Guest Curator at Europese Stichting Joris Ivens
Film, Architecture, Poetry & Politics
October 2015: El Elefante Blanco (Felipe Egaña)
Curator: Manuel Toledo Otaegui
Name artist: Felipe Egaña
Title of the work you have chosen: El Elefante Blanco
English title: The White Elephant
Year of production: 2010
Format: HD Video
“We got in contact with Manuel Toledo Otaegui because of his work for the ArqFilmFest in Chile, and they were interested to screen a few films of Ivens there. In return, we asked him to select a film for our Politics and Poetry page and he selected ‘The White Elephant’. We are very thankfull for the cooperation. Please read the interview below for the backgrounds and watch the film here.”
About the curator
Name: Manuel Toledo Otaegui
Function: Independent designer and curator, co-organizer of ArqFilmFest, the first architecture film festival of Chile and Latin America.
What is your main interest: Public & Space design, Architecture and Film.
Where do you come from/ where do you live: Chilean. Living in Rotterdam.
About the film and the filmmakers:
What can you tell about this film? This short film by Felipe Egaña frames one of the long standing urban scars produced by Pinochet ́s coup d’état in 1973 in the city of Santiago de Chile.
The building of this hospital is an incredible architectural feat that found its days ended before completion. 40 years later it remains an empty concrete colossus surrounded by a city.
How does this film relate to the theme ‘politics and poetry’ in your opinion? The impact this building has produced on the urban fabric, as well as on the social relations and political environment, is huge. This white elephant has inspired several generations of artists, architects, designers and social scientists to remind the Chilean society about our history. Chile is well known for its poets and writers, with Pablo Neruda as a universal reference. As a poet and political activist his poetry influenced the social struggle that brought Salvador Allende to power in Chile. Out of this political and cultural movement the idea of a workers hospital emerged, so we could say that an important dose of poetry inspired this idea of a common good.
Are politics and poetry (or politics and arts) two separate worlds according to you? Why / why not? We could say that politics and poetry are arts in their own right; it requires a high level of dexterity in the use of words and the construction of complex ideas. The sharp use of words and ideas can produce similar effects on society. In my opinion they are similar, though some differences have to be considered. Contrary to politics, poetry is not based on the construction of power, it has a longer lifespan and it can exist anonymously. A cross breed of poetry and politics may however bring a different fate
There are a lot of political tensions and changes in the world right now. Do you (already) notice any changes in the focus and/or ideas and work of artists because of these developments? Do you have examples? Yes, indeed. The changes are evident, but I believe we should not be surprised by them. Human history consists of circular events that, unfortunately, cannot break loose because of the lack of awareness societies are submerged in. Nothing of what happens today –on the global scene- is new to history; it is just the sad confirmation of our ignorance of our history.
Besides the theme of ‘Politics and poetry’ are there any other comparisons between this artist and Ivens according to you? Joris Ivens lived during the most turbulent years of the twentieth century history. He brought historical events to the view of the masses, that otherwise would have kept hidden and forgotten. Those times are long gone. Felipe Egaña, however, being from a different generation of filmmakers, in times where speculation and immediateness are rules, he dares to look back in to the past with precise patience to bring back a forgotten piece of Chilean history.
You can check the original post at the European Foundation Joris Ivens website HERE