– Autumn/Winter 2019

Comedy of Entanglement: The Karrabing Film Collective

May Adadol Ingawanij

Karrabing Film Collective, Night Time Go, 2017, film, colour, 31min. Courtesy the artists

Karrabing Film Collective, Night Time Go, 2017, film, colour, 31min. Courtesy the artists

How to tell stories of relations and existence? This is a key question being posed across wide-ranging fields of practice to retune our imaginaries of ecological entanglement and possibilities of life in the Anthropocene. What processes of making, what expressive and combinatory forms, create affects and concepts that make tangible the connection between colonisation and environmental catastrophe, that embody imaginative futures and imaginaries of life for all? The novelist Amitav Ghosh speculates that the modern novel form itself, with its reality effects grounded in the investment in statistical probability and in the everyday of bourgeois ideology, is ill-suited to the contemporary urgency of narrating climate catastrophe.1 In his recent study of artistic practices and environmental engagement, the art historian T.J. Demos surveys speculative uses of film documentary, installation and artistic research to create different ways of perceiving the violence of state and corporate extraction and grasping moments of resistance and possibility.2 The multi-authored book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet proposes the figures of the ghost and the monster, an ethics

  1. Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016, pp.15–24.

  2. T.J. Demos, Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2016, pp.167–98.

  3. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan and Nils Bubandt (ed.), Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017, pp.G1–G14.

  4. Tess Lea and Elizabeth A. Povinelli, ‘Karrabing: An Essay in Keywords’, Visual Anthropology Review, vol.34, no.1, 2018, p.37.

  5. Ibid.; see also E.A. Povinelli, Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

  6. For instance, ‘Karrabing Film Collective: Wutharr: Saltwater Dreams, Introduced by Vivian Ziherl’, Vdrome, available at http://www.vdrome.org/karrabing-film-collective-wutharr-saltwater-dreams; ‘Episode #18 Elizabeth Povinelli and Karrabing Film Collective’, Conversations in Anthropology@ Deakin [podcast], January 2019, available at https://soundcloud.com/anthro-deakin/ep18-povinelli; Spencer Lai, ‘Growing up Karrabing: a conversation with Gavin Bianamu, Sheree Bianamu, Natasha Lewis Bigfoot, Ethan Jorrock and Elizabeth Povinelli’, un Magazine, vol.11, no.2, 2017, available at http://unprojects.org.au/magazine/issues/issue-11-2/growing-up-karrabing/ (all links last accessed on 10 June 2019).

  7. A conversation with a number of Karrabing members, which highlights the collective’s valuing of the ludic qualities of their praxis, appears in a recent issue of un Magazine devoted to humour in art. See ibid.

  8. Key books on Third Cinema include Jim Pines and Paul Willemen (ed.), Questions of Third Cinema, London: BFI Publishing, 1990; Michael T. Martin (ed.), New Latin American Cinema Volume 1: Theory, Practices, and Transcontinental Articulations, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997; Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media, Abingdon: Routledge, 2014.

  9. T. Lea and E.A. Povinelli, Geontologies, op cit., p.39; Gabrielle O’Brien, ‘Keeping Country Alive: Dreaming, Decolonisation and the Karrabing Film Collective’, Metro Magazine, no.199, 2019, pp.108–13.

  10. See Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Tales from Djakarta: Caricatures of Circumstances and their Human Beings, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.

  11. Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, ‘Introduction’, in ibid., p.14.

  12. To borrow from Robert Stam’s useful summary; see Robert Stam, Keywords in Subversive Film/Media Aesthetics, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015, pp.79–86.

  13. See ibid., pp.68–100.

  14. See ‘Growing up Karrabing’, op. cit.

  15. See James Penney, ‘Zooming Out: Sembene’s Ceddo and Third Cinema Aesthetics,’ Canadian Journal of Film Studies, vol.24, no.1, March 2015, pp.2–24.

  16. See Daniel Morgan, ‘The Afterlife of Superimposition’, in Dudley Andrew (ed.), Opening Bazin: Postwar Film Theory and its Afterlife, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, pp.127–41.