Oct 4, 2018 at 7:30 pm
The Dark Times Too
Screening to be followed by a discussion with Zoe Beloff and Amy Herzog
Zoe Beloff will present a new body of work titled “The Dark Times Too”.
The heart of the project is her film Exile. In real life the philosopher Walter Benjamin and his friend the playwright Bertolt Brecht spent time together in exile from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The film imagines that they are still in exile in New York 2017. In the intervening years they have changed—in the contemporary world, refugees and victims of racism look different. Brecht is Iranian. Benjamin is African American. The down-at-heel comic duo are vagabonds in the tradition of Laurel and Hardy or Vladimir and Estragon; they are still doing what they always did, showing us how society works with whatever they have to hand—words, images, and suggestions on how to tell the truth in a world full of lies. Unfixed, oscillating between their time and ours, Brecht and Benjamin reveal what has been buried in our own history, making connections between fascism in New York in the 1930s and its manifestation in the Trump era.
After the screening, Zoe will be in dialogue with film scholar Amy Herzog to discuss the film and her larger body of work on the resurgence of white supremacy and the status of the refugee. This includes her just completed ‘documentary picture book’ “Basil Between Worlds: an asylum seeker in America” that tells the story of a man from Cameroon and his journey through the Immigration Detention System. She will also give the audience a first glimpse of her ongoing panoramic history painting of our times titled “Parade of the Old New”. It is inspired by a poem by Bertolt Brecht from 1938 that begins “I stood on a hill and I saw the Old approaching, but it came as the New.It hobbled up on new crutches which no one has ever seen before and stank of new smells of decay which no one had ever smelled before.” Begin after the inauguration in January 2017, the painting is roughly 60 feet long, Zoe plans to continue it through two the end of the Trump administration whenever that might be.
Zoe Beloff, 51 min., USA, 2017
An interesting case of reincarnation: Walter Benjamin and Bertold Brecht (who were in Denmark together in the 1930s, fleeing the Nazi regime) are alive and kicking in 2017 in New York and take the Staten Island Ferry together. Only, their travel in time has introduced a few minor corrections: Brecht is now an Iranian, Benjamin has returned as an African American. “So what?” asks Brecht. “Refugees look different today.”
The two roam New York, where Uber taxis drive around and Trump is presented as a ventriloquist’s dummy. The streets have changed, but the fascism of the 1930s has not been frozen in time. On occasions a comic duo, on others the voice of our conscience, the babbling Brecht-Benjamin duo still provides good weapons to attack the world. And that is necessary, according to director Zoe Beloff: “We are not finished with the past, and the past is not finished with us.”
Zoe is a filmmaker and artist. She creates films, installations and books that defy categorization. Each project aims to connect the present to past so that it might illuminate the future in new ways. Her projects include “The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and its Circle 1926-1972”, “The Days of the Commune” , “A World Redrawn: Eisenstein and Brecht in Hollywood” and “Emotions Go To Work”. Her work has been featured in numerous international exhibitions and film festivals, including MoMA, The Whitney Museum, the Pompidou Center in Paris and the Freud Dream Museum in St Petersburg, FID Marseilles, and the International Film Festival Rotterdam. She has been awarded fellowships from thee Graham Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a Professor at Queens College.
Amy Herzog is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Queens College and Coordinator of the Film Studies Program at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she is a faculty member in Theatre, Music, Film, and Women’s Studies. She is the author of Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and co-editor, with Carol Vernallis and John Richardson, of The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media (Oxford, 2013). She has published essays on film and popular music, philosophy, pornography, gentrification, parasites, and dioramas [for selected work, see her website: http://qc-cuny.academia.edu/AmyHerzog]. Her most recent research project centers on a history of peep show arcades in Times Square, New York.