Laura Huertas Millán
Laura Huertas Millán
Artificial Paradise (1986)
Legba, God of the Sacred Gate
Haiti | 1946 | 4 mins | LP audio recording
Maya Deren received the first Guggenheim fellowship for creative work in motion picture to produce an artistic ethnographic film on Haitian ritual. Between 1947 and 1952 she recorded 20,000 feet of film, taped fifty hours of audio recordings, and photographed over a thousand stills of Vodoun possession ritual, dance, and music (see Figure 2).
Maya Deren recorded film and audio in Haiti between 1947 and 1949. She had been studying dance with Kathryn Dunham and her intention was to make a film she described as a “cross-cultural fugue” in which Haitian dance was combined with non-haitian elements in a montage as she had done with earlier films. In September of 1951, in the preface of her book Divine Horsemen, she conceded defeat as an artist, and abandoned her artistic “manipulations” as well as the film project on account of the “irrefutable reality” of Vodoun. Two years later she wrote: “If the songs and drumming achieve the compelling power which I believe to be represented in this album, it is because the microphone, lashed to the centerpost of the ceremonial peristyle, has captured a record of labor, of the most serious and vital effort which a Haitian makes, for he is addressing himself not to men but to divinity. They are singing for the gods. It is a privilege to have overheard and to have recorded it.”
Liquor Store Theatre, Vol. 5, no 1
Detroit, USA | 2018 | 10 mins | digital print
Existing equally as contemporary art and urban anthropological research, Dr. Maya Stovall's Liquor Store Theatre (2014-) is an on-going series of recorded performances and conversations about city life in the streets and sidewalks surrounding the eight liquor stores in the artist's east side Detroit neighborhood, McDougall-Hunt. A meditation on the everyday at a moment of political and economic upheaval, the project starts at the liquor stores and continues long after the cameras are clicked off, tracing the poetics and grind of the day-to-day. Seycon-Nadia Chea performs with the artist.Music composed by Todd Stovall.
overture, BED SORES (excerpt from Extinction Number Six)
Indonesia, Netherlands, UK, US | 2011 | 20 mins (of 144 min) | digital print
A tale of criss-crossings, ventriloquism, and puppets without strings. In the beginning there were tomes, treatises, and a great proliferation of archival images. When our narrator fails to reach the ends of the universe within a single, sleepless night, she turns her attention to the discrete actions of men, in search of an alchemical approach to the writing of time. Overture to an essay film tracking a nameless, unseen narrator’s quixotic search for the material traces of Java’s colonial, mystical, and paleontological past—a journey haunted in equal measure by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, and the still murky events of the 1965 Indonesian coup d’état and anti-communist massacre.
Laura Huertas Millán
Amazon River, Colombia | 2012 | 19 mins | DCP
A journey upstream the Amazon river where Modernist constructions have been abandoned like the memories of an engulfed civilisation of the future. A science-fiction documentary evoking the colonization of nature, former utopias in the Latin America forests and their cohabitation with the present.
Mexico | 1986 | 13 mins | 16mm
Aztec romance and the dream of love. The anthropologist's most human desire, the ultimate contact with the informant. The denial of intellectualism and the acceptance of the romantic heart, and a soul without innocence.
There is a boy,
Who lives across the river.
Alas, I cannot swim,
I cannot swim.
- Sappho, 600 BC
Liquor Store Theatre, Vol. 4, no 6
Detroit, USA | 2017 | 9 mins | digital print
Existing equally as contemporary art and urban anthropological research, Dr. Maya Stovall's Liquor Store Theatre (2014-) is an on-going series of recorded performances and conversations about city life in the streets and sidewalks surrounding the eight liquor stores in the artist's east side Detroit neighborhood, McDougall-Hunt. A meditation on the everyday at a moment of political and economic upheaval, the project starts at the liquor stores and continues long after the cameras are clicked off. With willing people from the neighborhood, Liquor Store Theatre traces the poetics and grind of the day-to-day. Mohamed Soumah performs with the artist. Music composed by Todd Stovall.
Zora Neale Hurston
Loughman, FL, USA | 1928 | 6 mins | digital print
Best known for her novels, Zora Neale Hurston also studied anthropology under Franz Boas at Columbia University in the late 1920s and early 1930s. She conducted invaluable research into folklore traditions of the American south and recorded audio and video of African American communities.
Program Run Time: 81 mins
Essay and curation of special progam
57th Ann Arbor Film Festival
In the latter part of the 19th century, anthropology, as a discipline, emerged alongside the development of visual technologies of representation; each interrogating notions of truth and the evidentiary, science and artifice. Their fates intertwined and aided the colonial gaze with an apparatus of objectification. But from the beginning, some anthropologists were also challenging the objectification of others. Simultaneously visual and audio recording devices were being used experimentally, to broaden, rather than close down the possibilities of understanding our shared world.
Through paradigm shifts and academic turns to different ways of knowing, film and video have been used in a multitude of ways by those hoping to expand or challenge the ways in which we convey and attempt to understand the lives of others. Though ethnography - anthropology’s hallmark methodology - is a decidedly realist genre; it is also crafted, prompting Dr. Huertas Millán and others to speak of its “fictions.”
The films in this program push hard against the walls of epistemological givens and scholarly conventions to open up new ways of exploring and understanding our world. Often in ways both subtle and penetrating, they offer pointed reflection as well as critique of the very purpose and forms of ethnography. Though in conversation with the conventions and histories of ethnographic film and anthropological endeavors, the anthropologists/filmmakers/ artists/dancers/choreographers/musicians/poets/novelists that made these films exceed and defy the limits of a disciplinary purview and their contributions expand the modes through which we convey, document, and express the human condition.