Walker Art Center
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"Le Cinema est un Language Universel"


films.) In the gallery environment you have much more liberty. If you like the work, if you are really fascinated by it, you can sit down and enjoy the whole thing. But no one obliges you to stay. There is an unwritten rule when you enter the cinema that you have to stay to the end. It's a pretty rare occasion when people walk out on a film. What is interesting about showing films in the galleries is that it gives the viewer greater liberties. I'm always fascinated when I see people stay through to the very end. When I went to Cologne to see Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle (I saw only three of the five films), I was amazed that people sat through the whole thing, only taking breaks between the films. There was this continuity of viewing. People will do this in the galleries if the work is really powerful, if it's something that fascinates them, mesmerizes them, attracts them. I saw the same thing happen with Doug Aitken's piece in your exhibition Let's Entertain.[3] It was a marvelous piece, a piece exactly about this freedom. You could sit down, you could watch, you could leave. And you had all these different screens to choose from.

This explosion of cinematic artistic practice is really central to both of our fields and to the discourse around the moving image as an art form. I think it is time that visual art and film curators join each other when it comes to the moving image and that any remaining boundaries between the two fields disappear without creating tensions and maelstroms.

PV: We've been discussing so many of these issues in the context of the Walker's global initiative. How do you think this shift toward the global is affecting not only the history but also the future of cinema and cultural institutions? What changes has this initiative brought to you and to your practice?

CB: In terms of my practice, I have continued to do what I was used to doing. The biggest pleasure is that I found an audience for it, that the programs have attracted a wide variety of communities. One incredible example was when we had a public talk after screening a Senegalese film. The filmmaker was speaking French, someone was translating into English. Suddenly some people started to talk with him and I was lost, because they were speaking in a native dialect. There was all this animated discussion going on and I was completely lost . . . but these are beautiful moments. When I presented a Romanian film--my God, I didn't know there were Romanians in Minneapolis! Through my programming I am able to find out just how many communities there are in the cities. For me this is the greatest reward, to discover these different communities and have conversations with them all. However, I hate to program for a particular community. I think we should program out of our desire to tell certain stories, the things that we feel need to be told, whether it's coming from China or Russian or Nepal or wherever.

PV: Or Wisconsin.

CB: We just have to look for amazing work and present amazing work. There are so many cultures here, and they are present even when you don't program something specially for them. Sometimes I don't know how they even find out about a certain series or screening, but they show up. And it's always a benefit to have these communities in the audience and to hear their questions because, of course, they have their own life experiences and they ask different questions. The pleasure is that the community is there and our regular audience is there, and suddenly there is something like a chemical reaction, a chemical bonding. Those moments are what I love so much; there starts the exchange.

PV: So the Landmark Theaters are right: "le cinéma est un language universel."

CB: Of course it's a universal language . . .


3 Doug Aitken, these restless minds, 1998.