Philippines, Film, 2022


Bildnachweis: Shireen Seno, "Nervous Translation" (2018), Filmstill

Shireen Seno’s body of work touches on an array of interconnected activity from feature films to multi-screen installations, passing through collective practice, site-specific installations, photographic enquiries, and curatorial excavations. Her work traces our complex relationships with each other, our families, social and political history, media and technology, as well as animal and ecological worlds by engaging deeply with the malleability of images, and how they situate us in the world. Her attention to the power of images as mediators expands from the microcosm of the family to the colonial history of the Philippines, and incorporates an ecological understanding of relationships across species. 

Seno’s work creates space for occluded histories and stories marked by a remarkable sensitivity and a politics of attention. She has worked through an array of image-making strategies, from the Super 8 she deftly employed in the nation building childhood drama of her first feature, Big Boy (2012), which followed a family’s attempts in the 1950s to make their son as tall as possible, to repurposing birdwatching telescopes to create intimate and formally arresting ornithological images that explore bird and animal migration in her installation, A child dies, a child plays, a woman is born, a woman dies, a bird arrives, a bird flies off (2020). Her second feature, Nervous Translation (2018), is at once an intimate and captivating embodiment of the world of an anxious eight-year-old girl and a reckoning with various specters, from the long shadow of the Marcos dictatorship to an absent father working overseas who conducts his parental and marital duties through cassette tapes that he mails home. Seno’s focus on the family is often a means to address the violence and pain underpinning domestic life as much as the legacies of colonialism and domineering patriarchal figures who continue to populate the political landscape of the Philippines.

Seno’s practice is imbued with a passionate cultivation of artistic communities, principally through Los Otros, the Manila-based film and art laboratory that she runs with John Torres. Her 2020 installation, Cloudy with a Chance of Coconuts (with John Torres), turned the Portikus gallery into a film set that reflected on the precarity of itinerant filmmakers from the Global South by retrofitting baby monitors to track a destructive coconut tree threatening their parked car at home in Manila. In her most recent film, To Pick a Flower (2021), Seno offers an exacting dissection of the American colonial timber trade in the Philippines and how its influence pervades both the archive and the conventions of photography. Throughout her work, Seno builds complex worlds, intimate and metaphysical, domestic and ecological, to help us think not only about how and by whom images are made, but crucially how to think through images in the twenty-first century. 

Text: George Clark

Big Boy
(Feature film, 2012)

Shotgun Tuding
(Short film, 2014)

Nervous Translation
(Feature film, 2018)

A child dies, a child plays, a woman is born, a woman dies, a bird arrives, a bird flies off
(Video work, 2020)

To Pick a Flower
(Short film, 2021) 


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