Kingdom of Shadows
black & white/colour, stereo, 50 min.
digital betacam safety master, English, Dutch and French versions
The point of departure for this film is the (Protestant) second commandment: 'Thou shalt not make graven images nor worship them.' Kingdom of Shadows is about the confrontation between Tan and this prohibition of images. As artist and filmmaker she thinks of herself primarily as an 'image maker'. This film scrutinizes complex thoughts and feelings towards the ceaseless stream of pictures, which fill life and memory.
Images and our attitudes towards them have changed greatly since the invention of the camera and of printing. Few of us could imagine life now without photography or cinema. In the form of an associative collage, Tan unfolds a personal vision of how we currently relate to images, concentrating on photography – a medium we particularly employ to create a picture of the world, to piece together what we call reality.
Paradoxically, the starting point for this is the final resting place for many photos: archives and collections. Starting with the enormous mountains of all collected visual material, Tan made a selection of found footage and photographs. Structured in three parts, flanked by an introduction and epilogue, the film includes four individuals: a collector in Amsterdam, a cinematographer who collects amateur photographs in Budapest, a retired press photographer in Hamburg and an artist in New York who concentrates on what is not seen. All four present their most treasured photos and the individual ways in which they use, love and hate images. The pictures they show are humorous, endearing and heartbreaking. Far from a nostalgic reminiscence, all four are actively engaged in dealing with the meaning of images now.
Kingdom of Shadows is a film about looking. Throughout, a personal vision of the world of photography and film is unfolded. Shot in both black and white and colour 16 mm film and experimenting with the use of found footage, this film is edited as an associative collage. The title, Kingdom of Shadows is a quotation from Maxim Gorki: it is the description he gave of his first visit to a cinema screening given by the Lumière brothers in 1896.
courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London
DVD available from:
Frith Street Gallery, London