Filipa César & Louis Henderson: Op-Film – An Archaeology of Optics

Gasworks, London, United Kingdom
27 Apr 2017 - 25 Jun 2017

Filipa César and Louis Henderson, Sunstone (still), 2017. Film. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen. Courtesy of the artists.

Filipa César and Louis Henderson, Sunstone (still), 2017. Film. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen. Courtesy of the artists.

Gasworks presents Op-Film: An Archaeology of Optics, a collaborative exhibition by artists and filmmakers Filipa César and Louis Henderson.

The exhibition comprises a newly commissioned film and installation based on ongoing research that explores how optical technologies of military and colonial design—from lighthouse Fresnel lenses to global satellite navigation systems—both inform and are informed by Western models of knowledge. Taking a critical approach to the ideologies behind the development of these instruments of guidance and surveillance, the artists consider how imperial gestures of discovery, revelation and possession are embedded in associations between seeing and understanding, light projection and enlightenment.

The film tracks Fresnel lenses from their site of production to their exhibition in a museum of lighthouses and navigational devices. It also examines the diverse social contexts in which optics are implicated, contrasting the system of triangular trade that followed the first European arrivals in the “New World” with the political potential seen in Op art in post-revolutionary Cuba. Incorporating 16mm celluloid images, digital desktop captures and 3D CGI, the film also maps a technological trajectory: from historical methods of optical navigation to new algorithms of locating, from singular projection to multi-perspectival satellitic visions. Registering these technical advances progressively through their film’s materials and means of production, the artists develop what they describe as “a cinema of affect, a cinema of experience—an Op-Film.”

Alongside this work, an installation collages together key documentary materials that underpin their research to date, including archival images, oceanic charts, lighthouse blueprints, lights and fragments of Fresnel lenses.

Op-Film: An Archaeology of Optics is co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen and supported by Arts Council England, Fluxus Art Projects, Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art and the Gulbenkian Foundation.

Opening: April 26, 6:30–8:30pm


Exhibition events

Offsite screening: “There must be a connection between production and destruction”
Friday, April 28, 6:30–8:30pm
At Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD
Filipa César and Louis Henderson present four films by Harun Farocki: War at a Distance (2003) and Parallel I, II and III from the four-part series Parallel (2012-14). Following the screening, they will be in conversation with Erika Balsom, senior lecturer in Film Studies and Liberal Arts at King’s College London.

Research seminar: “Refracted Spaces”
Friday, June 2, 7–9pm
Saturday, June 3, 10am–7pm
Gasworks presents “Refracted Spaces,” a research seminar convened by Filipa César and Louis Henderson. Together with Zach Blas, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Ana Naomi de Sousa, Olivier Marboeuf, Margarida Mendes, Rachel O’Reilly, Roque Pina and Lorenzo Pezzani, the artists will discuss the themes of their exhibition in relation to topics ranging from indigenous sea-navigation methods and cartographic law to forensic research of the Mediterranean refugee crisis; from aesthetic strategies of nonlocality, opacity and obscurity that interrupt optical surveillance to systemic racism embedded within technological developments; and from the materiality and ontology of blackness and black light to afrofuturist narratives of submarine resistance.

Residency events

Summer Open Studios
Open studios: Saturday, June 24, 12–6pm
Artists’ talks: Saturday, June 24, 4pm

Aleš Čermák (Czech Republic), hosted in the Sackler Residency Studio
Minja Gu (South Korea), hosted in the Outset Residency Studio
Ieva Kraule (Latvia), hosted in the Juan Yarur Torres Residency Studio
Claudia Pagès (Spain), hosted in the Roberts Residency Studio

Gasworks’ current international artists in residence open their studios to the public throughout the day on Saturday, June 24. Open studios and artists’ talks offer London audiences a unique opportunity to see, hear about and discuss the research and work-in-progress that these artists have been developing during their residencies at Gasworks.

Gasworks’ current residencies are supported by Czech Centre, London and Arts Institute, Prague; ARKO (Arts Council Korea); Kim?, Latvia; and Acción Cultural Española (AC/E)


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