Still from What We Left Unfinished. Image courtesy of Mariam Ghani.
Still from What We Left Unfinished


Archival Propaganda in Film: A Screening with Mariam Ghani and Jen Liu

December 6, 2018
AAA in A, '09-'21

43 Remsen St. Brooklyn, NY

A screening program of two films that contained portions of, or wereninspired by, government propaganda. The screening was followed by a discussion with the artists on their connection to the original works and how their re-contextualization could both excavate suppressed histories for new audiences, and also further blur the line between truth and fiction.

Mariam Ghani screened selections from her upcoming documentary What We Left Unfinished, the mostly true story of five unfinished feature films from the Communist era in Afghanistan (1978-1991). By looking at a period when films were weaponized by political regimes and filmmakers became targets for opposition attacks, What We Left Unfinished asks: if nations are fictional inventions, can fiction films reinvent them?

The Pink Detachment (2015) is Jen Liu‘s reinterpretation of The Red Detachment of Women (1970), a Model Opera ballet from China’s Cultural Revolution. In the original, a peasant girl joined an all-female military detachment, took revenge on her despotic landlord, and produced Revolution. Can such a fraught archival document be re-motivated, beyond kitsch? This piece proposes that re-motivation is possible, but only through major revision.

Mariam Ghani is an artist, writer, and filmmaker. Her work looks at places and moments where social, political, and cultural structures take on visible forms. Notable exhibitions and screenings include Documenta 13, the Liverpool and Sharjah Biennials, the Dhaka Art Summit, the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Secession in Vienna, the CCCB in Barcelona, Garage in Moscow, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the National Gallery in DC, and the Queens Museum, Met Breuer, MoMA and Guggenheim in New York. She has received a number of awards, grants and fellowships, most recently from Creative Capital, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the New York Public Library. She teaches at Bennington College.

Jen Liu is a New York-based visual artist working in video, performance, and painting, on topics of national identity, economy, and the re-motivating of archival artifacts. She is a 2018 recipient of the LACMA Art + Technology Lab grant, and was a 2017 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship in Film/Video, and the NYSCA/NYFA Gregory Millard Fellowship in Digital/Electronic Art.  She has presented work at The Whitney Museum, The New Museum, New York; Royal Academy and ICA in London; Kunsthaus Zurich; Kunsthalle Wien; the Aspen Museum of Art; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; MUSAC, Leon; the Shanghai Biennale and UCCA Beijing. In 2018 she is a resident artist at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, and in 2019 she will be a Swatch Artist in Residence in Shanghai.

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This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.