Retrospective of Deborah Stratman: In the Middle of the Landscape of Surveillance

Look under the cover of your everyday routine, stop and look around you. Where are you, who are you, where do you belong and why are you in a hurry? These are essential questions to which there are no easy answers. Learn the art of asking in the visually diverse film essays and experiments by multimedia artist Deborah Stratman. Watch the filmmaker’s first online retrospective from April 13 to 19 at DAFilms.com for free!

American artist Deborah Stratman easily escapes any labels. Her work straddles the media of film, photography as sculpture, drawing and installation. You can come across her name at the famous Rotterdam IFF, at Sundance as well as at renowned galleries such as MoMA and Centre Pompidou. Regardless of the medium she currently works in, the artist imbues the material with a visually distinctive or even experimental language which allows her to discover hidden communication patterns, the workings of social systems and the traces of the circulation of power in seemingly banal images. The artist’s first world online retrospective includes a selection of twelve films representing a summary of her work from the late 1990s up to the present. The selection includes features as well as short films.

Stratman‘s latest audiovisual work is represented by HACKED CIRCUIT (2014) in which the filmmaker uses a long tracking of the film camera to capture the paranoid play between the power of the system and man who appears under its constant surveillance. The explicit use of shots from Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” hyperbolically completes the motive of secret surveillance which has become a latent content of human unconsciousness in the modern society.

The social control of consciousness as well as unconsciousness has also become the main subject of the short film play VILLAGE, SILENCED (2012) in which the filmmaker makes use of an already existing footage again. This time, however, she reaches deeper into history, choosing the Welsh propaganda film “The Silent Village” by Humphrey Jennings which re-enacts the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and the tragic story of the devastated village of Lidice in a Welsh mining town. By means of editing, repetition and variation, Stratman creates an analytical pattern of power and a basic vocabulary of gestures and moves symbolizing this power. The memory of historical events which gave rise to the idea of shared national identity is set in contemporary modern American culture in O’ER THE LAND (2009) filmed on 16mm camera. In the film, the image of American patriotism is transformed into a sharp criticism of the culture of weapons, war and technological power which have gradually contributed to the emptying of the term of freedom.

Stratman’s early films do not leave the outlined terrain of the interest in the contemporary social landscape corrugated by the power relations of surveillance. The shallow borders between the personal and the public, the intimate and the shared, the uniquely experienced and the system-monitored is captured in the film IN ORDER NOT TO BE HERE (2002) which explores the specific organization of city suburbs. Filmed exclusively at night, the suburbs seem like isolated islands; just like in the film journey KINGS OF THE SKY (2004). The journey leads to the Uyghur ethnic community that is cut off from the rest of the world and that has been fighting the Chinese rule for centuries. Seamlessly blending the rich Uyghur mythology and Stratman’s poetic visual approach, the film does not lose sight of the parallel between the stories of the courageous heroes of the past and the contemporary political effort of the community to gain its autonomy.

Move to the other side of the camera and get a unique experience of a critical perspective! Watch the first world online retrospective of Deborah Stratman from April 13 to 19 at DAFilms.com for free!

Films for the event

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