Artists’ Film International part I

Lisa Tan, My Pictures of You, 2017-19

Selected by Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden

In the film My Pictures of You, Swedish-American artist Lisa Tan looks at photographs taken on Mars from the NASA expeditions. These pictures are interwoven with filmed sequences from Earth, and Tan muses over the bewildering similarity of the topography on the two different celestial bodies. At the same time, she talks with a researcher who is responsible for the operations of measuring water, soil, and atmosphere on the Mars expeditions, and she lays out for him some poetic speculations about the two planets. Tan thinks of Mars as Earth’s death mask, imagining that we can see our own future in the desolate, dusty red planet.

The relationship between picture and language is a recurring theme in Tan’s work as an artist, and we see it here as well. In the film, she examines the images in relation to French philosopher Roland Barthes’s famed book on photography, Camera Lucida, which is based on a photograph of the author’s late mother when she was a child. Tan asks the researcher to read from the book, replacing the words mother and she in his mind with Earth, and in this way she unlocks the language and sets it in motion. Barthes wrote that a photograph does not necessarily show that which no longer exists, but merely something that has existed. This is right in line with Tan’s work, which is permeated with a tenderly loving and sometimes melancholy look on the Earth.

Rhea Storr, Junkanoo Talk, 2017

Selected by Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK

The British-Bahamian artist Rhea Storr’s work is rooted in black identity. She is interested in when language is used in a way that transcends cultural borders and how shifts in meaning can arise. Junkanoo Talk is part of Storr’s exploration of how cultures are represented in film. Junkanoo is a street carnival in the Bahamas, and the film features seductive close-up images of dancers wearing colorful paper costumes and moving to the rhythm of the local music. The colors of their carnival costumes are linked to culturally determined codes, and the various hues can be seen as forming a wordless language.

Yu Guo, Enchantment (Jiéjiè), 2019

Selected by KWM artcenter, Beijing, Kina

The Chinese artist Yu Guo believes that we must continually reconstruct our image of reality. He makes use of a visual language from the world of computers because, according to Yu, we can only understand our present reality by means of tools that are rooted in our own day. In the film Enchantment (Jiéjiè), two different kinds of reality blend together: a tangible, visible, rational reality and a hallucinatory, dreamlike one. The latter is referred to as jiéjiè and can be compared to the barrier-like field that computer game characters can have around their bodies within which the rules are different. The voice of the film’s narrator says that jiéjiè is an interface that “speaks” to us in a language all its own.