Michael Blum Projection

Michael Blum, still from Capri in Tangerang, 2011, video, 45 min. Courtesy of the artiste.

February 12, 2004 at 6:30 pm
at the Cinémathèque québécoise

Four investigations

BY MARIE-JOSÉE JEAN

Financial crisis, market economy, globalization and ideological structures are all theoretical concepts likely to be problematic because of their abstract nature. It may in fact be inadequate to raise the question in these terms, because the issue here is not so much abstraction—after all, any theory is an abstract representation of reality—as it is the fact that the economy too often appears out of step with reality. The four films in this program are built around investigations conducted by Michael Blum, who, using very concrete realities—a pair of shoes made in Jakarta, the Karl Marx Chocolate Works in Kiev, the collapse of major ideological systems of the last century—and plenty of humour, helps us better understand how History and its theories play out.

Programme

Wandering Marxwards (1999) is a flight of fancy built around Sergei M. Eisenstein’s failed attempt to make a film of Das Kapital. It examines the relevance of re-reading the work of Karl Marx—150 years after the publication of The Communist Manifesto and concurrent with the clandestine World Trade Organization negotiations that paved the way for globalization—via a protagonist who is seen reading that very work. Shot in the style of a burlesque comedy, Wandering Marxwards is a comical investigation of the historical gap between the Industrial Revolution and the globalization of markets.

In the video essay The Three Failures (2006), Michael Blum casts a critical gaze on the three great ideologies of the 20th century, interweaving them into a burlesque fairy tale: an eccentric character recounts the failure of communism, the cul-de-sac of social democracy and the decline of capitalism in a lecture consisting of quotations. Shot in Riga, Latvia, Malmö, Sweden and New York City, U.S.A.—cities emblematic of those differing political systems at given points in their history—The Three Failures offers a critical reappraisal of political ideologies while interrogating modern history and its utopias, both political and social.

Charlie Marx and the Chocolate Factory (2009) is an inquiry into the connections between the production of chocolate in a confectionery factory in Kiev and political theory. The factory was named the Karl Marx Chocolate Works in 1923, in honour of the theoretician, before being modernized and eventually privatized in the early 1990s. It nevertheless still produces items like the Kievsky, a Soviet-era cake that came to symbolize the Ukrainian capital. Comprising archival footage and re-enactments—the artist was denied access to the factory—the film explores the linguistic slippages (semantic, among others) from Soviet politico-speak to the corporate jargon of neo-capitalism.

Capri in Tangerang (2011) is a follow-up to the film My Sneakers (2001), in which Michael Blum journeyed to Indonesia in search of the factory where his Nike shoes were made. A decade later, he makes a second visit to Jakarta, this time to find the plant where his daughter’s shoes are manufactured. Indonesia’s factories continue to produce this footwear, although the world around them has completely changed…

Exhibition

Michael Blum. War and Peace
2014.02.07 - 04.12

War and Peace, Blum’s latest solo exhibition, comprises an installation and film that recount infamous French criminal Jacques Mesrine’s time on the run in Canada in the late 1960s…

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