The City as Flesh

For the 43rd session of our film series we are excited to welcome Natasha Ginwala, who brings us David Wojnarowicz’s film A Fire in My Belly (a work in progress), and Ruchir Joshi’s My Rio, My Tokio–10 poems & 3 songs to Calcutta.

A Fire in My Belly (a work in progress) and My Rio, My Tokio are collaged filmic works that offer a sequenced form of narrating from the edges of an urbane subconscious. They are corporeal echoes deliberating the city as poetic terrain, vigilant to those maligned forces of political and religious power that fill its streets and invade its dark desires. In these protagonists (before and behind camera) there is a yearning for informal existence, lawlessness and anonymity in the forced embrace of a metropolis. Through two films, I recollect the words of Jean Genet, “A great wind swept over the ghetto, carrying away shame, invisibility and four centuries of humiliation. But when the wind dropped people saw it had been only a little breeze, friendly, almost gentle.”

A Fire in My Belly (A Work in Progress)
Shot with frenetic agility on a Super 8 camera, David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly (a work in progress) assembles roving shots from a trip to Mexico City with staged scenes captured in the artist’s New York apartment. News headlines, playing cards and street posters operate as paratext, while a wrestling match, cockrel fight, an interlocked matador and bull and circus performers render loops of aggression that perpetually bind predator and prey. While this film was never completed, it remains an essential document on the artist’s radical visions of city living seen through the lives of prone sexual beings, his friendships and struggle in AIDS activism, as well as allegorical framing of the venomous spread of the religious right.

Film provided courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix and the Estate of David Wojnarowicz.

My Rio, My Tokio–10 poems & 3 songs to Calcutta
My Rio, My Tokio is a video collage of the city of Calcutta/Kolkata in 2010. Taking off from a section of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, the film moves through 13 randomly numbered ‘chapters’ in which text-poems and songs overlap with video-poems of and about the city. Bringing together Baul music, Bangla rock, readings by former Communist Party member and Naxalite Sumanta Banerjee, the soundtrack drives us hypnotically as commuters through political rallies, Durga Puja celebrations, a deadly fire and funeral procession. The desk, tree and the various insides of Calcutta’s old, iconic Ambassador taxis return again and again as codii, even as the camera goes to other places, finding itself in Morocco or the Eurostar to Paris.

Film provided courtesy of the artist.

Natasha Ginwala is a curator, researcher, and writer. She has been curator of Contour Biennale 8 Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium and curatorial advisor for documenta 14 (2017). Recent projects include My East is Your West featuring Shilpa Gupta and Rashid Rana at the 56th Venice Biennale; Still Against the Sky featuring Hajra Waheed at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and Corruption...Everybody Knows with e-flux, New York within the framework of the SUPERCOMMUNITY project. Ginwala was a member of the artistic team for the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (with Juan A. Gaitán) and has curated The Museum of Rhythm at Taipei Biennial 2012 (with Anselm Franke) and at Muzeum Sztuki (with Daniel Muzyczuk) in 2016. From 2013–15 she led the multi-part curatorial project Landings with Vivian Ziherl. Her upcoming projects include Riots: Slow Cancellation of the Future at ifa Gallery, Berlin and Stuttgart in 2018. Ginwala writes on contemporary art and visual culture in various periodicals and has contributed to numerous publications.