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Lecture: Dirk De Meyer // Film screening: Miranda Pennell “The Host”

Saturday, 17. Februaryam 20:00

Lecture by Dirk De Meyer: Generated stories. Operating Ana Torfs’s Story Generator

In her intertextual installation Story Generator, the Belgian artist Ana Torfs suggests a new approach to interpreting the last 500 years of Belgian colonial and economic history: The Story Generator contains 505 index cards with a wide variety of images and text excerpts that can be read by two viewers sitting across from each other at the same time. This gives rise to a dazzling web of associations and cross-references that lead the exhibition visitor through stories and scenes of a fragmentary history spanning more than 500 years. Yet Torfs’s anthology is obviously not “neutral”—without a doubt, her guiding principle is the growing degree of wealth in our part of the world, since the beginning of modernity, including its material, scientific, artistic, and cultural developments and achievements that are owed to the brutal exploitation of people and regions abroad.

Scrolling through a selection of the index cards and using Torfs’ associative way of working, Dirk De Meyer will have the Story Generator generate some musings, associations and affiliations that may shed light on the Story Generator’s nature, and eventually on the work of Ana Torfs.

Dirk De Meyer is Professor of History of Architecture and Architectural Design at Ghent University, Belgium. After his training as an engineer-architect at Ghent University he studied architectural history at the IUAV (Venice). He holds a Ph.D. from TU Eindhoven and held study residencies in Prague and Rome. A former Visiting Scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, he has been its Chief Curator from 2003 to 2005.

His major research areas are: eighteenth-century European architecture and its relation to culture, sciences and politics; in particular Gianbattista Piranesi; Johann Santini Aichel and early-eighteenth-century architecture and urbanism in Bohemia and Moravia; the historiography of the architecture of the 16th through mid-eighteenth centuries, its impact on twentieth century architecture, and its relationship to cultural and political issues, including nationalism.

His books on the late-Baroque period include Johann Santini Aichel (1998), Piranesi: Archeologie en Inventie (2008), Aspects of Piranesi: Essays on History, Criticism and Invention (2015), and Eighteenth-Century Neapolitan Staircases (2017). He contributed to books published by a.o. the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Munich), Electa (Milan), Blackwell (New York), 010 (Rotterdam) and the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Paris). He has published in journals such as the JSAH, the Journal of Architecture, Casabella, and Oase, and has curated international exhibitions in Belgium, Prague and Montréal.

Miranda Pennell, The Host, Video HD, 60’, 2015

A filmmaker turns forensic detective as she pieces together hundreds of photographs in search of what she believes to be a buried history, only to find herself inside the story she is researching. The Host investigates the activities of British Petroleum (BP) in Iran; a tale of power, imperial hubris and catastrophe. While the tectonic plates of geopolitical conspiracy shift in the background, the film asks us to look, and look again, at images produced by the oil company and personal photos taken by its British staff in Iran– including the filmmaker’s parents– not for what they show, but for what they betray. The Host is about the stories we tell about ourselves and others, the facts and fictions we live by – and their consequences.

Miranda Pennell originally studied contemporary dance before making films, and later obtained a masters in visual anthropology. Her film and video work exploring different forms of collective performance whether dancers, soldiers or fight directors, has been widely broadcast internationally and presented in festival and gallery contexts.  Her recent moving-image work uses archival materials as the starting point for a reflection on the colonial imaginary.  Her film Why Colonel Bunny Was Killed (2010) examines  British image-making in the Afghan borderlands at the turn of the 20th century. It was awarded best international film at the 2011 Images Festival, Toronto, and  Courtisane Festival of Film & Media Art, Ghent. Pennell’s feature-length film The Host (2015) toured selected UK arthouse cinemas in 2016, and was awarded the 2017 Punto de Vista Award for Best Film at the International Documentary Film Festival of Navarra.  In 2011 she received an AHRC scholarship for her doctoral research at the University of Westminster. She has worked as a freelance commercials director, a teacher in the fields of film, video and performance, and she also writes and curates.


Program in english language. Free entrance.



Saturday, 17. February


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