Open City Documentary Festival

7 – 13 September 2022
in London

Programme 2, The Barlett Screening Room (2021)

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Location Online, Zoom, Director Various, Country Various,

The Bartlett Screening Room is a series of events addressing questions around critical urbanism through the screening of short films and moving image, curated by Henrietta Williams and Open City Documentary Festival.

International short films and moving image artworks are screened for collective viewing online and followed by a conversation with the artists and/or filmmakers. Sessions are open to the public as well as students and staff across UCL. The screenings may be especially interesting to those studying architecture, anthropology and related arts and social sciences.

CRITIQUING TECHNOLOGIES 2.1 – Tues 23 Feb – 13.00-14.00 

Operation Jane Walk, 2018

Robin Klengel & Leonard Müllner

A city tour through the New York streets and architecture of an Online Shooter Game, Operation Jane Walk is based on the dystopian multiplayer shooter Tom Clancy’s: The Division. In this work, the game’s digital war zone is appropriated with the help of an artistic operation. Within the rules of the game’s software, the militaristic environment is being re-used for a pacifistic city tour. The urban flâneurs avoid the combats whenever possible and become peaceful tourists of a digital world, which is a detailed replica of Midtown Manhattan. While walking through the post-apocalyptic city, issues such as architecture history, urbanism and the game developer’s interventions into the urban fabric are being discussed.

CRITIQUING TECHNOLOGIES 2.2 – Tues 9 March – 13.00-14.00 

Your father was born 100 years ago, and so was the Nakba2017

Canada Park2020

Razan Alsalah

with Dr Merijn Royaards acting as respondent

‘Al Nakba’, meaning ‘The Catastrophe’ is an Arabic word used to describe the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. Between 1947-49 at least 750,000 Palestinians were made refugees, 530 villages and cities were destroyed. Nakba Day is commemorated annually, the day after Israeli Independence Day, the two days of memorial linked but acting in binary opposition with each other.

The work of Lebanese-Palestinian artist Razan Alsalah uses the Nakba as a lens to investigate the politics of disappearance. The short film ‘Your father was born 100 years old, and so was the Nakba’ enacts this through a personal family history. Using the form of a documentary fiction the artist imagines her grandmother returning to her hometown of Haifa through the technology of Google StreetView. This is now the only way the artist’s Arab grandmother can return to the streets of her former home, as it now is located within the State of Israel. In her more recent short ‘Canada Park’ Alsalah returns to the theme of the Nakba but relates the notion of the specifics of the politics of disappearance of Palestine in contemporary Israel to the displacement of the Iroquis Mohawk from so-called Canada. We shift from one park of the disappeared, to another.

Within both these short films the limitations of Google Street View are made apparent. This is a flattened and temporal gaze, a moment in time shown from a single perspective. Alsalah critiques this singular gaze of the Google kino-eye through the addition of a floating layer of archival photographs. This offers up a much needed duality of vision, a way to present these contested landscapes as palimpsests, a multiplicity of layered histories playing out in the same space.

CRITIQUING TECHNOLOGIES 2.3 – Tues 23 March – 13.00-14.00

Watching the Detectives2017

Chris Kennedy

with Max Houghton acting as respondent

The silent 16mm film ‘Watching the Detectives’ consists almost entirely of excerpts gleaned from Reddit and 4Chan in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. On that day, two homemade pressure cooker bombs were detonated near the finish line on Boylston Street, killing 3 and injuring hundreds of others.

Three days later the FBI released images of the suspects – two Chechen-American brothers who later described their actions as defending Islam from the US. A wild FBI manhunt ensued for the brothers that saw thousands of police officers on the streets of Boston resulting in a final shootout between law enforcement and the perpetrators.

In the short film ‘Watching the Detectives’ Chris Kennedy presents the high tension interior world of Reddit and 4Chan in the direct aftermath of the bombing. Kennedy sifts through a flood of data to present a refined narrative that interrogates the notion of unauthenticated truths. This problematic internet landscape is critiqued through a series of screengrabs that present crude annotations, glib remarks of racial profiling, and doxing.

Kennedy is working in a tradition of experimental filmmaking that uses found footage to subvert the original meanings through re-use. The detournement of the original material from Reddit and 4Chan is enforced by Kennedy’s translation of this internet ephemera to 16mm film. In so doing Kennedy creates lasting documents from the throw-aways of chat rooms, forcing the viewer to reflect on the inherent power and dangers of social media as contemporary truth teller.

Credit: Image from Watching the Detectives (Chris Kennedy, 2017)

Booking for this event has now closed.