Art Basel announces details of its film program for 2018

Art Basel will screen a premier program of 16 film and video works presented by the show’s participating galleries. The Film program is curated for the fourth consecutive year by Cairo-based film curator Maxa Zoller and will include a special screening of Heather Lenz’s ‘Kusama – Infinity’ (2018), selected by New York-based film curator Marian Masone. Program highlights include works by Ai Weiwei, Kudzanai Chiurai, Rä di Martino, Douglas Gordon, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Hiwa K, William Kentridge and Xu Bing among others. Art Basel, whose Lead Partner is UBS, will take place at Messe Basel from June 14 to June 17, 2018.

This year’s program seeks to ascribe new meanings to found footage within filmmaking as well as bring together leading artists from across the world, with a strong focus on South Africa. Maxa Zoller states: ‘The diversity of formats and artistic backgrounds in the program shows that artists’ filmmaking has reached a new, mature stage, one which is now truly independent from former traditions of disciplinary divisions —say fine arts versus cinema— and opens the door to exciting new forms of transmedia art.’

FILM PROGRAM
Monday, June 11, 2018, 8.30pm
Opening Film of Art Basel Film Program
Xu Bing, ‘Dragonfly Eyes’, 2017, 81′, Tokyo Gallery + BTAP

‘Dragonfly Eyes’ is the first feature film by Beijing-based artist Xu Bing, who is best known for his installations and calligraphic work. The film is entirely composed of CCTV footage, which the artist and his team analyzed in detail. From the seemingly random surveillance footage, a narrative begins to emerge: a love story between a former Buddhist nun and a worker at a dairy farm. This new model of filmmaking not only revolutionizes cinematic storytelling but also produces a different kind of spectatorship, in which the viewer is forced to examine each frame for relevant details and action, rather than following a given plot in the conventional Hollywood style. The nature of CCTV footage creates an ongoing suspense —images designed to record violations, and thus ultimately images of anxiety, keep the spectator on edge, even when nothing seems to be happening on screen.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Xu Bing and Maxa Zoller.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 5pm
Feature Program
Rä di Martino, ‘Controfigura’, 2017, 74′, Monica De Cardenas

The concept of Rä di Martino’s acclaimed new film is encapsulated in its title. ‘Controfigura’, or ‘stand-in’, refers to the person who substitutes for an actor before filming for technical purposes, but in her work, di Martino gives her stand-in screen time. While the stand-in runs barefoot through the streets of Marrakech, the viewer also sees the real actors and crew working on the film. As events take place on-camera and off, before and after the call for action, different levels of reality are interwoven into an intricate web. ‘Controfigura’ leaves the viewer wondering where the film starts and ends, or whether it ever ends at all.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Rä di Martino and Maxa Zoller.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 7pm
Short Film Program
‘Taking Art for a Walk’

The title of this Short Film Program was inspired by Richard Long’s famous 1967 land art piece, ‘A Line Made by Walking’. What does it mean to walk a line in today’s context of geopolitical and gender-based categorizations and boundaries? In the films in this program, artists walk in countrysides, but their aim is not to catapult art out of the gallery, as Long sought to do when he first turned the green English countryside into a land art site. Instead, these works bring the politics of boundaries into the white cubes and black boxes of the art world.

Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, Swamp, 1971, 6′, James Cohan Gallery, Electronic Arts Intermix
Charlotte Prodger, LHB, 2017, 19’39”, Hollybush Gardens
Hiwa K, Pre-Image (Blind As The Mother Tongue), 2017, 16’9”, KOW
William Kentridge, Second-hand Reading, 2013, 7′, Goodman Gallery, Marian Goodman Gallery

Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 9pm
Short Film Program
‘Films from the Postcolony: (Counter)Images from South Africa’

In light of the vibrant artistic scene in South Africa, especially in Johannesburg and Cape Town, this long overdue program presents artists’ attempts to create ‘counter-narratives, counter-images and counter-memories’, in the words of Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai. The films of this Short Film Program engage with the history of Southern Africa and Africa’s colonial history in general, from apartheid, exile and globalization to family memories and the role of women in these histories, asking what it means to represent a country.

Penny Siopis, My Lovely Day, 1997, 21′, Stevenson
Uriel Orlow, The Fairest Heritage, 2017, 5’20”, mor charpentier
Kudzanai Chiurai, We Live in Silence (Chapters 1-7), 2017, 36’16”, Goodman Gallery
Candice Breitz, Profile (Variation C), 2017, 3’21”, Goodman Gallery, kaufmann repetto, KOW

Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 8.30pm
Feature Program
Ai Weiwei, ‘Human Flow’, 2017, 145′, Lisson Gallery, neugerriemschneider

Artist, activist and director Ai Weiwei captures the global refugee crisis in this epic film journey. Shot in 23 countries, ‘Human Flow’ focuses on the people in the midst of a human emergency. Ai has forged many large-scale art installations and directed several documentary films. This project merges the sweeping planetary scope of his art with his concentrated directorial style —humanistic, rigorously questioning and rife with emotional charge— in a new way.

Thursday, June 14, 2018, 7pm
Feature Program
Lynn Hershman Leeson, ‘Conceiving Ada’, 1997, 72′, ShanghART Gallery

In this feature film by Lynn Hershman Leeson, Tilda Swinton plays Ada Lovelace, a 19th-century mathematician considered to have written the first computer program. The film transports her character into the 1990s New York, where Emmy, a computer programmer, is trying to make contact with Ada across time and space. This blend of history and fiction is a powerful example of a kind of 1980s and 1990s feminist filmmaking that seems more relevant than ever in the current context. ‘Conceiving Ada’ is being screened in connection with Hershman Leeson’s solo exhibition ‘Anti-Bodies’ at Haus der Elektronischen Künste.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Lynn Hershman Leeson and Maxa Zoller.

Thursday June 14, 2018, 9pm
Short Film Program
‘Vertighosts: Homages to Hitchcock’s Vertigo’

This program brings together two artists’ homages to ‘Vertigo’ (1958), Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece about deceit and obsession. In her latest short film ‘Vertighost’, Lynn Hershman Leeson continues to develop her interest in the figure of the doppelgänger. In interviews with artists and art historians, she investigates the famous museum scene in which we see the character of Madeleine (with her iconic French twist) from the back as she looks at the portrait of her grandmother Carlotta. The subject of Douglas Gordon’s ‘Feature Film’ is the haunting soundtrack of ‘Vertigo’, which was written by Bernard Herrmann, one of the most influential composers in Hollywood cinema. The film, which consists of close-up shots of the face and the hands of conductor James Conlon, marks the transition from Gordon’s early cinematic installations, such as ’24 Hour Psycho’ (1993), to his later film works, notably ‘Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle’ (2006).

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Vertighost, 2017, 14’, ShanghART Gallery
Douglas Gordon, Feature Film, 1999, 75’, Dvir Gallery, Gagosian, Galerie Eva Presenhuber

Friday, June 15, 2018, 8.30pm

Special Screening
Shirin Neshat, ‘Looking for Oum Kulthum’, 2017, 86′

A film within a film, ‘Looking for Oum Kulthum’ portrays a fictional Iranian artist in exile and her quest to tell the real-life story of the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kulthum. Like her heroine, the artist experiences the struggles and sacrifices a woman has to face if she dares to cross the lines of a conservative male-dominated society. With this film, artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat returns to the themes of her previous feature film ‘Women Without Men’ (2009) and continues to develop her unmistakable visual style.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Shirin Neshat and Marcy Goldberg.

Saturday, June 16, 2018, 8pm
Special Screening curated by Marian Masone
Heather Lenz, ‘Kusama – Infinity’, 2018, 80’

Heather Lenz’s feature documentary ‘Kusama – Infinity’ portrays Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s turbulent quest to achieve international fame. The film traces her journey from a conservative upbringing in rural Japan to her brush with celebrity in America during the 1960s, when she rivaled Andy Warhol for press attention and battled sexism and racism. Kusama’s hallucinations of polka dots shaped her art but eventually led her to a mental institution in Tokyo, where she has lived voluntarily for almost 40 years. Now in her late 80s, she is one of the most popular artists in the world today.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Heather Lenz and Marian Masone.

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About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper' AofC - Issue 1 Sept/Oct