Saturday, September 02, 2006



I watched the film Ashes and Snow today.

I want to lighten up, and enjoy this truly enchanting and fluid film, but I cannot shake the feeling that I was supposed to be seduced into not noticing the racism and exploitation ...

People of color with their eyes and mouths closed and still as stone. Exquisite women of color dancers playing second fiddle to the white swim-dancers who had the first and last scene. Haikus written with the self-important tone of a white man. The white man who has the last word while the third world folks are his "medium." It was set up so that the human beings were objectified. He contributes, imo, to racism in the form of the exoticizing and dehumanizing of women of color. Men and children too for that matter. Then he imposes his poetry on top of their worlds.

I mean, it was a step up from images of starving Africans with flies in their eyes ...

At the time I was watching, I thought the narrator was white. I stand corrected Laurence Fishburne is a black man. That helps some, but the fact remains that a white man waltzed around the world and took what he wanted from it.

When I started Ashes and Snow in 1992, I set out to explore the relationship between man and animals from the inside out.”

—Gregory Colbert

Canadian-born artist Gregory Colbert began his career in Paris making documentary films about social issues. Filmmaking led to his work as a fine arts photographer, and the first public exhibition of his work was held in 1992 at the Musée de l’Elysée in Switzerland.

For the next ten years, Colbert showed no films and exhibited none of his art. Instead, he travelled to such places as India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Dominica, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tonga, Namibia and Antarctica to film and photograph wondrous interactions between human beings and animals.

In 2002, he launched the Ashes and Snow exhibition in Italy at the Venice Arsenale, a 125,000-square-foot 15th-century shipyard owned by the Italian navy. It was the largest solo exhibition ever mounted in Italy. The Nomadic Museum debuted with the opening of Ashes and Snow in New York on the Hudson River’s Pier 54, and subsequently migrated to Santa Monica, California.

More than one million people have attended the show since the beginning of its journey in Venice. The project has been embraced by a general as well as a critical audience, and Gregory Colbert received the 2005 Lucie Award for Curator of the Year for the Ashes and Snow installation at the Nomadic Museum in New York.

Colbert continues his expeditions and the development of Ashes and Snow.

He began his career in Paris making documentary films about "social issues". What social issues? I'd really like to know. I see the words but no explanation. I google his name and I see "social issues" "social issues" but no details.

Although the beauty of Ashes and Snow was phenomenol, the images of African and Indian children, stone still, eyes closed, faces and bodies half immersed in water just infuriated me. I really am angry.

It could've been reminding us of genocide and haunting us with that to take action. But it didn't keep that theme.

From about LA
The title Ashes and Snow was meant to infer beauty and renewal. The Ashes and Snow exhibit combines more than 100 5'x8' photographic stills with a one-hour film and two nine-minute film haikus. The ongoing Ashes and Snow project also uses a fictional story of a man writing a series of 365 letters to his wife to help tell the story of a year-long journey.

There was a way that it all didn't make sense. The racism was screaming at me. Why did a white man and woman begin and end the film with their erotic partnering dance? Yes, it was beautiful but why was it that the people of color were always alone or sensual with animals, or looking half dead or asleep? Argh. I don't have the information so blast me. Go ahead. I just have this big feeling about it. Something big wasn't right.

Oh there was beauty, heck yes. And the folks who participated may have been treated well (and paid well?) so blast me but was this a white guy who made this piece? Gregory Colbert is white.

The powerful moment, I thought, was when the stunning dancer danced away the jackals. It was the most power of the women's shots. I thought, she'll dance/fight off the racism. I was in love with the woman with the long arms and such exquisite graceful hands who danced amid a large eagle or falcon. But, other times there were shots of women being dragged away and all you see is the feet. It was that. It was haunting. It was disturbing. But not disturbing in the "take action"kind of way. Disturbing in the white-guy-uses-poc's kind of way. I've heard rumors--there is a story about Gregory Colbert I will hear tomorrow from my friend.

There was something underneath all this beauty that didn't sit well with me. Am I off or am I off? Please! Correct me if I'm wrong! Tell me he paid the ca well and they have been credited properly. Tell me he's raising consciousness about the awareness of animals and the intelligence, value and humanness of third world folks.

Crossposted at Culture Kitchen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is quite possibly one of the most ridiculous, self-serving, narrow-minded, hate-filled blogs I've ever read. Ashes and Snow is a masterpiece that in NO WAY touches on racism.

That fact that ALL the characters had their eyes closed was not meant to point to death or genocide...where in the world did you come up with that??! It symbolized peace, rest and ease.

The narrator even mentions how these were what he saw in his dreams. In the last line of the poem, he tells his love to burn the letters and then lay them on the snow next to a river. Then, when the snow melts and the river rises, he tells her to return to the river and re-read his love letters to her, but this time with her hands cupped over her ears, so she can close out the rest of the world and use her imagination to hear him speaking to her.

I don't know about you, but most people tend to close their eyes when they want to see inside their head and focus on their imagination.

On top of that, the "white guy" in the beginning and in the end sequence is the artist himself. The woman that he's with is NOT a white woman, but resembles someone of East Indian descent.

For you to find racism in such a work of peace and beauty, you must be amazingly angry and incredibly full of self-loathing.

I pity you.

11:43 AM PST  

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