This Formless Thing. The artist has used several films, made between 1905 and 1927, which include footage of fashion shows or cinematic diaries of trips to exotic climes. The colours in these films were mechanically applied by an automatic stencil technique, producing a strange distortion.
Navratil often begins her work with research in the scores of film archives that are stacked with rolls of celluloid from the era in which the moving visual spectacle was being invented by trial and error. For her work Views (This Formless Thing) she has used several of these films, made between 1905 and 1927, which include footage of fashion shows or cinematic diaries of trips to exotic climes.
The colours in these films were mechanically applied by an automatic stencil technique, producing a strange distortion because the colours do not entirely coincide with the images on the film. This technical imperfection underscores the constructed and ‘coloured-in’ look of the early film medium; the technology is part of what defines the representation of the (exotic) people depicted in the images.
‘This Formless Thing’ fits into the SMBA's present interest in the subject of colonial appropriation. Obtaining natural resources has always run parallel with technological developments, and still does so today. For instance, celluloid was initially used as a replacement for ivory.
Thanks to its use in digital apparatus, the demand for the African ore coltan (short for columbite–tantalite) has grown explosively. In addition to the material aspect of technology, visual representation also plays an important role in colonial appropriation of this sort. Navratil's works reveal how both people and their environments can be colonized when the camera is employed as an instrument for measurement and ‘framing’, or cultural definition. Navratil demonstrates that the visual arts are pre-eminently the field for investigating the simultaneous material and visual exploitation of the film medium.
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