Empirical Ideologies — September 2018 Issue
30 Films from the Science New Wave
Much as past generations of scientists may have idealized a “pure” science, free of political or social implication, it is increasingly clear that such a thing is a myth. In the past, as much today. No information is free from political valence, and any discovery can be manipulated or seized to to advance some ideology, for better or for worse. Realizing this, then, should scientists acknowledge their roles as potential activists? In these days of climate denial and big business control of information and national narratives, it seems increasingly difficult to keep to the sidelines of socio-political discourse. In many of these films, that discourse, as much as the science or science fiction that may inform it, is central.
Sigismond Langlois is submitted to a psychiatric evaluation on account of his violent behavior. He just turned 18, and pretends he was born with no image. Throughout the questionnaire, he recounts the peculiar existence of a young man who never saw himself, neither in reflection nor on photo, to the point of sometimes doubting of his own existence. But today, Sigismond is determined to make himself heard.
“Frack” is an art-science project that builds on my previous work, which involves time-lapse macro-photography of photographic media being chemically destroyed. This project involves a kind of “virtual fracking”, where I am using chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to destroy photographs of sedimentary rock.
noun [ mass noun ]
the practice of commercially exploiting naturally occurring biochemical or genetic material, especially by obtaining patents that restrict its future use, while failing to pay fair compensation to the community from which it originates.
The US patent act clause 102 says that nothing can be patented if it is prior public knowledge. If the public has been aware of the material and its benefits, then it is not possible to patent. Clause 102 then goes on to define ‘public knowledge’ as only that of Americans’ and no one else. Not the billions of Indians, Native Americans or Africans, their knowledge. Their natural resources are not represented or protected by this act.
We are now witnessing the beginning of the second Green Revolution in India. The Punjab in the north west of India was an experiment to test an oil based, chemically dependent, corporately controlled model. The land, the water and its inhabitants are now testament to a failed system. A system driven not by a desire to enhance an already sustainable system but to destroy it and replace it with one orientated around profit and plunder.
Set in Southern West Virginia at the beginning of the Elk River chemical spill of 2014, Crick in the Hollertells the story of a first-generation college student charged with the care of her rebellious younger sister for a weekend who instead becomes consumed with investigating a bizarre issue with their water supply.
The small medusa ‘Turritopsis dohrnii’ constitutes the central figure of the video. This enigmatic entity is considered as theoretically immortal, capable of regenerating itself in full in order to indefinitely reinitiate its cycles of life, in the manner of reverse metamorphoses. The film proposes to envisage the cycle of life of the medusa as a theoretical concept, a speculative condition or a form of prophecy.
In the twentieth century, 5 inventions were dismissed or not be generalized: the durable nylon stocking, the ‘Aerotrain’, the ‘safe cigarette’, the water engine and the ‘bio-resonance’.
After 21 years of continuous failure in UN climate change negotiations 195 nations, 20.000 worldwide negotiators meet at a private airport shielded by the military in the north of Paris for a last attempt to save our planet.
In his new film, Oscar-nominated director Josh Fox (GASLAND) continues in his deeply personal style, investigating climate change — the greatest threat our world has ever known. Traveling to 12 countries on 6 continents, the film acknowledges that it may be too late to stop some of the worst consequences and asks, what is it that climate change can’t destroy? What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?
Pure Difference asks us “What is a number?” It is the debut episode in Anti-Racist Mathematics and Other Stories, a series of learning tools towards a post-capitalist education system. Using the visual tropes of a tech-conference presentation, trashy YouTube video and film essay, Peters sifts the foundations of science and mathematics, to disclose how these languages buttress power and galvanize authority.
From the notion of a ‘science of revolt’ declared by Brad Werner and contextualized by Donna Haraway, the history of the algorithm from al-Khwārizmī, Karl Marx’s mathematical manuscripts, to IBM’s present-day algorithm that is cited to distinguish refugees from terrorists, this series speculates on the make-up of technical languages and what they could become.
Near the end of the Cold War, the US government received numerous reports from Southeast Asia of chemical weapons being used against the democratic insurgents. After investigating, they accused the Soviets of supplying the weapons to the communist governments in the area. Matthew Meselson, a Harvard Molecular Biologist, reviewed samples of the substance, but was unconvinced that what the US government found was a weapon. Meselson travels to Thailand with Thomas Seeley, a renowned animal behaviorist from Cornell, to prove that the yellow substance falling from the sky is not a chemical weapon, but a natural phenomena.
Patrick and Sara live a love story. But they are also fighting together for refugee rights in Berlin. When harmless advance turns into a sexual assault, the group is forced to rethink their aims and the private story grows to an unwanted public dimension.
Tracing the movements of the New Silk Road, AAA Cargo follows distribution networks which are expanding across vast regions between China and Europe. Government efforts to speed up the movement of trade collide with more-than-human choreographies of sand, people and goods. Through a disorientation of the senses — bodies and landscapes become mobile.
Located in the department of Santander, El Peñon is a place that, thanks to its geological conditions offers one of the most particular bio diversities of the country. A foreign scientist who devoted his life to the study of its caves, which are the oldest and largest in the country, and a group of scientists that explores their exterior penetrate this territory, while their inhabitants tell stories filled with silences that fluctuate between the splendor of the landscape in which they grew and the rigors of the violence they faced.
The Shiite dominated neighborhood Haret Hreik in Beirut houses the headquarters of the Hezbollah Party, invisible to the outside. In 2006, the Israeli Army bombarded the neighborhood, which Hezbollah then quickly rebuilt. This rebuilding project is part of a military conflict and a geopolitical network in which architecture takes part in the production of space, landscape, and memory. The video work shows offices where the reconstruction was planned and designed, one of the rebuilt houses itself, as well as a hall where Hezbollah sympathizers regularly gather to attend video addresses by the party leader Hassan Nasrallah. What does it mean when new buildings are meant to be added without rupture or break into the existing urban structure and into individual memories? How has the interpretation of resistance by Hezbollah become a dominant project that is manifest spatially? What does building mean if it leaves no room for ruins and commemoration, because it thinks in a logic of brief intervals of warlessness?
A dialogue between two utopian thinkers sharing visions and recipes for a ‘better’ tomorrow to reflect upon the complexity of our universe.
This documentary feature presents the scientific facts behind the issue of peat haze as well as points of view and opinions from local and regional stakeholders. The burning of the peat forests throughout tropical Southeast Asia creates pollution, and this posed significant challenges to human health and the economies of the region during the second decade of the 21st century. The problem of peat haze pollution has been somewhat mitigated in recent years but in spite of this positive progress a few of the critical issues are yet to be solved. A complete solution to this complex issue will not be a simple one.
When Yusef discovers his beloved wife Ayana is a Sleeper, a living android bomb left over from a past war, he has only one choice: flee with her to the border of the Machine homeland in the desert, and pray they can make it before time runs out.
In the near future, nanotechnology administered into the bloodstream can sync with computer apps to augment the human genome. A new law mandating and regulating this once elective procedure meets resistance from hacktivists who are conspiring to thwart the impending roll-out of “Nano version 2.0.”
Marwa Arsanios’s new film examines the structures of self-governance and knowledge production fostered by the Kurdish autonomous women’s movement. She asks: what kinds of democracies are enabled without a state, and what kind of ecology is produced under the conditions of war? A propositional portrait of guerrilla ethics, Who is afraid of ideology? Part I disassembles the traditional documentary format, not only to show the contradictions inherent in such a portrayal, but also to doubt the regime of transparency.
Using animation, heat sensitive camera footage from US border patrol screens, military bombing drone monitors, and other collected footage, Maelstroms is a mediation on the dehumanizing use of image technology to control borders by land, air and sea.
A body-jumping soldier confronts the morality of her missions in this emotionally-charged sci-ﬁ thriller.
“In Afghanistan, I saw a couple making love on a roof”: we know very little of the day-to-day work of the pilots carrying out “targeted assassinations” with military drones. Four Americans agreed to testify in voiceover about their experience, which is paradoxically one of intimacy and cruelty, over aerial images that they could have filmed themselves, to “find, fix, finish”.
The Dust Channel is a cultural exquisite corpse: an operetta with a libretto in Russian about a British home appliance set in an Israeli reality of private perversion and socio-political phobias. The libretto tries to animate a DC07 Vacuum Cleaner by telling it about itself and the history of its maker, James Dyson. The machine itself is in the center of a household brimming with desires centered on notions of dirt and cleanliness. The fear of dirt, dust and people invading the private home leads to the reality of a detention facility for refugees set in the desert.
Dr. Diaz was expelled from his country because of is involvement in the defence of human and environmental rights. He now lives in Canada and works at the General Hospital. In addition to the hours spent in the hospital, he practiced medicine at home helping illegal immigrants. Aware of the dangers that this entails, Dr. Diaz is, nevertheless, unable to remain idle. His life story pushes him to help the needy. In truth, they need as much of him that he needs them.
Water Warriors is the story of a community’s successful fight to protect their water from the oil and natural gas industry.
In 2013, Texas-based SWN Resources arrived in New Brunswick, Canada to explore for natural gas. The region is known for its forestry, farming and fishing industries, which are both commercial and small-scale subsistence operations that rural communities depend on. In response, a multicultural group of unlikely warriors–including members of the Mi’kmaq Elsipogtog First Nation, French-speaking Acadians and white, English-speaking families–set up a series of road blockades, preventing exploration. After months of resistance, their efforts not only halted drilling; they elected a new government and won an indefinite moratorium on fracking in the province.
I miss nature, earth, the feeling that summer will last forever, the feeling that everything is possible and that life and the world is before my feet and knowing that everything will be ok.
This Is Cosmos draws on the thinking of the early 20th Century Russian philosophical movement “cosmism.” The “Cosmo-Immortalists” combined elements of theology and ethics, linking the Western Enlightenment with Russian Orthodoxy and Eastern philosophical traditions, as well as Marxism, to create an idiosyncratically concrete metaphysics. Filmed in Siberia, Crimea, and Kazakhstan, This Is Cosmos draws on diverse materials including poems, philosophical texts, scientific writings, academic papers, and historical studies. It particularly centers on the writings of the philosopher Nikolai Fedorov, who believed that death was a mistake, “because the energy of cosmos is indestructible, because true religion is a cult of ancestors, because true social equality is immortality for all.” Fedorov advocated the development of scientific methods for the radical extension of life, and the resurrection of the dead. For the Russian cosmists, cosmos did not mean outer space: rather, they wanted to create “cosmos” on earth. “To construct a new reality, free of hunger, disease, violence, death, need, inequality — like communism.” Vidokle’s film re-engages this Utopian project, seeking out the traces of such philosophy after the end of the Soviet Union and in the present day.
The second film of Anton Vidokle’s trilogy on Russian cosmism looks at the poetic dimension of solar cosmology of Soviet biophysicist, Alexander Chizhevsky. Shot in Kazakhstan, where Chizhevsky was imprisoned and later exiled, the film introduces Сhizhevsky’s research into the impact of solar emissions on human sociology, psychology, politics and economics in the form of wars, revolutions, epidemics and other upheavals. The Communist Revolution Was Caused By The Sun aligns the life of post-soviet rural residents and the futurological projects of Russian cosmism to emphasize that the goal of the early Soviet breakthroughs aimed at the conquest of outer space was not so much technical acceleration, but the common cause of humankind in their struggle against limitations of earthly life.
The last film in Vidokle’s trilogy on Cosmism is a meditation on a museum as the site of resurrection — a central idea for many Cosmist thinkers, scientists and avant-garde artists. Filmed at the State Tretiyakov Gallery, Moscow Zoological Museum, The Lenin Library and The Museum of Revolution, the film looks at museological and archival techniques of collection, restoration and conservation as a means of the material restoration of life, following an essay penned by Nikolai Fedorov on this subject in 1880s. The film follows a cast comprised of present-day followers of Fedorov, several actors, artists and a Pharaoh Hound that playfully enact a resurrection of a mummy, a close examination of Malevich’ Black Square, Rodchenko’s spatial constructions, taxidermied animals, artifacts of the Russian Revolution, skeletons, mannequins in tableau vivant-like scenes, in order to create a contemporary visualization for the poetry implicit in Fedorov’s writings.
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