LOOKING TO SEE - A microscopic gesture
Belgian filmmaker Sarah Vanagt's focus is on the 'act of seeing': how we look at history and how we look at childhood. At the same time however, Vanagt's films also deal with 'the childhood of seeing', the early years of photography and film. Pre-cinema, proto-cinema, pocket cinema, paper cinema, thumb cinema - these are all names for and forms of early cinema that interest Vanagt. What she likes about optical toys is that they allow you to see the principle of the moving image at work. The building blocks are literally laid bare: you can clearly see the different drawings or pictures on the disk of a phenakistoscope, you can observe, page after page, how the movement develops in a flip book ... You can look at the machine, without there really being a machine (because our eye is the machine). However many flip books she rattled through, however many zoetropes she has seen in action, she still feels that same joy and wonder at such small-scale forms of the cinema. 'It's the wonder of seeing itself."
As part of her lecture, Sarah Vanagt will show four of her shorts, two recent works - In Waking Hours" (18 ', 2015), an anatomic experiment of the 17th century, and Still Holding Still (10', 2015 ), a brief practice from the early years of photography - and two older films. The older works - Little Figures (15 ', 2003) and First Elections (15', 2006) - take place in Brussels and in Goma (eastern Congo), in which children are filmed while they're playing - playing with history in their miniature world.
Currently Vanagt is working on a film that departs from the optical experiments of Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, the 17th-century draper from Delft, who was also a microscopist in his spare time. During the lecture she will show excerpts from her microscopic examination, by using a replica of the Van Leeuwenhoek's microscope. The beauty of this early microscope is that it is, like the flipbook and other precursors of cinema, tiny in size. One could say that van Leeuwenhoek practiced 'pocket science'. In one of his letters Van Leeuwenhoek states that the unfertilized eggs of a cod can also serve as a magnifying lens. The latter intrigues Vanagt: is it possible to use something as small as a fish egg as a natural microscope?
Sarah Vanagt (1976) makes documentaries, video installations and photos, in which she combines her interest for history with her interest for (the origins of) cinema. Her work includes films such as After Years of Walking (2003), Little Figures (2003), Begin Began Begun (2005), Boulevard d'Ypres (2010), The Corridor (2010), Dust Breeding (2013); and video installations such as Les Mouchoirs de Kabila (2005), Power Cut (2007), Ash Tree (2007). Her work is shown at film festivals (FidMarseille, Viennale, Doclisboa, Idfa Amsterdam, Rencontres Internationales Paris/Madrid/Berlin, Hors Pistes Centre Pompidou), and in museums (Frankfurter Kunstverein, Fact Liverpool, NGBK Berlin, Shedhalle Zürich). The silent short film Girl with a fly (2013) was first shown at the 5th Biennale of Moscow. The film In Waking Hours (2015) premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. In 2016 several of her video works were part of the Biennale de l'image possible (BIP, Liège). Her most recent installation Schijnvis/Showfish/Poisson Brillant (2016) was first presented in M HKA, the museum of contemporary art in Antwerp.
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