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Chantal Akerman opens desert installation

Jerusalem exhibition is multi-layered immersive e

Belgian-born, US-based filmmaker and artist Chantal Akerman will open her desert-inspired installation De la mer(e) au désert at the Mamuta Art and Media Centre on Tuesday evening at Hansen House, a former leper colony-turned-cultural centre close to the Jerusalem Cinématheque.

Based on a trip to the town of Arad on the border of the Negev and Judean deserts, the multi-layered De la mer(e) au désert installation features several moving tracking shots projected onto the Jerusalem stone walls of the vaulted basement of building.

Interviewed by Screen on the eve of the installation’s opening as she was setting up, Akerman described the installation as an immersive experience that is meant to disorientate the visitor, giving them the impression they are travelling through a non-specific desert setting at high speed.

“I wanted to play with this specific space,” she said. “It’s a very physical experience that I am trying to create. Nothing is still, everything is moving all the time, all the time. There’s no narrative. You can’t really describe it… it’s primordial.”

The filmmaker said she first visited the town while shooting her contemplative documentary on Israel, Là-bas, inspired by a sojourn in Tel Aviv.

As part of the inauguration, Akerman will read extracts from her autobiographical work Ma Mére Rit, capturing her relationship with her mother in her final years on Tuesday evening. There will also be regular screenings in the space of her latest, untitled documentary capturing the final years of her mother’s life, which she describes as work-in-progress over the coming month.

The installation, put together in collaboration with the Screen Based Arts Department of the Bezelel Art Academy and the support of the Ostrovsky Family Fund, is being held in within the framework of the Jerusalem Film Festival.

The celebrated filmmaker has been a regular guest at the festival since the 1970s. “I think I first came here with Jeanne Dielman,” she recalls, alluding to her award winning film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles about a bored housewife. “It’s always so brave and daring.”

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