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Filipa César and Louis Henderson, Sunstone, film still, 2017. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8. Courtesy of the artists.

Filipa César and Louis Henderson, Sunstone, film still, 2017. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8. Courtesy of the artists.

Filipa César and Louis Henderson, Sunstone, film still, 2017. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8. Courtesy of the artists.

Filipa César and Louis Henderson, Sunstone, film still, 2017. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8. Courtesy of the artists.

Filipa César and Louis Henderson, Sunstone, film still, 2017. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8. Courtesy of the artists.

Filipa César & Louis Henderson, Sunstone, 2017. Single-channel video, colour with sound, 34:43 min. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen. Courtesy of the artists. Photo: Andy Keate.

Filipa César & Louis Henderson, Sunstone, 2017. Single-channel video, colour with sound, 34:43 min. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen. Courtesy of the artists. Photo: Andy Keate.

Filipa César & Louis Henderson, Sunstone, 2017. Single-channel video, colour with sound, 34:43 min. Co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen. Courtesy of the artists. Photo: Andy Keate.

Throughout April and May 2020 Gasworks presents a series of online screenings of artist films commissioned for our exhibitions programme over the last few years. Featuring works by Monira Al QadiriLouis Henderson & Filipa César, and Maryam Jafri, each piece will be available to stream on Gasworks’ website for one week and is accompanied by interviews with the artists, audio lectures and reviews.

The second film to show in this series of online artist films is Sunstone, a film made collaboratively by artist / filmmakers Filipa César and Louis Henderson. The work was based on ongoing research that explores how optical technologies of military and colonial design – from lighthouse Fresnel lenses to global satellite navigation systems – both inform and are informed by Western models of knowledge. Taking a critical approach to the ideologies behind the development of these instruments of guidance and surveillance, the artists consider how imperial gestures of discovery, revelation and possession are embedded in associations between seeing and understanding, light projection and enlightenment.

The film tracks Fresnel lenses from their site of production to their exhibition in a museum of lighthouses and navigational devices. It also examines the diverse social contexts in which optics are implicated, contrasting the system of triangular trade that followed the first European arrivals in the 'New World' with the political potential seen in Op art in post-revolutionary Cuba. Incorporating 16mm celluloid images, digital desktop captures and 3D CGI, the film also maps a technological trajectory: from historical methods of optical navigation to new algorithms of locating, from singular projection to multi-perspectival satellitic visions. Registering these technical advances progressively through their film’s materials and means of production, the artists develop what they describe as “a cinema of affect, a cinema of experience - an Op-Film.”

Sunstone was exhibited in the exhibition Op-Film: An Archaeology of Optics which was on show at at Gasworks between 25 April 25 June 2017.  READ MORE

Op-Film: An Archaeology of Optics is co-commissioned by Gasworks and Contour Biennale 8, Mechelen and supported by Arts Council England, Fluxus Art Projects, Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, the Gulbenkian Foundation and Gasworks Exhibition Programme supporter Catherine Petitgas.

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Press articles and additional resources

Read an exhibition review by Alice Bucknell on Temporary online, or scroll down to read PDF reviews in Art Monthly, as well as the project's inclusion in Artforum's top film works of 2017 as chosen by Erika Balsom. Scroll down to read PDF article A Filmic Allegory: a material-semiotic analysis of Sunstone by Filipa César and Louis Henderson, by Sara Buoso, published in The International Journal of New Media, Technology, and the Arts, Vol. 14, Issue 4, Commonground Research Network, Illinois, USA, December 2019. 

You can read find a text, Opal and the Sunstone, by the artists below.

 

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Filipa César is an artist and filmmaker interested in the politics and poetics of moving image. Since 2011, César has been looking into the origins of cinema in Guinea-Bissau as part of the African Liberation Movement. Selected film festivals include: Cinéma du Réel, Paris (2018); Forum Expanded at the Berlinale (2013, 2016 and 2017); Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen (2013 and 2016); and IFFR, Rotterdam (2010, 2013 and 2015). Her work has also featured at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Lubumbashi Biennial (both 2019); Gasworks, London; Contour 8 Biennial, Mechelen; MoMA, New York (all 2017); Mumok, Vienna (2016); Tensta Konsthall, Spånga (2015);  SAAVY Contemporary, Berlin (2014); Jeu de Paume, Paris, (2012); Manifesta 8, Cartagena; and the 29th São Paulo Biennial (2010).
 
Louis Henderson is an artist and filmmaker whose works investigate connections between technology, history and anthropology. Developing an archaeological method in cinema, his films question our global condition defined by racial capitalism and the histories of the colonial project. His films have featured internationally at festivals and art organisations including the Berlinale; IFFR, Rotterdam; CPH:DOX, Copenhagen; New York Film Festival; The Contour Biennial, Mechelen; Kiev Biennial; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid; Belo Horizonte Film Festival; British Film Institute; Nottingham Contemporary; Tate Modern, London; Gasworks, London; and Whitechapel Gallery, London. His works are distributed by LUX, Video Data Bank and Phantom.