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Photography at work

July 12, 2017 8:00 pm

Beirut Art Center is hosting a film program consisting of several evenings of screenings throughout this summer that will run in parallel with the exhibition Allan Sekula: photography at work. A filmmaker himself, Sekula’s work is largely invested in social and economic critique, particularly regarding the politics of global commodity exchange and economic processes. as an artist, he considered photography a medium for continuous social engagement and action. The film program predominantly addresses the representation of labor, worker’s rights, and global industries.


screenings of films by Allan Sekula at Beirut Art Center Auditorium
Wednesday 12 July, 8 pm
Wednesday 2 August, 8 pm

Reagan tape, 1981, 10’38”
This video was an early collaboration between Sekula and the filmmaker theorist Noël Burch, produced when they worked together at Ohio state university. made during the early days of Ronald Reagan’s first term in office this ‘agitprop’ video took footage from the Republican president’s first state of the union address, a speech which laid heavy emphasis on the economy and set the scene for what would become known as ‘reaganonomics’. the material was then spliced together with scenes appropriated from his previous career as a movie star. the work was regularly screened as protests, sometimes in a makeshift portable cinema which used a car battery as a power source. at one such demonstration, Sekula donned a Reagan mask and proceeded to stuff his mouth full of cash and eat it. soon after he was fired from his university post.

Tsukiji, 2001, 43’20”
from the unloading of the hulking carcasses of frozen tuna to the brutality of the repetitive killing and the lengthy clean-up session, Sekula once again trains his lens on interrelated human labor. once again, rather than create heroic or idealized portraits of his subjects, Sekula carefully avoids spectacularization. at the same time, he seeks to avoid any romantic associations with fish markets as an age-old social space and site of production by attempting to frame its daily flows and rhythms of activity within the context of economic globalization.

A short film for laos, 2006, 45′
Discussing this video Allan Sekula has said: ‘during the indochina war, some thirty years ago, i read fred branfman’s book voices from the plain of jars. No one was as relentless as him in exposing the secret american campaign that made laos the ‘most bombed country on earth’, and thus a laboratory for imperial strategies that are both criminal and ineffective. as an american i felt an obligation to visit the plain of jars, to see what we had done there. in the retelling, the story of the war and the ‘mystery of the jars’ begin to intertwine. an ancient civilization forged an electrical connection to the sky and a secret magnetism brought american bombers to earth, where they were refashioned into spoons.  in laos, the guiding spirit of the forge is a scavenger, picking up after the demons of the war. following the story of metal, i visit the blacksmiths of ban haad hien. the metal now comes from old truck springs. the competition from chinese factory-made tools is tougher by the day. how long can this village economy sustain itself?’


Screenings of a film by Allan Sekula at metropolis cinema
Monday 11 September, 8 pm

The forgotten space (Allan Sekula & Noel Burch, 2012, 113′)
A visual documentary, the forgotten space is based on Allan Sekula’s piece fish story (1989 – 1995). the film documents the lives of workers aboard giant cargo ships and examines the personal stories within this global supply chain. The documentary takes the viewers to the harbors of Los Angeles, Bilbao, Rotterdam, and Hong Kong. The global shipping trade is responsible for the exchange of 90% of the world’s goods, but since it occurs at sea and is thus invisible to most of us, it constitutes a “forgotten space”.


workers speak for themselves at Beirut
art center auditorium
Wednesday 19 July, 8 pm
Wednesday 9 August, 8 pm

The battle of orgreave (Mike Figgis, 2001, UK, 60′)
Mike Figgis documents Jeremy Deller’s re-enactment of the battle of orgreave, the 1984 strike of the national union of mineworkers. The plant at orgreave was the site of one of the most violent altercations with the police and the miners, culminating in a “cavalry charge” through the village of orgreave. Taking place 17 years afterwards, the re-enactment saw 800 participants, many of whom had been present that day. It served to examine the battle of orgreave as legitimate counter-history, during a time in which thatcherian britain underwent violent economic change.

A bientôt j’espère (be seeing you) (Chris Marker et Mario Marret, 1968, France, 16mm, black and white, 44′)
A document on the workers of the rhodiaceta textile plant in Besancon, France and their strike in 1967, one year before May 1968. the strike itself was of particular interest because it did not disassociate the action against working conditions in industry from the fight for social and cultural change.


Photography at work and representation of labor at Beirut Art Center Auditorium
Wednesday 23 august, 8 pm

A maid for each (Maher Abi Samra, 2016, 67′)
We’re all familiar with the existence of maids in our daily lives as we’re accustomed ​ to the influence of their presence in our way of li​ving. Zein is the owner of one of the many domestic workers agencies in Beirut. He opens his office to show us how he manages his business and how we come to him in order to choose a new maid or exchange another. We, men or women, youngsters or elderly, are his clients. We conceive and create solutions and alternatives for ‘our needs’, and meanwhile, our government encourages us and pushes us to find our own solutions away from it…


Daily screenings at Beirut Art Center Auditorium

Lottery of the sea (Allan Sekula, USA, 2006, 180′)
Weekdays 1 pm and 5 pm
Weekends 3 pm
Lottery of the sea constitutes a sort of diary as Sekula travels from port to port across the globe. it borrows its title from the wealth of nations, the book written by adam smith in which he identifies financial profit through the idea of risk that drives marine trade. Sekula thus asks: “Is there a relationship between adam smith’s idea of risk, the most frightening concept in economics, and the category of the sublime?”. By documenting the maritime distribution chain and examining the lives of those involved in this industry, such as workers aboard cargo ships and investors who sponsor ships’ voyagers, Sekula argues that the sea is both a place of sublimity and of unpredictability and violence.

Image credit: Allan Sekula, tsjukiji, 2001, single channel video, ntsc, 4:3, color/sound, 44min. 33sec. film still.