I am currently working on an event that aims to deal with some of the contemporary resonances of militant film culture. The premise of the event, entitled “The Fire Next Time (Afterlives of the militant image)” is at least twofold, in that it wants to engage with the attraction that this particular notion of militancy currently has – not in the least in the contemporary art world – and wants to re-evaluate the discursive practices that have informed this notion, without resorting to nostalgia or romanticism. The main challenge is then one of setting up a “dialogue” with the period in question, as well as the associated thinking about politics on one hand and cinema on the other, in search for reverberations that can help us to think their relation today. Here’s an introductory text:
“There was a time when cinema was believed to make a difference, to be able to act as a weapon in struggle, to operate as a realm of discord. The so-called “militant cinema” was not only considered as a tool to bear witness but also to intervene in the various political upheavals and liberation movements that shook the world in the 1960s and ‘70s. What remains of this unassailable alliance between cinema and politics? After the flames had died down, all that seemed to be left was a wreckage of broken promises and shattered horizons. Today it feels like we have been living through a long period of disappointment and disorientation, while the sense of something lacking or failing is spreading steadily. An overwhelming melancholy seems to have taken hold of our lives, as if we can only experience our time as the “end times”, when the confidence in politics is as brittle as our trust in images. Perhaps that is why, for those who came after, there is a growing tendency to look back at an era when there was still something to fight for, and images were still something to fight with. Can a re-imagining of old utopian futures shed a new light on our perceived dead-end present, in view of unexpected horizons? Can an understanding of past dreams and illusions lead to reinvigorated notions of responsibility, commitment and resistance? Can a dialogue with the period in question help us to find the very principles and narratives capable of remedying its impasses? And how can this questioning help us to think about how cinema, unsure of its own politics, can be “political” today? In light of a potential rebirth of politics, would it still be possible for the art of cinema to appeal to the art of the impossible?”
The Fire Next Time is a two-day program of interventions and screenings (3-4 April 2014), organized in conjunction with an exhibition of work by Eric Baudelaire and Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc. This event will take place during the forthcoming Courtisane Festival, in the framework of the research project ‘Figures of Dissent’ (KASK/HoGent) and the EU project ‘The Uses of Art’ (confederation L’Internationale).
For those interested: we’ve set up a Tumblr as a kind of repository of images, fragments, articles and quotes. Check out fire-next-time.tumblr.com.