Tonight in London, the Barbican presents We Have an Anchor, Jem Cohen‘s “cinematic love letter to Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton. Multiple layered film projections are interspersed with texts ranging from poems to local folklore, and buoyed by [an] alternately ethereal and epic original score written and performed by members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Fugazi, Dirty Three and more.”
In the fall of 2013, when We Have an Anchor was performed at BAM, Sarah Larson wrote up a blow by blow account for the New Yorker, noting that the project “is to Cape Breton as Instrument is to Fugazi and Lucky Three is to Elliott Smith and Museum Hours is to the Kunsthistorisches [Museum in Vienna]—full of the vitality and quiet and tedium and danger of the subject itself, shown by images, one after the other.” And Cohen told her:
I love that Fugazi fans are drawn in because of Guy [Picciotto]. I love it that some kid who’s into punk rock gets drawn in just because he’s part of it, or because Efrim [Menuck] and Sophie [Trudeau] play with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and then they’re suddenly faced with poems by [Don] Domanski or [Elizabeth] Bishop. If I can get people to read those poems, and to stare at the ocean for a really long time, I feel pretty good about what we did. And then there are people who expect a nice portrait of beautiful Nova Scotia, and they have to deal with the full-on roar of these musicians creating a sound for what it feels like to drive through a snowstorm—I feel good about that, too.
A Jem Cohen Film Season begins at Whitechapel Gallery on April 9 with a screening of Museum Hours (2012) and runs through May 28’s presentation of Chain (2004). And the Hackney Picturehouse will present Benjamin Smoke (2000) on May 17 and Instrument (1999) on May 18.
All this occasions Sukhdev Sandhu‘s profile for the Guardian: “Over the course of 30 years, Cohen, born in 1962, has built up a striking body of work–intuitively edited, sonically rich assemblages that evoke places and the ghosts of places, spots and fragments of time, the stolen and sometimes subversive poetry of daily life, snapshots of social defiance, visions of ragged beauty. It is the aesthetics of salvage, often made using supposedly obsolete formats such as Super 8 and 16mm, that preserve the traces of memories, dreams and communities that are often overlooked in the American mediascape.”