Power And Powerlessness (Final Entry)

In the interest of financial transparency: the budget we received from Moderna for arranging the screening at Tempo Documentary Film Festival was set to 10 000 Swedish Crowns (around 1070 Euros, at the moment). We decided to split the sum into five parts, where the participating artists would receive one part each. The fifth part, which would have been our fee for putting the program together, became a topic of discussion in the group. Since our activities at the main site in Höja are financed for many years to come, maybe we could re-direct the relatively small sum of money from our fee into assisting some fellow travellers, some other cinema somewhere?
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We’ve written before about the Rojava Film Commune >
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Rojava is an autonomous region in the north of Syria (close to the border of Turkey), practicing stateless democracy based on self-governance, gender equality, the right to self-defense, and a communal economy.
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The EU and the Swedish state recently promised financial support to Turkey, funds to be used for keeping Syrian refugees in Turkey and preventing them from continuing on into Europe. 3 billion Euros from the EU, 77 million Euros from Sweden. What if these funds were to be given to the re-building of Rojava instead? That’s a big ‘just imagine’.
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We got in touch with the Rojava Film Commune and begun discussions on possible forms of co-operation with them. The first step is arranging a transfer of our fee from Moderna – 200 Euros – to the Film Commune. We know this sum is next to nothing for them. But Moderna is a state-funded museum, and so as part of our ‘just imagine’, we choose to see the fee as originating from somewhere within the Swedish state budget.
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Power And Powerlessness (III)

The screening at Tempo documentary film festival is drawing near. The program was worked out together with Catrin Lundqvist from Moderna Museet. In the program, the two films by Annika Eriksson (Staff at Moderna Museet) and Saskia Holmkvist (Interview with Saskia Holmkvist) are both part of the collection at Moderna Museet, and both of them have also been recorded at the museum.

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Annika Eriksson, Staff at Moderna Museet, 2000. The staff at the museum introduced themselves and gathered in front of a stationary camera. © Annika Eriksson

Staff at Moderna Museet begins with a shot of one of the exhibition spaces of the Museum. One after another members of the staff enters the room and state their name and position, and find somewhere to sit. The room is slowly filled up. At the end of the film the staff are gathered in a group portrait, which gives a documentary feeling as well as a historical picture of a workplace in constant change. As a visitor in a museum you only see the art and not the person working with it. Annika Eriksson plays with the rules of the museum when she exhibits its staff, thus making them the art. Her films clearly show the individual behind the impersonal and the tradition-bound history that museums usually have.”

– partially quoted from the website of Moderna (text modified by the artist)

(http://www.modernamuseet.se/stockholm/en/exhibitions/annika-eriksson/)

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Saskia Holmkvist
Interview with Saskia Holmkvist, 2005
© Saskia Holmkvist

Interview with Saskia Holmkvist, 2005, is an interview with the artist in which she talks about the film we are just about to see. She explains that it is about issues to do with credibility and authenticity. But she is interrupted by the interviewer who, instead of asking the next question, comments on her body language and her manner of expression. The whole thing turns into a tortuous process in which the Saskia Holmkvist in the film tries to comply with the admonitions of the “coach”. This work is commenting on an art scene which is under such intense pressure and where success is increasingly dependent on a professional presentation of one’s own artistic achievements. At the same time it is mirroring a trend in society as a whole, in which the ego is becoming more and more of a trademark and apparently spontaneous comments and documentary images are the product of meticulous repetition and reconstruction.”

– quoted from the website of Moderna

(http://www.modernamuseet.se/stockholm/en/exhibitions/the-moderna-exhibition-2006/participating-artists/the-artists/saskia-holmkvist/)

Power And Powerlessness (II)

The screening at Tempo documentary film festival takes place on March 10:th at 20.00. The site of the screening will be under the northern end of the Liljeholmen Bridge, near Tanto in Stockholm – the same site where we screened Koyaanisqaatsi in 2014. Catrin Lundqvist from Moderna will be on site to handle introductions. Hot beverages will be served.

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Gillian Wearing, Bully, 2010
© the artist, courtesy Fly Film and Maureen Paley, London
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This work was born out of Gillian Wearing’s first feature film Self Made (2010). Under the supervision of Sam Rumbelow – an acting teacher specialised in method acting – nine amateur actors work on an improvisation exercise about bullying among youths. In a cathartic act, James, a former victim, directs the scenic tableau based on his own memory of an actual situation that happened to him. He gets more and more carried away by the emotions of the situation. When, towards the end, he accuses the actors of being responsible for his still persisting panic attacks in real life, it becomes clear that the separation between reality and fiction is blurred and the person acting and the role acted out can no longer be clearly separated.

Power And Powerlessness (I)

Our cinema has been asked by Moderna, the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, to consult on the program for a screening at the documentary film festival Tempo. Originally, the theme of this year’s Tempo festival was to be ‘class’, and that is how come our socialist cinema was considered for consulting by Moderna. The theme was then changed to the slightly more inclusive ‘power’.

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Basim Magdy, 13 Essential Rules for Understanding the World, 2011
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In the first of the four films we’re showing at Tempo, 13 Essential Rules for Understanding the World by Basim Magdy, a list of numbered guidelines seem to be narrated by tulips with faces drawn on their petals. The bleak, futile and mostly defeatist scenario, outlined by the rules, is interrupted by scenes depicting acts of transition and repetition. Along with the subtle and dark humor, such interruptions are key to the narrative, and act in synchrony with his other films.
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Borrow Art Video From The Library

David'sBathroom

still from In Practice     © Joanna Malinowska 2015

We’ve put together a DVD of short films made by artist Joanna Malinowska, which will be available for the public to borrow and watch at home. The DVD will be found in Artoteket, a library for artworks, hosted by Skanes Konstforening between February 12 and May 27. Artoteket was launched in 2014 by the artist Hans Carlsson in close collaboration with Konstframjandet (The People’s Movement for Art Promotion) and Tensta konsthall.

PDF >

“The curatorial framing of Artoteket RUT is an attempt to approach questions and dislocations related to the notion of the public and the private, the home and political power and the human and her lived environment. The historical background of Artoteket is the biopolitical turn, visible in the turn away from the political ambitions of the establishment of Artotek 73 (financed by the Swedish art organization Konstframjandet in the 1970′s) and the tax deduction for domestic services introduced to Swedish tax payers by the Swedish government in the early 2000’s.”

– from the introduction to the second edition of Artoteket, by Hans Carlsson

Gustavo'sShirts

still from In Practice     © Joanna Malinowska 2015

We’ve collected 7 videos made by Joanna Malinowska for her project In Practice (2003-2011). These videos are usually shown as part of an installation, and this will be the first occasion to watch them in a home environment.

Joanna Malinowska emigrated from Poland to USA in 1994. She educated herself in Fine Arts at Yale University, among other places, and eventually settled in New York. In one of her early art projects, she advertised as a woman seeking work doing housecleaning and household chores, preferrably with intellectuals and academics who could pay her by giving her private lectures.

The text for the ad which ran in the New York Review of Books in October 2002 read:

“A responsible, trustworthy woman, who enjoys daily housework will undertake any chores or similar duties, in exchange for academic lectures (especially in philosophy).”

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still from In Practice     © Joanna Malinowska 2015

In a series of short videos recorded between 2003 and 2011 we see Joanna Malinowska performing tasks such as cleaning blinds and ironing shirts, while we hear male intellectual Americans in the background, lecturing her on subjects such as the world of ideas according to Plato. The DVD begins with a video in which a pianist performs Etude in C minor Op. 10 no. 12, or Revolutionary Etude, by Frederyk Chopin (in his day also a Polish emigrée), while in the foreground Joanna Malinowska vacuums the floor.

Website >

RevolutionaryEtude

still from In Practice     © Joanna Malinowska 2015

Political Education

On January 15:th, the day Rosa Luxemburg was murdered 97 years ago, we went to the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in Berlin, “a nationwide political education organisation, a discussion forum for critical thought and political alternatives as well a research facility for progressive social analysis”. The Stiftung hosts an archive, a bookshop, lectures and presentations, and provides funding for external projects. They also present exhibitions.
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We had already educated ourselves a bit through watching the videowork The Capital of Accumulation, made by Raqs Media Collective, inspired by and borrowing the title from a work by Luxemburg that performs a critique of global political economy. Luxemburg’s book, The Accumulation of Capital (1913), can be found online at for example marxists.org. Whereas the videowork used to be downloadable from the website of Raqs, nowadays it can be found on Vimeo.
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At the Stiftung, we saw the exhibition Back to Rojava, with photographic posters of everyday life in West-Kurdistan, in northern Syria.
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Where can a person educate oneself about the situation in Syria? The media collective Abounaddara deals in what they call emergency cinema. Self-taught filmmakers who favor individual and personal stories and testimonies, while the larger view is created through an accumulation of these stories. Each week they post short films on their Vimeo channel. At the moment there are 382 films. You may have heard of them through the biennale in Venice last year.
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One could also follow the independent news collective Raqqa is being slaughtered silently, who report from inside the city of Raqqa, the so-called capital of the caliphate of IS. These reporters are working under extremely hazardous conditions, and the news they bring are not easy to assimilate.
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Back to Rojava. The autonomous region of Rojava, West-Kurdistan, in the North of Syria, near the border to Turkey. Socialist and feminist Rojava controlled by the People’s Protection Units and Women’s Protection Units, practicing stateless democracy since 2011. Stateless democracy based on self-governance, gender equality, the right to self-defense, and a communal economy.
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On July 14th 2015, the Rojava Film Commune began educating a new generation of filmmakers, providing studies in film theory, photography, editing, etc. The Commune also works on generating a new audience for film. The press release reads: “The squares of our villages will become our culture and art centers. Our factories and our restaurants will become cinema halls.”
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City squares with outdoor cinemas? In 1960 the fire at the Amûdê cinema killed 300 small boys, while soldiers locked the doors to prevent them from escaping. Came a fear of gathering in dark halls. Filmmaker Önder Çakar writes in a Letter from Rojava: “Currently, there are almost no film theatres in the region. Almost nobody among the local people has ever watched a film on the big screen. Whenever I asked in the meetings if there was anyone who had ever watched a film in a theatre, there were only one or two old gentlemen over fifty years old who raised their hands. They have seen a couple of karate films in big cities such as Aleppo or Damascus.”
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The Rojava Film Commune works around the concept of revolutionary realism, by which they mean a rejection of realism as showing only what is present at this moment, and rather a realism showing what is possible. The concept is described in depth in an article written by Jonas Staal for e-flux Magazine.
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To educate oneself about the ongoing processes in Rojava, one could keep an eye out for the forthcoming films springing from the Rojava Film Commune, news of which will be found on their website. Or one could accept the invitation given by the Commune, to documentarians and filmmakers who wish to visit Rojava and make a film of their own.
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We will return to the topic of Rojava Film Commune presently. Stay tuned.
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Happy New Five Year Plan (I)

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“We are fuelled by a desire to bring down the government” – well, tick that box

2016 is not only the Year of the Monkey, it is also the fifth year of activities for the Sunshine Socialist Cinema. When we started out, way back when, we set up some goals for ourselves that were quite modest, in hindsight. We called it our five year plan, on the basis that our primary goal was to simply exist for five years before giving up and shutting down. During these five years, we would screen art videos in our small village in the countryside, and power the screenings by solar panels. We also wanted to see what would happen if we openly proclaimed ourselves as socialist, in an area of Sweden traditionally dominated politically by the right. Who would we attract? What would we talk to them about?

The first revision of our goals came after only two screenings. We had sent out invitations to various leftwing and environmentalist organzations in the region. During those first screenings, members of the audience would come up to us afterwards and offer their opinions on the films that had been shown. That’s when we figured out that they should have said these things to each other, during the screening – the local left and the local greens could discuss these videos together. We had to figure out how to create an atmosphere that would allow for this to happen, to make it easy to speak out in front of each other. Such an obvious thing, but it still came to us through practice and not forethought.

We also wondered if artists would allow us to screen their videos in a cinema that labelled itself socialist – not to say that we would label their works in any way. The very first artist we got in touch with was Harun Farocki, asking him if we could screen his film Workers Leaving the Factory. He replied not only with a yes, but with a letter of support, of sorts, which meant a lot to us. Over the years, we have had positive replies from all but two or three artists.

We hadn’t counted on reaching people outside of our local area, other than through what we wrote on our blog and in our emails. But gradually we got more and more invites from various art institutions, asking us to come and do screenings with them. So we had to figure out not only how to set it up technically, but also how to make it meaningful for us as a cinema. Over the years, we’ve done screenings outside art museums and independent art spaces, biennales and film festivals. The fees we got from this was used to finance the screenings and the equipment at our main site in the village.

More goals and more purpose has been added along the way. One is that we want to mean something to the village we’re in, irrespective of the political bent of the people there. When we first came to this village, there was a small library in its’ centre. The library has since been shut down due to municipal budget cuts. We decided to add a small reference library to our cinema, with books that could be borrowed home by people who live in the village. The books are paid for by the fees generated by outside screenings, and by the money we make from a study group at the local Workers Educational Association (ABF).

Another goal added is that we want to try to spread the format of our cinema, to share what we’ve learned and the experiences we’ve made, with people who might be interested in trying something similar. We don’t want to be a monopoly operation. In 2015 we printed a 40-page manual, which we hand out for free at screenings, and which is made available at various libraries. You can also find it here on the blog, as a PDF.

The Year of the Monkey is not the end of us though. This is not a goodbye speech. Our first goal wasn’t to exist for five years, but for AT LEAST five years. It’s time for us to come up with a new five year plan. It seems appropriate for us to be less modest in our ambitions this time.

There will be a screening in our village this summer, tied to a jubilee celebration.

Then there will be more.

 

 

Manual Labor

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It’s here! The second batch of our manual, printed, bound and cut. More beautiful than ever. All we can tell you about how to start up an outdoors solarpowered socialist cinema, condensed into 40 pages. Printed in soy based ink on a Riso. We’re giving it away for free at our screenings, to people who are genuinely interested. You can also find reading copies in various sites, in various towns. If you work at a library, community centre, anarchist bookstore, film school etc. and want a reading copy for your shelf, drop us a note.

Reading copies found at this moment in time at:

Cyklopen, Stockholm

The City Library, Malmö

The Museum of Modern Art, Malmö

Trampoline House, Copenhagen

YNKB, Copenhagen

Astrid Noacks Atelier, Copenhagen

Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles

Konstskolan Munka, Munka Ljungby

Outdoor Cinema In Brest 1950

In 1950, filmmaker René Vautier returned from Algiers. He’d made his first film, Afrique 50, which documented crimes commited by the Fench colonial army. The film was confiscated and banned for 40 years, and would eventually earn him a year in prison. But in april 1950 Vautier arrived in the city of Brest, and moved about to avoid the authorities. Reconstruction work was still going on in 1950, with thousands of workers rebuilding the city after the allied bombings during WWII. In april, the workers were on strike. And on April 17, Édouard Mazé, one of the strikers, was shot and killed by police. René Vautier was documenting the strike, and put together a short film, called Un Homme Est Mort (a man is dead). The unionists and strike organizers helped arrange outdoor screenings of the film: a projector was mounted in the back of an open car, and a screen was mounted on the back of a truck. The truck went around the city, visiting camps of strikers, and the film was screened several times per night in various locations.

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“C’est d’images faites pour la nuit et le feu.”

Eventually the filmstrip was worn out, and the film was destroyed. It lived on as a story. René Vautier went on to make and produce many films, such as Humain, Trop Humain (about conditions at a Citroen factory) and Peuple En Marche. He died in January this year.

An audience member at one of our own screenings in Malmö this summer, Gilles Huchette, told us the story of this lost film from 1950 and these old outdoor screenings during the strike. He helped us find a comic book made by brothers Kris and Étienne Davodeau which retells the events from April 1950. The title of the comic book, and of the original film, was borrowed from a poem by Paul Éluard.

We’ve also managed to find a small scrap of the film shot by Vautier! It seems all the material wasn’t completely destroyed after all. There’s a short sequence included in the film Vivent Les Dockers! by Robert Ménégoz. It can be seen online, here >

The same material is apparently re-used in another film as well, Le Chant Des Fleuves by Joris Ivens.

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Comic book included in the library at our cinema:

Un Homme Est Mort by Kris and Étienne Davodeau

 

What Does It Mean To Be A Marxist Band?

Music for the film marxism today (prologue) by Phil Collins was provided by Laetitia Sadier and Nick Powell. The band Stereolab, in which Laetitia Sadier wrote and sang the lyrics, was sometimes referred to by critics as a “Marxist band”. This was probably based on the lyrics, more than the music, more than the esthetics, more than the way the band was organized and the way they operated. The lyrics from the song Ping Pong are often quoted when referring to the political outlook of Stereolab:

Music video for Ping Pong by Stereolab

“It’s all right ‘cause the historical pattern has shown
How the economical cycle tends to revolve
In a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop
A slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more

Bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery
Huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery”

Laetitia Sadier herself denies being a Marxist, or being influenced by Marxism:

“I never read Marx, so I can’t claim to be a Marxist, but I know that there are principles in Marxism I agree with, strong points about discovering how the system works, and the hope that one day the capitalist system will be made obsolete, and another more human one will emerge. I find it interesting to observe the tendencies of economics. And I feel that it’s not beyond our means to change this system to suit what people need better.” – quoted from this interview

She prefers the work of Greek socialist philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis, founder of the group – and the magazine – Socialisme ou Barbarie.