodrama Soliloquium. In this austere world, an inscrutable art object becomes a point of obsession and division between people, not worshipful appreciation. Rather than dance, we see paralysis and stasis, until the sterile facade of it cracks to reveal something truly gruesome.

The final films in the series pose questions about the limits of art, both in terms of what it can achieve, where its ethical boundaries lie, and how it may actually distance us from real suffering. The finale, CE, ends as the series began; with a festive meal among the arts and authorities. Its narrative arc could not be more different, however.

In short, “Art/World” a wildly diverse grouping of films in terms of theme, tone and style, but they all in their own way lead us to meditate on how our creativity can unite us or divide us, depending on our priorities and perspectives.

Films in this series

  1. Buffet (dir. Alessandro d’Ambrosi and Santa de Santis)
  2. Entretien avec Robert (Interview with Robert) (dir. Rock Brenner)
  3. FREAKY (dir. Haya Alghanim)
  4. Soliloquium (dir. Edvard Avilés)
  5. Ginger Sheep (dir. Rona Soffer)
  6. The Painter (dir. Ashkan Maleki)
  7. You left the feast at the last supper (dir. Giorgi Tkemaladze)
  8. The Colored Punch (dir. Yazın Öztürk)
  9. Aahe Nila Saila (dir. Biren Jyoti Mohanty)
  10. VIZOR (dir. Ali Azizollahi)
  11. Arte (dir. David Cánovas)
  12. CE (dir. Alessia Capuccini)

This series will screen during the third annual Seattle Art Fair, August 4-6. Exact time and location TBA.

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