Non-commercial film is an essential, powerful presence on the institutional and commercial contemporary art circuit. With each biennial, festival, art fair, or touring exhibition, films fill a substantial portion of the host facility’s repertoire. These four filmmakers have already achieved an enviable level of recognition, and their respective profiles are likely to keep rising.
Born 1977 in Oradea, Romania
Lives and works on Earth
The aforementioned notation of Cantor “living” and “working on Earth” is precise: in the last five years, he has mounted solo exhibitions in Vancouver, Rome, Paris, New York, Berlin, Glasgow, Salzburg, London, Tel Aviv, and Zurich (to include a few). Among Cantor’s work (even beyond film to drawing, sculpture, and textiles), his 2012 film Sic Transit Gloria Mundi is a beacon of skill and profound historical critique. Held in the permanent collection of the Museo D’Arte Contemporanea di Castello di Rivoli in Turin, it is a visualized metaphor for the Latin phrase “Thus passes the glory of the world”. A circle of faithful lay supplicant on the floor, while a mysterious priestess-figure ignites a thread of gunpowder laid over their bandaged, outstretched hands. At its terminus, it is extinguished in the hand of the priestess standing over them. This film reflects Cantor’s more extended aesthetic practice, incorporating observations of organized religion, armed conflict, and biological processes.
Born 1972 in Ravenna, Italy
Lives and works in Milan
Is it possible to cast a machine in a role where it is more than just functional, but almost human? Ancarani’s films are meant to humanize what may seem soulless, while simultaneously revealing the machinations of the human soul. A 2010 work entitled Il Capo reveals the arduous work of a quarryman in the commune of Carrara in Northwestern Italy: with two severed fingertips as proof of his commitment, the “boss” orchestrates his chorus of bulldozers as they extract the precious blue-grey slabs from the mountainsides. Screened at the 2013 Venice Biennale, within the massive exhibition called The Encyclopedic Palace, Da Vinci (2012) is a 25 minute film devoted entirely to the actions of a surgical machine. It is, of course, piloted by human surgeons, but its graceful movements and near-perfect precision in performing an operation too difficult and risky for human hands make it seem autonomous, independent, almost in possession of its own personality.
Born 1981 in Innsbruck, Austria
Lives and works in Berlin
We are a species always seeking “better”, “new”, “improved”, “bigger”, and “faster.” But in terms of art, where do those distinctions lie? At some point, the impulse to become “perfect” drives an aesthetic object from reality into myth. That hazy barrier appears to be of primary interest to filmmaker and animator Laric, who unquestionably stole the show at the 2015 New Museum Triennial: Surround Audience. An untitled film work depicts a series of animated characters undergoing change and transformation, compelled in perpetuity. Two interludes show 3-D characters (the first interlude showing an Egyptian-like deity and the second showing two half-wolf, half-human beings) experiencing successive masking and digital embellishment. Laric explores the limits of our notion of “better” through the accelerated processes of digital manipulation, which on its own may alter or shatter perceptions of the technologized world we choose to accept.
Born 1970 in K’far Yehezkel, Israel
Works in Tel Aviv and Amsterdam
Bartana treads the razor-thin line between “emerging” and “established.” It’s an unusual distinction, but a coveted one where her work never panders to the basest levels of mass entertainment in film, while simultaneously gripping her viewers with stories that put the veracity of even the most entrenched global histories to the test. She represented Poland with her celebrated film trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned (2011) at the 54th Venice Biennale, which not only profiled the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (a utopian group calling for the return of Jews scattered around the world to return to their places of origin), but activated a new political force. Her 2013 film Inferno took on faint shades of the Hollywood epic: the building of Solomon’s Temple, its destruction, and subsequent idolatry of its ruin all within the hands of a neo-Pentecostal group in São Paulo, Brazil. So why is she a “filmmaker to watch” rather than a filmmaker we should already know? Once she makes a full-length feature film, that question will be swiftly resolved.