Marvelous Movie Mondays: Begging In Mushin Market

EPFC | March 26th, 2019

guest curator: Ariel Kavoussi

The theme for this month: “WHAT’S THE BODY GOT TO DO WITH IT?” This March, I will be selecting short film & video work that explore questions of the body.

For my fourth and final film/video work in this series, I’ve chosen a piece by up-and-coming visual and performance artist, Petra Szilagyi. It is entitled “Begging in Mushin Market.”

According to their Bio – “Szilagyi is an artist and student of the Super Natural. The product of a nomadic Afro-Caribbean/Hungarian, Petra has travelled from Japan, to Nigeria and many places in between, in a calling to seek the inexplicable, the unquantifiable and rich anti-structure spaces.” Szilagyi received their BA from Williams College and is current living in Richmond working on their Master’s degree in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University.

I was lucky to be able to get the artist to answer a few questions regarding this performance:

AK: Can you give any context for the video work performed in West Africa? Why were you there? What motivated these performances?
PS: I went to Lagos, Nigeria in 2010 to stay with my uncle, a Nigerian architect who has been a strong proponent to the revivification of the Nigerian aesthetic in architecture and design. I was specifically looking for art forms that I would recognize as a black American: graffiti, hip hop, versions of afro-futurism that you might see throughout the diaspora. I didn’t find these things, but rather found a culturescape in deep conversation with its own distinct lineage and a relationship to the West completely unlike the one I as a black American would have. Furthermore, given the color of my skin, I was not only a cultural outsider but considered an Oyibo, or white person, so I was a racial outsider. This was rough; I had hoped to find a deeper sense of cultural identity and connection and found my sense of identity only further unravelling. Moreover, I began to fear that this visible cultural cleft between myself and the people I encountered could fracture deeper so that even basic human connection might seem impossible. I decided to beg as an act of desperation. A desperate attempt to get people to see me as something other than a Westerner and all of the implications that characterization might bring with it (wealth, imperialism, arrogance). I begged to invert the existing narrative of ‘Young American goes to Africa and imparts aid as a form of cultural and moral imperialism’. I begged to regain my dignity and to ask for a pardon for how my country exploits and mischaracterizes Nigeria (this performance took place after Nigeria was put on the terror watch list in 2010). I begged to recognize that what I truly sought- connection, meaning, heritage- I had flown across the Atlantic to ask for in Nigeria. I came to Nigeria because I needed, and so I asked and listened to the answers and felt enriched by both the generosity of offerings and declinations.

AK: Who was your videographer / did you have any creative partners in these performances? What was your relationship to these small towns?
PS: I worked with a brilliant, wonderful, incredible performance artist name Jelili Atiku. He is from Ejigbo, where a couple of my other performances took place and we collaborated on a number of pieces while I was there. After we collaborated on a piece he had created entitled Corpus Collosum, I shared my idea to beg in a market place–an especially striking gesture because begging and panhandling is extremely uncommon in Lagos. We spoke about the manifold cultural implications on either side of the Atlantic, but most importantly, I think we were excited by this gesture’s ability to pose far more questions than it could answer.

AK: Do you have any inspirations for your performance work?
PS: I think I was inspired by all of the awkward situations I have found myself in since I could remember. Those are usually some of the richest. I was also a big fan of Leigh Bowery and David Hammons at the time.

AK: What are working on now and will you be performing again soon?
PS: I recently did a performance inspired by Rachel Dolezol that kind of felt like a continuation of the conversation I was having here. I might perform that again, it is an interactive performance with a component similar to the one I performed at Anthology Film Archive’s “Stories We Tell” Film/Video Event. I perform as a trans-racial person wearing white face makeup and a diasporan mish-mash outfit. Everyone is given my cell phone number, and after a guided meditation they are asked to text me their questions about trans-racial identity. It strikes a weird chord, not quite parody or homage, again posing more questions than it answers. I am also building and painting a series of prayer kneelers shaped like all sorts of cool things like bunnies, UFOs and naked women. I am hoping to do an ongoing piece where I ask people to submit prayer request and I pray for whatever they ask for. I am excited about this one.

Please enjoy the unique early work from contemporary video/performance artist Petra Szilagyi. And for more check out their website:

Marvelous Movie Mondays: The House Is Black

EPFC | March 18th, 2019

guest curator: Ariel Kavoussi

The theme for this month: “WHAT’S THE BODY GOT TO DO WITH IT?” This March, I will be selecting short film & video work that explore questions of the body.

For my third film in this series, I’ve chosen Forough’s Farrokhzad acclaimed poetic docu-masterpiece – “The House is Black.” (Persian: خانه سیاه است). This short (1962) takes a look at the life and suffering in an Iranian leper colony. While originally ignored during its original release, the film is now considered a landmark in Iranian cinema and most film critics agree – the film was vital in paving the way for Iranian New Wave.

”The House is Black” is Forough Farrokhzad, one of the 20th century’s leading poets, first and only film. It is filled with powerful, stirring, lyrical images, all masterfully paired with Farrokhzad’s own poetic narration.

Farrokhzad’s aim is not to shock. It is rather to provide (as the film declares) “a vision of pain no caring human being should ignore.”

Please enjoy the cinematic revelation that is “The House is Black.”


Marvelous Movie Mondays: After Hours

EPFC | March 11th, 2019

guest curator: Ariel Kavoussi

The theme for this month: “WHAT’S THE BODY GOT TO DO WITH IT?” This March, I will be selecting short film & video work that explore questions of the body.

For my second film in this series, I’ve chosen a very early short film by Jane Campion called “After Hours” (not to be confused with Martin Scorsese’s film “After Hours” which came out a year later).

Developed in partnership by Women’s Film Unit of Film Australia in 1984, “After Hours” tracks the investigation of a young woman’s sexual harassment charges against her manager.

Because it was a work-for-hire, Campion had felt she had less creative control than she would like to have had on this short and subsequently, she has come to have been highly dismissive of the project. She once told an interviewer: “I don’t like ‘After Hours’ a lot because I feel like the reasons for making it were impure. I felt a conflict between the project and my artistic conscience. [Because of funding] The film … had to be openly feminist since it spoke about the sexual abuse of women at work. I wasn’t comfortable because I don’t like films that say how one should or shouldn’t behave. I think that the world is more complicated than that. I prefer watching people, studying their behaviour without blaming them. I would have preferred to have put this film in a closet.”

While not as on-point or nearly as compelling as Campion’s later work, I think the film embodies more nuance and beauty than Campion gives it credit for. As film critic Ben Kooyman wrote concerning the film in “Senses Of Cinema” : “ After Hours conveys Campion’s patented sense of tactility – of fabrics, of objects, of the surface of water, and so on..” Laurie McInnes’s camera work is graceful and distinct (with additional cinematography by Campion herself).

And it’s much less didactic than I think Campion believes. Why exactly does Campion show another couple (a boss in a consensual relationship with his secretary) if not to introduce subtleties into this story? Why does the boss have such a sympathetic character qualification (he is a dog trainer and finds solace in animals) if he is to only play villain?

There are Easter Eggs of nuance, beauty and observation all over this incredibly human film.

Please enjoy Jane Campion’s most overlooked work – “After Hours”!


Marvelous Movie Mondays: Skin

EPFC | March 5th, 2019

guest curator: Ariel Kavoussi

The theme for this month: “WHAT’S THE BODY GOT TO DO WITH IT?”

Is the ‘body’ a source for resistance? Or is it a tool used to control? Which ‘bodies’ matter most? Which matter least? How does society imbue certain ‘bodies’ with greater or lesser power relative to others? Can anything be done to disrupt these disparities?

To start this series off with a bang I’ve chosen “Skin” (1995), written by Sarah Kane and directed by Vincent O’Connell. This British short premiered at the London Film Festival and was later given its television debut on Channel 4. It stars the brilliant Ewen Bremmer (TRAINSPOTTING, JULIEN-DONKEY BOY) and Marcia Rose. In “Skin,” Bremmer, playing a violent skinhead, comes into contact with a black woman (Rose) who lives across the street.

In the 90s Sarah Kane came to be recognized as a brilliant, intense, but highly controversial playwright. She died tragically early, a victim of suicide at 28 – we can only wonder what else she would have produced given more time on this planet.

Kane created work known for being difficult to stage and “Skin” is no different. Cheers to director Vincent O’Connell for what he accomplished in this film.

“Skin,” made in the UK over 24 years ago, could not be more relevant to what’s happening in America today. I hesitate to talk about this film too in depth for fear of giving anything away, but if you were one of the folks who was not crazy about GREEN BOOK winning best film this year at the Oscars you’ll want to watch this one.

Fun Fact: During the making of this short film Marcia Rose and Ewen Bremner fell in love, had a baby together, and are still married to this day! (Although you might not want to think of that while you’re watching… )

Enjoy “Skin”!