April 12th and April 24th, 6pm
at Watershed Art & Ecology, 1821 S. Racine Ave

Work by or including: Rifaat Al-Arair, Marianne Hoffmeister Castro, Marguerite Duras, Christopher Chong Chan Fui, Chris Marker, Rachel Mayeri, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Leo the Lion, Paul Seban, and Deborah Stratman. Programmed by Jacob Lindgren.

Camera Trappings is a series of screenings and accompanying discussions which zooms in/out on histories of animal and landscape photography, zoological space, Hollywood's naturalization of animal images, and nature capture cams in order to examine the ways they frame our gaze towards animals, and by extension, ourselves. Through a collection of film, video, and text-based works it asks: is it possible to film the natural world through a nonhuman lens? What filmic conventions aid, or hinder, in doing so? What is the camera’s role in shaping humans’ gaze towards animals in the first place?

On April 12th, a series of shorts interrogates the origins of the camera parallel to technologies for hunting and capturing animals, then pans to the zoo as a site for framing (and re-thinking) encounters between us and our nonhuman counterparts. By comparing images created often hundreds of years apart—as motion studies, hunting expedition photography, zoology, and deconstructed video games—including some made explicitly for viewing by animals, the collection of works identifies and tries to squeeze through the bars formed when animals appear in-frame. “How does the way we use camera equipment on documenting animals then and now, tell us about what we are looking for through the lens?” –Chris Chong Chan Fui, Camera Trap (2019)

On April 24th, Deborah Stratman joins the conversation with a screening of Last Things (2023), a geological survey of filmmaking’s terrain as a possible medium for displacing the anthropocentric point of view. With an intertextual weaving of natural, prehistoric and speculative material—such as Roger Caillois’ writing on stones, Robert Hazen's theory of "Mineral Evolution," Clarice Lispector’s Hour of the Star, the symbiosis theory of Lynn Margulis, multi-species scenarios of Donna Haraway, Hazel Barton’s research on cave microbes and Marcia Bjørnerud’s thoughts on time literacy—the film offers a lithic proposal for displacing humankind and human agency when storytelling nonhuman histories. In this case, imagining prehistory is inseparable from envisioning the future.

Throughout the programming, online at www.cameratrappings.com, Marianne Hoffmeister Castro’s A seed a deer a seed (2023) is screening, a short film examining conservation efforts at a botanical garden by threading together stories and modalities of care and management of local ecosystems. While identifying the alliances and challenges inherent between plant, animal and human communities—especially those in the camera’s line of sights—the work features nocturnal footage of animals, archival material from an herbarium, and fragments of conversations with botanists and seed bank carers, and formulates the question: “What are the ecological alliances that need to be sustained in time?”

Panning from the origins of protocinema via rock cave paintings, to some of the first animals captured on film shown at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition’s Zoopraxographical Hall—the first commercial movie theater, to contemporary approaches for ecological research, and then back to stones-as-vessels for nonhuman timescales, the series seeks to question the anthropocentric desire to “capture” animals and whether inverting the lens allows for film to hold a mirror to said gaze. In addition to information about the works included, www.cameratrappings.com includes further resources, film recommendations, and readings surrounding the topic.