Could you give a brief background into the Cinema issue [#37] of Runway Experimental Art Journal and what prompted the decision to focus the issue around the art of film?  

Sarinah Masukor: When I first proposed Cinema as an issue I’d been noticing that a lot of young Australian artists were working in response to films. Of course artists drawing on film in their work has been going on throughout the 20th and 21st century, but there seemed to be a particular concentration in the Australian emerging scene over the past few years and so I wanted to explore that. When Alifa came on as guest editor that developed into us putting together a program of films by diasporic filmmakers and asking the contributors to respond to them. It was a way of looking at ideas we’d been discussing - ideas about race, class and colonialism - indirectly. And tricking a whole lot of people into watching films they hadn’t seen before.  

The issue also became an opportunity to do something I’d been wanting to do since joining the Runway board - and that was to do an issue that had all POC contributors - in the end there are a couple of white contributors but the majority are non-white. And they are responding to films mainly by non-white filmmakers.  

Were the artists given films to respond to at random to or did you allocate a film to each of the 12 artists that feature in the issue? 

SM: I think we actually had a rough list of films together before we received submissions so we were able to curate the artists in the issue around the films we wanted to program. There was a bit of juggling, we changed some of the films in relation to some of the artists we really wanted to include, but everyone was lined up with a film that somehow already spoke to some element of their practice. For example, Matt Chun has an established practice of landscape and nature drawing, and the film he responded to, debbie tucker green’s The Second Coming - has a sort of mystical approach to nature within it. Carla Uriarte’s writing and painting is very much about the internal and everyday experiences of being a young woman in the world and Mati Diop’s film connects to that. But we weren’t prescriptive as to how the artists should respond or to what aspect of the film they should respond to. That was very much up to them and they all did it differently. Paul Matereke and Hanna Tai both responded to single visual moments, while Erin Crouch questioned the concept of making something new in response to a story she felt needed to be seen more widely. Erin’s response is incredibly thoughtful because she performs an act of taking herself out of the picture and allowing Marlene Cummins to speak for herself.   

Regarding curating the 4 works to be shown at Kudos Gallery, what process was involved in choosing these works and the order in which they’re played? 

SM: They were the four video works that were ready in time! The order makes sense formally (to me anyway!) in the sense of creating a sound path for the screening, with moments of loudness and softness. Hanna and Elise’s films are quite subtle in terms of their image so it made sense to have them together. 

Is there a particular reason or meaning for the selection of a silent film? 

SM: Elise’s film happened to be silent - she often works with silent projection. And it’s a film focused on the female close up which is a hallmark of silent cinema. There’s a lot going on in Elise’s work and I think it really works best as a large scale projection. 

How was the overall experience of working with a number of different artists? Did you learn anything interesting or new from them? 

SM: It’s always invigorating to work with other artists, particularly when you throw an idea at them and they come back with something you would never have thought of yourself. I think the work that was most eye opening for me was Erin’s - she responded to Rachel Perkins’ documentary Black Panther Woman by buying the rights to screen the work on the Runway site for twelve weeks. It’s probably too complex a gesture to adequately unpack here, but I think she felt that if she were to simply make her own response she would be contributing to the problem of white people speaking for or speaking over black people. In the work she actively practices silence and supports a voice she felt was not enough heard, which is an extraordinary thing for an artist to do. I’m sure I’ve oversimplified it but it’s a very thoughtful action.  

What sparks your interest in a particular artist and/or their work? 

Alifa Bandali: The very first work I saw was Paul’s, and I was immediately taken with how he was using technique, space and people. I had to rewatch Do The Right Thing (the film he responded to) immediately, because I wanted to think about his reply to the film and the original in relation to each other. After I did, I only loved his work more. I also did this with many of the other artists as well, and it really helped me get a better understanding of what the artists were trying to capture.  

Have you had any memorable responses to the Cinema issue? 

SM: The day after the launch at Kudos Elise sent me a particularly moving message. I’m not going to repeat it here but yes, I felt like we’d done something important.  

AB: Yes, the reactions from those who have seen the exhibition or have looked at the Cinema issue, have been really positive. 

What kind of challenges did you face as a curator when putting together Cinema? 

SM: Because the works were all newly commissioned, making sure everyone was able to finish their work in time for the launch was a challenge. We had some artists drop out along the way and had to replace them. Also with new work you have the fear that it won’t come together, or that the works won’t sit together or speak to each other. We were lucky in this case! 

Do you have any advice for budding curators? 

SM: Curate! See a lot of exhibitions and know what your artist peers are doing. If you see a show you think is really well curated, take note of why and do some further research into the curator and their approach. I’ve learnt a lot by looking at how other people do things.  

Interview conducted by Lora Adzic and Sabina Sundaramoorthy as part of the White Cube Volunteer Program 

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