Speakers Series : Sven Augustijnen

September 25, 2012 from 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Olin 102, Bard College

Sven Augustijnen will talk about his film Spectres, as well as the exhibition and book.

Spectres, HD video, color, 16:9, stereo sound, French spoken, English subtitled, 104 min, 2011

Patrice Lumumba played a decisive role in the liberation of the Congo from the colonial yoke. Shortly afterwards, he was betrayed by those close to him, overthrown and summarily executed in Katanga on the January 17, 1961. Even though we know about many of those who orchestrated his death, there remain many unanswered questions. Where exactly did this massacre take place? Who was present? On whose orders? Who is to blame? Sven Augustijnen takes these shady questions that haunt Belgium as much as the Congo as the starting point of his enquiries: using facts, their contemporary echoes and what has been brushed over as “historical fact”. His guide is an elusive character of noble birth – Jacques Brassinne de La Buissière, who was working in the Congo as a high-ranking civil servant at the time. Author of a biography of Lumumba, this man spent many years carrying out research into the history of this period. The film-maker goes with him to meet witnesses and protagonists. Between factual truth, the strength of conviction in the words of some and the possible duplicity of others, between Belgium and the Congo, the camera opens up a wide angle. It scrutinizes the surroundings, observes the gestures and glances, diving into the uncertain layers of truth, revealing the minutiae of the witness accounts. Paced with extracts from Jean-Sebastian Bach’s Passion, powerful elegiac breaths of fresh air that recall the Congolese martyr. Spectres invents new form of investigation which assumes the right to question not just History – both its living players and phantom witnesses – but also how it is recorded, restoring to all both their bodies and their terrible night to the point of opacity.

Nicolas Feodoroff

Spectres won the Public Libraries Prize and GNCR Prize and received a special mention from the jury of the International Competition at FID Marseille (FR). At Filmer à Tout Prix (BE) it won the Prize of the Flemish Community.

Sven Augustijnen (°1970 in Mechelen) studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, the Hoger Sint-Lukas Instituut in Brussels, and at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. His work concentrates mainly on the tradition of portraiture and the porous boundaries between fiction and reality, using a hybrid of genres and techniques to disorienting effect. His films have been included in exhibitions and festivals in Athens, Basel, Fribourg, San Sebastián, Siegen, Rotterdam, Tunis, Tel Aviv, Tokyo and Vilnius, among others. In 2007 he participated in the documenta 12 magazine project, in collaboration with A Prior Magazine. In 2011 he received the Evens Prize for Visual Arts. He lives and works in Brussels.

The Human Rights Project and the Curatorial Studies Program this year inaugurate a joint series of lectures and presentations which seek to explore the increasingly profound and manifest intersections between the discourses of contemporary arts and human rights, both affirmative and critical. Nowhere are the orthodoxies of the human rights movement, its wishful universalism and its proximity to power, challenged with such rigor, creativity, and severity than in the realm of culture. And when the most imaginative, forceful, and far-reaching claims for rights are made today, on the other hand, they are expressed in a language, visual and otherwise, that owes everything to the arts. In a sense, the arts (in the broadest sense) has become the leading edge of human rights work and research, the best currently available lab for redefining, critiquing, rebuilding, and reimagining what human rights might be.

 

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