Get them doggies rolling down to Sugarhouse Studios on the evening of Wednesday the 23rd May, when we’ll be presenting a night on human-animal movements, with films on herding and whaling, and talks on zoology, cattle and cinema.
Sugarhouse Studios is the Assemble collective’s new pop-up venue, as part of their summer cinema programme amongst the rubble-awaiting-development of the pre-Olympic landscape. This is their third self-built cinema, following on from 2010’s petrol station cinema The Cineroleum and 2011’s Folly For a Flyover. The Sugarhouse temporary bar, cafe and cinema occupies an abandoned sign-writers workshop scheduled for demolition on an island formed by roads and waterways just south of the Olympic park.
The feature film we’ll be screening, Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s Sweetgrass (2009), is an award-winning, beautifully shot examination of the link between cowboys and sheep in Montana’s dangerous Absaroka-Beartooth mountains. It is an unsentimental elegy to the American West, following the last modern-day cowboys in search of summer pasture. This beautiful yet unsparing film reveals a world in which nature and culture, animals and humans, vulnerability and violence are intimately meshed.
This will be accompanied by a rare screening of Chris Marker and Mario Ruspoli’s anthropological short Vive La Baleine / Three Cheers for the Whale (1972), which experimentally chronicles mankind’s relationship with this largest and most majestic of marine mammals through art and the fishing industry. Chris Marker is a French writer, photographer and cine-essayist best known for science fiction La jetée (1962), political essay A Grin Without a Cat (1977), and meditative (time) travelogue Sans Soleil (1983), but also the director of a postmodern bestiary of short films about animals (Cat Listening To Music, An Owl Is An Owl Is An Owl, Zoo Piece, Bullfight In Okinawa, Slon Tango, The Case of the Grinning Cat). The animals here always function as political and cultural metaphors (‘A cat is never on the side of power’, he has remarked) and resist anthropomorphism. His co-director for this experimental piece is the Italian ethnologist and painter Mario Ruspoli, whose eclectic filmography includes documentaries on medical, scientific, anthropological and historical subjects. See a thirty second clip of the film here.
Also, Whaling in the Antarctic (1949), a film taken by Charles Swithinbank on Norwegian floating factory ship Thorshordi. This film will be introduced by Paul Merchant, a geographer and oral historian who has researched the history of relations between humans and animals in post war Britain, especially otters and birds. He is currently recording the life stories of Earth scientists for National Life Stories at the British Library.
Richie Nimmo, Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Manchester, will talk about his research on ‘moving animals’ and the material and cultural policing of cattle movement. Nimmo’s first book, Milk, Modernity and the Making of the Human (2010), explored the ongoing purification of the social inter-relations between humans and nonhumans. Chris Carbone, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Zoology, will present on human-wildlife interactions and the altered landscapes in which they take place. Giovanni Aloi, film programmer, author of Art & Animals (2011) and founder of Antennae, the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture will talk about representations of ‘interactive nature’ in seminal films.
To top it all off, we’ll be playing whaling and cattle-driving songs before and between the films, and there’s food and an open bar until midnight. So follow the herd over to Sugarhouse for a whale of a time, kicking off at 7.15pm sharp.