The Refracted Body

Part 1
Wed 24 March – 6 April

In the first session of the Biennial film programme, The Refracted Body curated by Margarida Mendes, we feature Thao Nguyen Phan’s new film work Becoming Alluvium (2019), Hira Nabi’s All That Perishes at the Edge of Land (2019) and Water Panics in the Sea (2011) by Laleh Khorramian. Total run time 59 minutes.

Thảo Nguyên Phan

Becoming Alluvium, 2019, 16 minutes

Becoming Alluvium is Phan’s most recent work: a single-channel colour film continuing her research into the Mekong River and the cultures that it nurtures. Through allegory, it explores the environmental and social changes caused by the expansion of agriculture, by overfishing and the economic migration of farmers to urban areas. “The Mekong civilization can be summarized in terms of materiality – the river of wet rice civilization – and in terms of spirituality – the river of Buddhism,” explains Phan. “However,” she continues, “unlike the teachings of compassion and mindfulness that are taught by Buddha, in reality, the land through which the Mekong flows experiences extreme turbulence and conflict [...]. In recent decades, human intervention on the river body has been so violent that it has forever transformed the nature of its flow and the fate of its inhabitants.”

Thảo Nguyên Phan (born 1987, Vietnam) is a multimedia artist whose practice encompasses video, painting and installation. Drawing from literature, philosophy and daily life, Phan observes ambiguous issues in social conventions and history. She started working in film when she began her MFA in Chicago. Phan exhibits internationally, with solo and group exhibitions including Chisenhale gallery (London, 2020); WIELS (Brussels, 2020); Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai, 2019); Lyon Biennale (Lyon, 2019); Sharjah Biennial (Sharjah Art Foundation, 2019); Gemäldegalerie (Berlin, 2018); Dhaka Art Summit (2018); Para Site (Hong Kong, 2018); Factory Contemporary Art Centre (Ho Chi Minh City, 2017); Nha San Collective (Hanoi, 2017); and Bétonsalon (Paris, 2016), among others. Phan currently lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Hira Nabi

All That Perishes at the Edge of Land, 2019, 30 minutes

Ocean Master, a decommissioned container vessel, enters into a dialogue with several workers at the Gadani yards. The conversation moves between dreams, desires, places that can be called home, and the violence embedded in the act of dismantling a ship at Gadani. As the workers recall the homes and families they left behind, the long work days mesh indistinguishably into one another, and they are forced to confront the realities of their work in which they are faced with death every day. How may they survive and look towards the future? The film was supported by Vasl Artists Association, Goethe-Institut Pakistan, Prince Claus Fund.

Hira Nabi (born 1987, Pakistan) is an artist and filmmaker who works with images and text to tell stories of the everyday. Her practice is concerned with the environment, the often unseen, and a slow process of re-earthing: by which she intends to shift focus away from anthropocentric stories into a more interconnected and larger witnessing of the times we live in. Her work has been shown in a number of group exhibitions including the Lahore Biennale (2018), Colomboscope (2019), Dhaka Art Summit (2020) as well as SAVVY Contemporary and HKW (Berlin), Ashkal Alwan (Beirut), Johann Jacobs Museum (Zurich), Warehouse 421 (Abu Dhabi), Extra City (Antwerp), MIT School of Architecture, Dartmouth University, and The New School. She has shown at film festivals including CPH:DOX, Sundance, AFI Docs, Rencontres Internationales, DokuFest among others. She was awarded the 2020 Next Generation Prince Claus Award, and was nominated for the IDA Best Short Award (2021), and the Han Nefkens Foundation Award (2020). Nabi is currently based in Lahore, Pakistan.

Laleh Khorramian

Water Panics in the Sea, 2011, 14 minutes

Laleh Khorramian’s Water Panics in the Sea, is the fourth instalment in the short films series based on the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether. Constructed through a process of iterative magnification and manipulation of minute details derived from monotype prints and drawings, the film seeks to question our habituated perception by an intricate use of scale, distance, time and space. An original soundtrack was produced in collaboration with composer and musician Shahzad Ismaily, creating a theatrical framework through a similar process of layering and sampling.

Laleh Khorramian (born 1974, Iran) studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and received her undergraduate degree at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and her MFA at Columbia University, New York. Her work takes theatre and the spectacle as its point of departure, to explore aspects of human nature and emotional states of consciousness, and the possibilities of drawing as a medium. Khorramian has exhibited internationally, including shows in MASSMOCA, U.S.A; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Art Basel Statements, Switzerland; Ballroom Marfa, Texas; Istanbul Museum of Art, Istanbul; The Sundance Film festival; The Midnight Moment in Times Sq and The Queensland Art Gallery, Australia. In 2013, Bartleby and Co, Brussels, published her first limited edition artist book Include Amplified Toilet Water, housed in the collections of MOMA, NYC, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Columbia University, NYC, Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels. Khorramian currently lives and works in New York.

Part 2
Wed 7 April – 20 April

The second session of The Refracted Body film programme focuses on one film, Mother Dao, the Turtlelike (1995) by director Vincent Monnikendam. Run time 1 hour 30 minutes.

Vincent Monnikendam

Mother Dao, The Turtlelike, 1995, 87 minutes

Mother Dao, The Turtlelike is a documentary about life in the former Dutch East Indies, composed of documentary films made in the period 1912-1932. The images feature quotes from old Javanese and modern Indonesian poems, as well as lyrics and songs by Niassers, Toradja's and Sundanese. The composition is made by Monnikendam with fragments from old nitrate films about the former Dutch East Indies. The film focuses on the way in which the Netherlands managed its colony in the period 1912-1933. The film was awarded the Golden Calf for Best Long Documentary at the Dutch Film Festival. The recordings, mostly made for propaganda purposes, reflect the colonial mentality of yesteryear. They show the European as a white tropical suit, always giving directions, supervisor, missionary or administrator. A special soundtrack with natural sounds, indigenous music and poetry has been added to the images, recorded without sound.

Vincent Monnikendam (1936, The Hague) worked for the Dutch television (NOS) before he became an independent documentary maker in 1995. A lot of his films concern social themes such as immigration or race issues and have required long and intensive research.

Part 3
Wed 21 April – 4 May

The third session of The Refracted Body includes Deborah Stratman’s Vever (for Barbara) (2019), Strong Waters (Água Forte) (2019) by Mónica Baptista and Ana Vaz’s APIYEMIYEKÎ? (2019). Total run time 54 minutes.

Part 4
Wed 5 May – 18 May

For the fourth session in The Refracted Body film programme we showcase The Hyperwomen (Itão Kuẽgü) (2011) by Fausto Carlos, Takumã Kuikuro, Leonardo Sette. Run time 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Part 5
Wed 19 May – 1 June

The fifth session of The Refracted Body film programme features Imperial Valley (cultivated run-off) (2018) by Lukas Marxt, Aequador (2012) by Liverpool Biennial 2021 exhibiting artist Laura Huertas Millán, The Great Silence (2014) by Allora & Calzadilla (in collaboration with Ted Chiang) and Heba Y. Amin’s As Birds Flying (2016). Total run time 57 minutes.

Part 6
Wed 2 June – 15 June

The sixth and final session of The Refracted Body features five short films including Deborah Stratman ...These Blazeing Starrs! (2011), followed by Under Saturn (Act I) (2018) by Alexandra Navratil, Isle (2013) by Diogo Evangelista, The New Sun (2017) by Agnieszka Polska and Ana Vaz’s Atomic Garden (2018). Total run time 48 minutes.

Margarida Mendes’ research explores the overlap between infrastructure, ecology, experimental film and sound practices – investigating environmental transformations and their impact on societal structures and cultural production. She has curated several exhibitions and was part of the curatorial team of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial (2018); and the 11th Gwangju Biennale (2016). She consults for Sciaena environmental NGO working on marine policy and deep-sea mining and has co-directed several educational platforms, such as escuelita, an informal school at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo – CA2M, Madrid and the ecological research platform The World In Which We Occur/Matter in Flux. Between 2009-2015, Mendes directed The Barber Shop, a project space in Lisbon dedicated to transdisciplinary research.