Curator: Christian Leyssen Silva

Title of the work you have chosen: El vuelo de Juana
English title: Juana ’s flight
Name artist: Verónica Quense
Year of production: 1996
Format: 5 m. short film - 16 mm. - black & white.  

The curator this month is Christian Leyssen Silva. Heis lecturer in Universidad Diego Portales and Universidad Internacional  Sek and besides that, the curator in Fundación José Venturelli, Santiago de Chile. Heselected an older film for us from 1996, and we are happy that treasureslike these can be found on our Politics and Poetry page from now on as well.

Interview with Christian Leyssen Silva, the curator.

What is your main interest?
art exhibitions and educational projects in the field of “art and politics”; and lecturing in the fields of art theory and communication theory.  


What can you tell about this film?
It is the first work by the Chilean fiction and documentary filmmaker Verónica Quense, and it is one of the iconic short films in the 90’s in my country, because of its extreme simplicity by portraying part of national identity, social condition, and the childhood essence. Also, it was part of a renewed free creative context after the return to democracy in 1990. It presents to us a very simple and everyday fact consisting in a mother asking her child to go to the local shop to get something necessary for the house. In this case it’s about a daughter (played by the real Quense’s daughter Isidora Robeson) who is asked to buy some bread.


How does this film relate to the theme ‘politics and poetry’ in your opinion?
Politics aspect is first of all presented by the identity portrait this film approach, regarding different elements forming a same reality.

The scenery is a little rural poor town with its own characteristic landscape: old adobe village houses, humble and simple people, including two boys and a group of evangelical Christian preaching group, a street dog (very usual in Chile), the poor and old shop that it´s a beer, rotisserie and grocery store at the same time.   

Language is relevant as well: the expression this mother use for her request is “Juana, anda volando a comprar el pan” –“Jane, go flying to buy some bread”. “Go flying to do something” is a very old and colloquial way in Chile meaning “going fast...” For its part, “Juana” is a very humble name in this regions of the world.

Here, precisely, we can observe a very direct connection with the poetical aspect. It is Juana, this little and dreamer girl, who transform that every day family fact, in the middle of a quiet rural town, in a childish, rich and poetical journey, “flying” to get the bread. Perhaps the “landing” to the reality is the situation that she explicit to her mother, when she comes back: “there is no bread”. It could be only anecdotic, but also a sign of lack and poverty in this town.

Of course, we have as well the poetical use of film language, with very few and static shots, in order to leave the movement to the characters, specially to the girl “flight”; the black-and-white option contributes very well in that purpose. 

Therefore, we can appreciate an intention to expose this kind of rural and social reality, but not necessary in its possible roughness, but in its possible abandonment and also in its daily and extreme simplicity and value, coincidentally with a very simple story as much as a simple filming language, both presented in a very poetical way.

Are politics and poetry (or politics and arts) two separate worlds according to you? Why / why not?

I think they are not. I think art or poetry keep always a political dimension, as they have a social, cultural, economic or psychological dimension, among others. But this may happen in different quantity levels and consciousness all along history. Of course we can say this considering that twenty century art theory, from Walter Benjamin ahead on, has studied and made explicit the relation between both worlds. This way, we can study this relationship for different periods and places, but always assuming that we look those subjects, and also our own time, from nowadays awareness, interests and points of view, including the way we think what art should be in society.  

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 of artists because of these developments?

At least, what I can see in my region and in my country is an increasing preoccupation by many artists, for a politically active art. This is in a wide sense of “the political”, especially considering the cultural and local territory issues, including here in (Latin) America too, what has been called “relational art” or “relational aesthetics” (by Nicolas Bourriaud). This is an artistic practice who involves the artist with a concrete context, a neighbourhood, a community, both at a same creative level. This is very important nowadays as a very direct and practical move that sometimes bypasses the state and private capital actions. It is a base art-politics relationship work.

Except for part of the cinema field, art, unfortunately, is still far from making a difference in massive or general contexts. In this level, I suppose there are other expressions, especially in the expanded visual field, with participation of the general public and due to new informational and communication technologies that can get some incidence. I’m talking about production, reproduction, mixing and circulation of thousands of images and opinions with which media users can denounce and expose the powerful ones. In any case, art is taking elements from that reality to its own procedures, therefore, to its own still limited area. 

Besides the theme of ‘Politics and poetry’ are there any other comparisons between this artist and Ivens according to you?

It has been interesting to realize that this simple short film, in some way, could be a part of an Ivens work. It is unavoidable to me thinking about “A Valparaiso”, one of the three films Joris Ivens made in my country, Chile, in the sixties. This film presents different local identity scenes from this nation and from the port of Valparaiso in particular, a “city symphony” genre film (and a “travelogue” as well). It may be said that “El vuelo de Juana” could be part of that kind of approach, and have ingredients of something we could name as a “village symphony”, because it shows clearly very much of what a little town may be; but of course, structured about the main Juana’s situation.











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