warehouse warehouse


by Stanley Schtinter

on Shama Khanna’s Dark Cinema

Far, methinks, is our realm, from the hills of the Rhine.

– Völundarkvitha, Poetic Edda

Respect and beware the worlds he works across. Camilo Restrepo captures the searching disappeared, and no man nor filmmaker can reach out to the in-between state of unremitting blackness, and hope to resume without the bamboo sticks splitting fact from fiction, snapped.

Unknown to Restrepo, his previous masterpiece, Cilaos, ran a malignant parallel with the real-life murder of the daughter of Mohamed Bangoura, protagonist in The Mouth. Where Christine Salem, in Cilaos, sang in search of her father the music of maloya—generally acknowledged to reunite the dead with the living—The Mouth slows, and erupts in real sequel to the film of Réunion. Hands that held her beat. Swallow the production of loss. Seepage, slippage. The domain of Dark Cinema.

“A drummer went out quite alone one evening into the country, and came to a lake on the shore of which he perceived three pieces of white linen lying. “What fine linen,” said he, and put one piece in his pocket.” She may be a selkie, a mermaid or a swan. Let her go.

‘Swan’ is derived from the Proto-Germanic word ‘Swanaz’, meaning singer. Alia Syed’s portrait of the bird mercifully refrains from ‘song’, in its silent anticipation of flight. Her close-up is a gift to the peeping drummer, but it is paralleled by the constant promise of folklore and common sense: possession will land you in a world of shit.

In the room of an old friend, Jaime, there are custom-made shelves stacked with bottles of piss. She thinks that toilets are a conspiracy. Following roughly the principle of earthing a stereo system—to eliminate the hum—she believes that by pissing in the open, on soil or even stone, she earths herself. I think there’s something in this, and wonder if Charlotte Prodger would agree.

Fragments of BBC iPlayer cannibalised, queered: to record and re-record is to find out what the image is really saying. At the edge of the abyss, a female biologist imitates the mating call of the male owl. Cut to sweatpants around ankles. Bracken, steam. Cut to black. “Like somebody else smoking.” An epic of climate-cinema: will the owl be able to penetrate the snow deep enough to reach its prey? Prodger penetrates the cold, thick layer long settled over the quotidian with an unfamiliar warmth. Materials largely recuperated from the image dump are deployed to satisfy the big questions, harnessed by a black, singing screen for the words of Ian White. “The owl, says Hegel, flies out at dusk.”

If Dark Cinema means a place or space for binaries to collide and synthesise, Crossing, by James Richards and Leslie Thornton is the dialectic fault line. Material manipulated from the cutting room floor becomes a definitive patchwork of our time: social media streams of the subconscious; endless Los Angeles traffic jams; the bomb as an expression of identity, markets and resources. Richards and Thornton are confronting the explosion of the image dump, a landscape mapped by removal. Exempt from algorithmic detection, and against the homogenisation of memory, Dan Walwin occupies a not dissimilar perimeter position. Tame is a study, or studies of interior space after the full transferal of our memory faculty to tech. Inner projections in the dark imagine of the Internet: to stand in the bedroom with the potato in your hand not knowing how or why you got there. Screens within screens within screens (control controls for the sake of control).

Find the YouTube channel of Walwin: autoplay and enjoy profoundly the uploads until they’re finished. Expect a redirection then to the channel of Jay Nab (possibly Walwin). Nab is an occult estate agent who breaks in to show-flats and hits record. For the normalised prestige of having a YouTube property portfolio, or a detached critique on the housing crisis, I don’t know. That it might be both is perhaps why Dark Cinema emerges from the margin now, as a damning indictment of the disorientation we’ve come to expect in the light.

The artist, as the biologist, turns to face the abyss. She reads a poem for her grandfather. Eyebrow.“It seemed like he said nothing unnecessary, as if it was impossible to say anything unnecessary with a voice like that.” Could be self-referential, Ulijona Odišarija. Could refer too to the curation of Shama Khanna, who seems to be saying: ’just beyond the darkest hour, just behind the dawn’.

Stanley Schtinter is chief curator of the Museo de la Bomba and keeper of the sacred knowledge at Close-Up Film Centre. He produces cassettes, condoms and pirate DVDs as purge.