Deborah Stratman

[Juror’s Statement]

I enter the cinema to be stopped in my tracks. I want to see film which has been harrowed by ideas, which has risked for them, been moved by them. I want to witness something articulated which I’ve experienced, but never named. As an artist, I like to work with subject matter that resists me. In the end, I make because I don’t know.

In terms of what film can achieve in a political world, I like what Alain Badiou says about poetry. That it’s “not a rule bound crossing, but rather an offering, a lawless proposition . . . Philosophy cannot begin, and cannot seize the Real of politics, unless it substitutes the authority of the matheme for that of the poem.” Or as Charles Bowden says, what’s explained can be denied, but what is felt cannot be forgotten. 

Attentiveness is powerful. Observation, in its potential to cede space and agency, is powerful. We hear and see the patterns we’ve been culturally biased to. So how can we attend to other temporalities, other views, other approaches? Let the foundation shake a bit. Leave room to be surprised. Question the habitual. Question bricks. Question the height of the curb. Which station our radio gets left tuned to. The route we favor. Notice who speaks, and who gets the last word. Be curious why certain people, certain modes of telling, certain versions of events are more trusted than others. Instead of celebrating the freedom to succeed, let’s celebrate with Julia Kristeva the freedom to revolt, to call things like laws, and norms and values into question.

As Donna Haraway says, be answerable for what you learn how to see.

Deborah Stratman

Artist and filmmaker Deborah Stratman makes work that investigates issues of power, control and belief, exploring how places, ideas, and society are intertwined. Recent projects have addressed freedom, sinkholes, comets, orthoptera, surveillance, manifest destiny, infrastructure, levitation and faith. She has exhibited internationally at venues including MoMA NY, Centre Pompidou, Hammer Museum, Mercer Union, Witte de With, Tabakalera, Whitney Biennial and festivals including Sundance, Viennale, Berlinale, CPH/DOX, TIFF, Oberhausen, Locarno, True/False and Rotterdam. She is the recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim, Sundance Art of Nonfiction and USA Collins Fellowships, an Alpert Award and grants from Creative Capital, Graham Foundation, Harpo Foundation and the Wexner Center for the Arts. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at the University of Illinois.

Vever (for Barbara)

USA / 2019 / English / Color / Digital File / 12 min

Director, Editing, Sound Design: Deborah Stratman
Photography, Voice: Barbara Hammer
Texts, Field Recording: Maya Deren
Drawing: Ito Teiji
Music: Katherina Bornefeld, Ito Teiji, George Hadow
Source: Pythagoras Film

Three filmmakers of different generations seeking alternative possibilities to power structures they’re inherently part of. The film grew out of abandoned film projects of Maya Deren and Barbara Hammer. Shot at the furthest point of a 1975 motorcycle trip Hammer took to Guatemala, and interlaced with Deren’s reflections of failure, encounter and initiation in 1950s Haiti. A vever is a symbolic drawing used in Haitian Vodou to invoke a loa, or spirit.

O’er the Land

USA / 2009 / English / Color / Digital File / 50 min

Director, Photography, Editing, Sound Design: Deborah Stratman
Music: Maryane Amacher, Kevin Drumm, Steve Rowell, Lustmord, Rich Hammond
Voice: Rob Kelly
Source: Pythagoras Film

Turns the camera on America’s cultures of consumption, entertainment, sports, and guns—while also telling the story of Lieutenant Colonel William Rankin, who in 1959 broke out of a fighter jet at an altitude of 47,000 feet, surviving a fall through torrential rain and thunder. Indirectly and in fragments, these images, in addition to recorded interviews, combine into an account of Americans’ patriotism and their ideas of freedom.