Clarifying the Record

Co-organized with artist Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen
April 2013
Hanoi DOCLAB and Galerie Quynh, Saigon

Clarifying the Record

Recovering a 16mm newsreel produced by the Albanian Communist Party, a son discovers a silent image of his youthful mother. Staging a maritime funeral of Soviet soldiers, the U.S. government videotapes a fictitious parody of military respect. Tracing South Vietnamese propaganda films to Washington D.C.’s Library of Congress, two artists disrupt the narrative conventions of war. Through these interrogations of displaced and lost archives, fictional histories and classified information, Clarifying the Record questions the tenuous links between political documentation, nation building, and truth construction. By locating aporia in the making of a document and the architecture that both beholds and encases it, the works presented explore the charged relationship between the material’s plasticity and the complexities of political transference between generations of people.

Jenny Perlin
Letter, 2010
16mm transferred to HD video, 56 seconds

This series of short stop-motion animations by Jenny Perlin, which are interspersed throughout the screening program, are part of a cycle of eight films that explore domestic espionage during the Cold War. Located at Columbia University in Manhattan, the “Perlin Papers” is an archive of FBI documents relating to the investigation, trial, and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, U.S. citizens convicted of espionage in the paranoiac atmosphere of 1950s America. The archive is named in honor of civil liberties lawyer Marshall Perlin, who collaborated with the couple’s children in a successful effort to declassify the documents. Music by Aaron Copland, a renowned American composer believed by the FBI to have Communist sympathies, provides the score. In Letter, a single re-animated letter refers to the numerous letters, petitions, and translations contained within the Perlin Papers archive.

Lin + Lam
Unidentified Vietnam No.18, 2007
16mm transferred to HD video, 30 minutes

Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Embassy of South Vietnam’s collection was transported to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Contained within this archive is a small group of “unidentified” propaganda films—numbered from 1 to 17—that were produced with substantial U.S. aid and often processed in the Philippines. Through a critical reworking of archival material, information architecture, and historical narrativity, artists Lin + Lam construct a counter-archival exploration into what comes after military colonization.

Jenny Perlin
Division, 2010
16mm transferred to HD video, 55 seconds

Scattered throughout the Perlin Papers are short texts instructing field agents to ascertain covert information about private citizens. The tools provided are a name, an address, or a phone number.

Julia Meltzer and David Thorne
It’s not my memory of it: three recollected documents, 2003
Video, 25 minutes

Divided into three parts, It’s not my memory of it explores instances of state-sanctioned secrecy, memory, forgetting, and documentation. A former CIA source recounts his disappearance through shredded classified documents that were painstakingly reassembled by radical fundamentalist students in Iran in 1979 following the takeover of the U.S embassy. A CIA film—recorded in 1974 but unacknowledged until 1992—documents the burial at sea of six Soviet sailors, in a ceremony which collapses Cold War antagonisms in a moment of death and honor. A single photograph pertaining to a publicly acknowledged but top secret U.S. missile strike in Yemen in 2002 is the source of a reflection on the role of images in the dynamic of knowing and not knowing.

Jenny Perlin
Inaudible, 2006
16mm transferred to HD video, 1 minute and 44 seconds

Inaudible makes visible all the words that the FBI could not hear or imagined were being spoken in a 1953 transcript of a Manhattan dinner party that took place four months after the Rosenbergs’ execution.

Anri Sala
Intervista, 1998
MiniDV, 26 minutes

While moving house, a young art student—Anri Sala—discovers a twenty-year-old newsreel depicting a congress of the Albanian Communist Party and an interview with his mother, Valdet. However, the sound had been lost and only images remained. In an effort to learn the contents of the speech, Anri visits former party leaders, the original sound technician, and a school for the deaf, who are finally able to decipher the words. When confronted with the idealism of her youth, Valdet is unable to reconcile current unrest in Albania with her disavowed optimism, both of which seem to fracture hope for her children’s, and her country’s, future.

Jenny Perlin
Notes, 2006
16mm transferred to HD video, 2 minutes and 20 seconds

Harry Gold, codename “Goose,” was convicted in 1951 for passing secrets of the atom bomb from physicist and spy Klaus Fuchs to Soviet agents. The animations in this film are copies of Gold’s drawings, scribbled over drafts of his resume and cover letter to the Atlantic Refining Company, Personnel Department, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1948. The FBI considered these doodles important enough to classify and archive for decades.

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