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Emanuel Licha

January 24, 2018

Initially trained in urban geography, and then visual arts, Emanuel Licha is an artist and filmmaker. His work in installation, film, video installation, and photography focuses on the role of spatial objects in the representation and the understanding of geopolitical events, leading to a reading of the features of the urban landscape as so many social, historical, and political signs. Hotel Machine, his latest film, premiered at the festival Cinéma du Réel at the Centre Pompidou and was exhibited as a film installation at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2017. This exhibition, titled Now Have A Look At This Machine, is on view at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery from January 26 to April 1. Licha holds a PhD in visual cultures from the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London. He is Assistant Professor in the department of Art History and Film Studies at Université de Montréal.

1. Windows and balconies

Photos (clockwise): Jeff Widener, Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Patrick Baz, Olga Yakimovich.

Does anyone remember seeing these images? Did you know they were all shot from hotel windows or balconies? “War hotels” are where journalists live and work when they cover a conflict. They are places from which war is looked at, analyzed, discussed, and enunciated, thus playing an active role in the framing of conflicts: both the ways they are publically represented and the ways that we in turn see them unfold. My film Hotel Machine was shot in five of them.

2. 4x4s

Photo: Emanuel Licha

“Keep windows closed and doors locked when travelling by car.” This is travel advice given by the Government of Canada to Canadians visiting Haiti. The country has the world’s highest proportion of humanitarian workers per inhabitant, but in Port-au-Prince they’re nowhere to be seen walking in the streets, which are instead crammed with these 4x4 vehicles with tinted windows belonging to international aid organizations. What and how does one see from them? This is the subject of the film I’m currently working on.

3. Humanitarian hubs

Photo: Pieter van den Boogert

Imagine a gigantic Ikea providing supplies to alleviate the world’s suffering. After “regarding the pain of others,” this is where one plans the needs of others. Another film project I’m working on.

4. Bedside book 1: Emergency items catalogue

Photo: Solidpepper

Over the Christmas holidays I read this catalogue edited by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (ICRC). I finished the 1,200 pages of the three volumes describing over 10,000 emergency items on Boxing Day.

5. Bedside book 2: Methodological fetishism

“We have to follow the things themselves, for their meanings are inscribed in their forms, their uses, their trajectories. It is only through the analysis of these trajectories that we can interpret the human transactions and calculations that enliven things. Thus, even though from a theoretical point of view human actors encode things with significance, from a methodological point of view it is the things-in-motion that illuminate their human and social context.”
Arjun Appadurai, ed. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. p. 5.)



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