Despite a lack of documentation about the hill, El Chinero, it is thought that many people died there while crossing the desert from mainland Mexico. This site exemplifies history held within a name. It can be seen, in some ways, as a monument to the memory of those forgotten.
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In Beyond the Last Mirage, Your Absence, four analogue films which have since been digitized by Ufuoma Essi, Gautam Valluri, Müge Yildiz, and Bani Khoshnoudi are presented in an intimate screening in which the filmmakers formally explore absence through land—and cityscapes to a visually and spiritually haunting effect.
The only film of the quartet that is in colour, Ufuoma Essi’s Pastoral Malaise is inspired by Una Marson’s poem Spring In England and Dorris Henderson’s 1965 cover of the British folk song One Morning In May. The film recalls an imagined relationship to the English landscape told through memories and speculative histories of Black women.
Gautam Valluri explores the relationship between architectural spaces and personal histories through the materiality of celluloid. In ul-Umra, he explores a building popularly known as the Spanish Mosque, commissioned by Viqar-ul-Umra, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad from 1893-1901. Built in the image of Andalusian style, the mosque is said to be unique in all of India.
I Was a Ghost Myself by Müge Yildiz follows the ghost’s trails through a city where the ancient and contemporary entwine. Taking on the guise of an archaeologist, Müge revisits her hometown to face childhood traumas. The ghost, created with a handmade camera filter, haunts the cityscape as the filmmaker wonders if there is cinema after death.
A few years after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, a massive exodus took place within the country, as deportations and violence targeted Chinese and Asian migrants who had settled in Mexico for many decades. With El Chinero, un cerro fantasma, Bani Khoshnoudi asks a question that binds each of the films in this program: Can one fill this memory void with images and artifacts in an attempt to construct an archive where none exists?
A Tehran-born filmmaker and visual artist, Bani Khoshnoudi studied architecture, photography, and cinema at The University of Texas at Austin and was the in-studio artist at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. Her works, inhabited by displacement and uprooting, explore themes of exile, modernity and its effects, memory, and the invisible. Last year, she was awarded the prestigious Herb Alpert Award for the Arts in Film and Video.
Gautam Valluri is an artist working with film. He explores the relationship between architectural spaces and personal histories through the materiality of celluloid. His work has exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the Cinematek in Brussels, Barcelona’s CCCB, the Museu do Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro, Seoul’s Korean Film Archive and at various film festivals including the International Film Festival Rotterdam and BFI London Film Festival. He lives and works in Paris.
Müge Yıldız is a Turkish artist-filmmaker based in Finland. She works mainly with analogue images, employing a shooting method she calls “being a ghost.” While her films investigate themes based on psychogeography, archaeology and philosophy, her installations explore cinema’s objectness.
Ufuoma Essi is an artist filmmaker from South East London. Her work revolves around Black feminist epistemology and the configuration of displaced histories. The archive forms an essential medium for her, exploring it to disrupt the gaps of historical narratives. Previous exhibitions and screenings include South London Gallery and Gasworks in London, Le Magasin CNAC, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Black Star Film Festival, and Maysles Documentary Center.