NEW YORK, NY.- Gasworks
presents two feature-length films, both shown for the first time in a gallery setting: I Want to See (2008) by Lebanese artists and filmmakers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, and Struggle in Jerash (2009) by London-based artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White.
Set in Jordan in 1957 (Struggle in Jerash) and in Lebanon in 2006 (I Want to See), both films lay strong emphasis on the potential of cinema to create new ways of confronting the past and negotiating the present in the context of the Middle East.
I Want to See (2008) operates between the lines of documentary and fiction as Catherine Deneuve, playing herself, asks actor Rabih Mroué, also playing himself, to show her the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon war. As the two characters drive towards the border of South Lebanon, a half-spoken complicity grows between them, revealing their anxieties around security and upon the question of whether Mroué will find his family house. In I Want to See, Deneuve both denies and takes advantage of her status as an icon of cinema to lend a fresh glance, and to gain physical access, to a landscape whose representation has been exploited and saturated by the media. By placing a symbol of Western cinema at the centre of a film about their own country, Hadjithomas and Joreige create a fiction that problematises familiar images of conflict.
Struggle in Jerash (2009) re-animates Jordan's first feature film, now out-of-copyright, through the creation of a new multi-voiced audio commentary. In 2008, while on residency at Makan House in Amman, Jordan, Eileen Simpson and Ben White retrieved the last surviving copy of Struggle in Jerash (1957), a film made by a self-organised group of filmmakers originating from Palestine. The film a tale of thievery and romance set against the backdrop of historical Jordan and Jerusalem was then screened to small groups of local cultural practitioners, whose translation and live commentary produce unexpected and engaging discussions on liberty and theocracy. Reflecting on the shifting national borders and the display of modernity portrayed by the film, the commentaries put under scrutiny the political and cultural aspirations that underpin this half-century old material.
The films are shown twice a day following a cinema-like schedule, and are accompanied by contextual material as well as two publications available for sale at Gasworks.
Both born in Beirut, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige are filmmakers, artists and university teachers. Together, they have created numerous photographic installations and videos such as the Wonder Beirut project, The circle of confusion and Lasting images shown in several museums and galleries around the world. They have also directed feature films: Around the Pink House and A Perfect Day; short films: Ashes and Open the Door Please; and documentaries: Khiam and The Lost Film. Their last feature film I Want to See (Baddi Chouf), starring Catherine Deneuve and Rabih Mroué was premiered in Cannes film Festival and received the award of Best singular film of the year 2008 by the French syndicate of critics. This year they are artists invited at the Fresnoy School of Art.
Eileen Simpson and Ben White work at the intersection of art, music and information networks, and seek to challenge conventional mechanisms for the authorship, ownership and distribution of culture. Their ongoing project Open Music Archive is an initiative to source, digitise and distribute out-of-copyright sound recordings and is a vehicle for collaborative projects exploring the materials potential for reuse. They have exhibited in places including Mexicos Ambulante Documentary film festival (2010), ICA London (2008) and Cornerhouse Manchester (2007), and will present Parallel Anthology at the 17th Syney Biennale (2010).