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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Blog posting written by Dorothea Hinman, Cinema and Photography '15, FLEFF blogger, Rochester, NY
The Distributed Microtopias Exhibition at this year's FLEFF is packed with tons of new media from talented artists from the upstate area. Nicole Antebi is one of such artists, whose piece Geography of Reclamation: An Essay in Three Parts explores the impact of dams and earthworks on the environment through animation. I was privileged enough to ask her a few questions about her piece.
Dorothea Hinman: I was wondering if you could go into depth and explain this piece in your own words.
Nicole Antebi: In Geography of Reclamation: An Essay in Three Parts, I locate the term “Reclamation” both historically and geographically. I use animated drawings in tandem with archival audio tracing the changing term “Reclamation” through the work of Floyd Dominy (Dam evangelist and head commissioner of the Bureau of Land Reclamation from 1959-1969), David Brower (First executive director of the Sierra Club and someone who believed strongly in an aesthetic connection between people and place) and Robert Smithson (The influential Land Artist who coined the term “Earthwork”). Through their monumental gestures, these three figures make a case for both the utilitarian and aesthetic function of their respective projects. As we grapple with the future of dams and earthworks, the animation weaves together, for better or worse, their monumental imprint on the landscape of the west. The video is as much about “the case for wildness” as it is for art making.
DH: Your animation style is very distinct and indicative of the theme of the video essay. I was wondering if you could explain your art background and how your artistic style evolved into what it is today?
NA: For as long as I can remember I've been trying to make objects that move and tell stories. I made my first animation a few years ago. The animation, entitled Uisce Beatha, is a fantastical biography of William Mulholland, suggests that the chief water poacher of the LADWP, until 1928, may have in fact been “UISCE” (pronounced whiskey)– the half man, half horse Irish trickster who searches for unsuspecting riders to drown in inland bodies of water.
This project led to other biographies of the grandiose and destructive ways in which water has been conjured in the west. I like using animation to explore these histories because it is well-suited for expressing transgressive boundaries (human/non-human, fantasy/reality) and bringing to life histories of which there is no original documentation.
DH: Could you please explain your decision to promote environmental issues like reclamation through art? Personally, I don't think there's a better venue than through art and media, but what is your reasoning?
NA: I’m agnostic about the word reclamation. The term and it's ideologies have changed drastically in the twentieth century. What once described the belief that all free-flowing water should be captured and diverted before arriving at the sea has somewhat appropriately been reclaimed to mean habitat and watershed restoration. I'm fascinated by this. The idea that one word can carry so much meaning and yield so much wreckage, and then with time, come to represent a different set of values altogether. I don't think of my project as solely "environmental." To a large extent, I think I’ve always been interested in excavating subjects, figures, etc. who represent a kind of monumentality and whose stories are largely fixed–I want to know if there is anything left to say about these bloated subjects/histories/places.
Make sure to check out her piece as well as the other works in the exhibition. Not only do they ignite conversation on important environmental issues, but they do this through unique forms of art employed through new media. How do you think art and new media is changing the conversation about environmental issues?