Natalie Bookchin: Long Story Short

Seize the unique opportunity to watch the winning film of this year’s edition of the prestigious French festival Cinéma du Réel LONG STORY SHORT for free! Look into the lives of people who keep striving for social acceptance despite the stigma of homelessness and poverty in their emotionally open video blogs. In the week from July 18 to 24, you can watch the exceptional film by renowned American video artist Natalie Bookchin deliberately defying the aesthetic of perfect film images and the strength of social prejudice.

Natalie Bookchin is one of the most remarkable personalities of contemporary American video art. A holder of multiple significant international awards and grants, native of New York and lecturer at Rutgers University, she regularly exhibits her video projects at the most prestigious world galleries, such as MoMA, Whitney Museum and London’s Tate Gallery. Her remarkable success in the exclusive world of art is in sharp contrast with the artist’s interest in the current social situation which she sees as a result of escalated economic and political relations and which she depicts with uncompromising sincerity. It is this very non-artificiality, an effort for the purest possible account, coming from the very heart of the problem, that is reflected in the aesthetic of Bookchin’s projects. In the hands of the artist, raw technological images recorded by computer cameras, security agency cameras and mobile phones – i.e. screens that characterize communication in the digital society – become a tool of a collective voice speaking about the problems of the present.

One such collage of digital images, particularly vlogs, is the basis of LONG STORY SHORT. The winning film of this year’s edition of Cinéma du Réel started its successful festival journey in late February 2016 as it received a world premiere at the traditional Doc Fortnight film event at New York’s MoMA. The visual project tells hundreds of personal stories of people from San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles who have to struggle with poverty, loss of their homes and last but not least the condemnation of the society in their everyday lives. The artist has personally interviewed each of the speakers in the form of a video diary, making an unexpected twist. The interviewed people become experts on poverty and homelessness, thus taking up the role of public spokespeople of these problems, which has been primarily assumed by politicians and experts from state organizations and NGOs.

The unique film project started already in 2011 when Natalie Bookchin was approached by the Tipping Point Community, a non-profit platform of social aid based in San Francisco, to make a video for an annual fundraising evening. The small project with a loose assignment gradually grew into a private archive of accounts that could be transformed into an intensive visual collage thanks to the financial support of the MacArthur Foundation Documentary Film Grant. The very shooting took place in 2012 and 2013.

In the whole of the artist’s work, LONG STORY SHORT represents another step in exploring new narrative forms, the theme of sharing economy and the aesthetic of poor images the artist has dealt with since 2005 when she worked with images of unknown landscapes made by security cameras. As for the content, the project provides new perspectives on the increasingly topical issue of the blurred line between the private and public space, adding another piece to the critical mosaic of approaching the problems of current global economy.

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