Background

Critics' Choice VII – Note to the selection of Bottled Songs 1-4

04 June 2021

Film Still: Bottled Songs 1-4

Critics' Choice curators Jan Pieter Ekker and Dana Linssen introduce their selection of Bottled Songs 1-4.

When we watched Bottled Songs 1-4, we immediately knew that these four video letters by Chloé Galibert-Laîné and Kevin B. Lee would become part of the 2021 Critics’ Choice On Positionality. Not only because the two artists, video essayists and researchers have been returning contributors to the IFFR Critics’ Choice programme, always generously exploring the possibilities of the video essay as a format for film and media criticism. But most importantly because in their new work, that is investigating online media related to the propaganda of terrorist organisation Islamic State, they ask fundamental questions about the paradoxes of the processes of creating and watching, examining and evaluating moving images. Bottled Songs 1-4 is not un-controversial, in interrogating the images, it is also – in a way – reproducing and appropriating them. The filmmakers are aware of this, even more so they analyse their own speaking positions with the same scrutiny. 

In Bottled Songs 1-4 Chloé and Kevin invite their viewers to write a letter in response to the work, thus opening up a shared space for observations, questions, experiences. It is also a way to account for the fact that ‘meaning’ is always a form of cocreation, an exchange between the image and the viewer. Understandably, and due to the sensitive nature of the images many of the responses deal with trauma, loss and pain.

Here we present three responses that were created with the IFFR audience in mind. Tara Judah spoke from her position as a critic. Her letter is published both as a written piece and in an audio format. In a Q&A that was recorded after a presentation at the Merz Akademie last May Artist and activist Moreshin Allahyari talks with Kevin B. Lee about speaking positions, privilege and distance, as well as about the question if an act of care or an expression of care may exert a violence on others. Lauren Alexander and Ghalia Elsrakbi of Foundland Collective reflected on Bottled Songs 1-4 by compiling four screenshots that include several layers of text and images.

Viewers are invited to share reflections on what they have seen with Chloé and Kevin. Those letters can be sent to [email protected]. The emails will be read with care and kept in confidence.

With contributions from:

Foundland Collective (http://foundland.info/ABOUT) was formed in 2009 by South African Lauren Alexander and Syrian Ghalia Elsrakbi and since 2014 is based between Amsterdam and Cairo. The duo collaboration explores underrepresented political and historical narratives by working with archives via art, design, writing, educational formats, video making and storytelling. Throughout their development, the duo has critically reflected upon what it means to produce politically engaged work from the position of non-Western artists working between Europe and the Middle East.

Morehshin Allahyari (www.morehshin.com) is an artist, activist, writer, and educator. She was born and raised in Iran and moved to the US in 2007. Her work deals with the political, social, and cultural contradictions we face every day. She thinks about technology as a philosophical toolset to reflect on objects and as a poetic means to document our personal and collective lives and struggles in the 21st century.

Tara Judah is an Australian film critic and improviser based in the UK. She writes a column for Ubiquarian called ‘Reflections’ and hosts an annual critics’ workshop at the Cinema Rediscovered film festival. Tara is one half of the movie improv podcast, Masking Tape.

Festival

Critics' Choice VII: On Positionality

For the seventh time, Dana Linssen and Jan Pieter Ekker are organising the context programme Critics' Choice during the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Other blog posts on Critics' Choice