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Jan 27, 2020
Below, Stanya Kahn shares thoughts on No Go Backs, her new work supported by the Film/Video studio and making its world premiere at the Wex. The artist will join us Friday, January 31, for the Winter Exhibitions Preview.
I wanted to make a story that could linger between the real and the unreal, with openings for not-knowing and the offer of an immersive mood viewers could share collectively to perceive a world with high stakes, loss, difficulty, and optimism. I wanted to make a film that would simultaneously use affect and distance to invoke feelings without dictating how, when, or why. I wanted to make a kinetic state from sound and images without dialogue to inhabit—psychological and intuitive, dreamlike, and where threads of meaning could lace and unlace interdependently. Signals and references could rearrange themselves.
I shot most of the scenes from a distance with a long lens to allow space and autonomy. Teenagers inhabit a unique field of being that can’t be fully interpreted from outside. And also the camera’s proximity reflects a praxis toward mutual respect in the broader world: to see and acknowledge difference without invading, assuming to know, or attempting to co-opt. The camera often pauses to try to capture the magnitude of the earth. These scenes are meant to be generous, a slow-down in which a person could consider, float, become self-aware as a witness, while releasing the land from our grasp. These shots are also, of course, odes to the planet and a record of the endangered.
I wanted to make a film that was quietly polemic. Exhausted by word streams each day in the scroll of news and comments, all of us wrestling with position and rhetoric amidst what is the never-ending real violence of life in late capitalism, I wanted us to have a break. Full of rage and mind-racing perplexity, I made a slow film of vulnerability, love, and fortitude. While this new generation carries a special weight—the earth’s own ticking clock and a sweeping global rise in fascism not seen before—history hands down tools. Backpacks half full, savvy, and “born under a bad sky,” the kids will reconfigure the house we’ve left them.
Images: No Go Backs © 2020 Stanya Kahn. Super 16mm transferred to 2k video, 33 minutes. Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles. Made with support from the Film/Video Studio at the Wexner Center for the Arts.