'Material’ is commonly understood as the physical aspect of things, yet there are alternatives to understanding the notion of ‘material’. Martin Heidegger, in his essay ‘The thing’, argues that materials also go beyond objecthood. They are as much immaterial as they are material; as much how they interact with their environment, and react to their social context, to continuously redefine their own values as they are allocated a function/ a meaning. This multivalence of material in modern culture is charged in the term ‘materiality’, which bears philosophical, political, symbolic and aesthetic implications. How do artists explore and question ideas of the material (materiality), in places where resources both raw and laborious in extraction are known to be zones of socio-political conflict?
Materiality has long been centre stage in various arms of conflict, be it a tussle for control between individual and authority, industrial progress and nature, local governance and global strategies. Tension between individual vs. authority is illuminated through artists’ examination of physical materials as symbols for the resilience, and bravery, of individual persons enduring government negligence, as seen in Kannan Arunasalam’s Kerosene documentary from Sri Lanka. The need for raw materials is all too often a tale of exploitation with damaging effect on local living conditions (evident in Phan Thảo Nguyên’s reference to the jute plant, usurping rice crops, causing great famine, during the Japanese occupation of Vietnam); while in other circumstances, its abundance aids communities in need (as seen in Tiffany Chung’s documentary sharing first hand experience enduring Vietnam’s rationed economy following the Vietnam War).
After World War II, a new world order was established, which saw the formation of new nation states struggle to control local and foreign trade in resources, predominantly acquiescing to global market demand for their societies to modernize their economy, ultimately of multinational company gain. This strategy has resulted in far reaching effects on the natural habitat of many sanctuaries and societies, made visible in the work of Renata Padovan and Sutthirat Supaparinya, illustrating the irreparable evicted riverscapes caused by the building of power plants to feed its country’s energy demand on the Xingu River in Brazil and Ping River in Thailand respectively.
Materiality is also referred to in this selection of moving images as critical commentary on the disturbance of local social structures by external political forces (such as former colonial powers, terror units, guerrilla armies seeking to expand their territorial influence through the veil of trade or assumed cultural superiority). This is evident in Douglas NT employment of fictional narrative in his documentary-styled film Mines de Rien following the footsteps of under-aged, contamination-exposed cobalt miners in the Congo; and Shanaka Galagoda’s Possession, where the tools of a journalist and a militiamen are dangerously perceived as interchangeable in the wake of Sri Lanka’s civil war.
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL
ORDER OF SCREENING
|JOMPET KUSWIDANANTO (INDONESIA)||War of Java, Do you Remember? #2||5:53|
|KANNAN ARUNASALAM (SRI LANKA)||Kerosene||18:00|
|RENATA PADOVAN (BRAZIL)||The Scale of the Disaster||9:41|
|SUTTHIRAT SUPAPARINYA (THAILAND)||My Grandpa’s Route Has Been Forever Blocked||15:49|
|PHAN THẢO NGUYÊN (VIETNAM)||Uproot rice grow jute||6:31|
|FERNANDO ARIAS (COLOMBIA)||Enjoy Your Meal||16:00|
|TIFFANY CHUNG (VIETNAM)||Recipes of necessity||33:00|
|DOUGLAS NT (DR CONGO)||Mines de Rien [Mines of Nothing]||13:31|
|SHANAKA GALAGODA (SRI LANKA)||The Possession||7:36|