Synopsis

Blue is the chromatic, historical and discursive filter through which a "spoken word" performance by African-American poet Kain unfolds. The precursor of hip-hop in the late ’60s delivers his radical poem as the Belgian percussionist Lander Gyselinck improvises to the flow of his utterances. Throughout the performance various museum objects — funeral figurines, automaton, astrolabe, mappa mundi, textiles —are juxtaposed to Kain’s own props. They invoke affective retrospections on exile and belonging, slave routes and colonial trade.

«So far, all that has given color to existence still lacks a history»
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Ultramarine, refering to a deep blue pigment but also to overseas regions, is a visual poem constructed from locally chosen historical objects. The film has been commissioned by the Printemps de septembre in Toulouse (France), a city historically connected both to 'pastel' blue pigment and to the 'Gay Science' of the troubadours. 

The film is conceived as a kind of «narrated exhibition» featuring Kain The Poet – the Afro-American poet and performer, part of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) at the end of the sixties and creator of the mythic 1970 album Blue Guerilla. He colors history through spoken word, alluding to his own exile blues in Amsterdam. The music is improvised by drummer Lander Gyselinck.

Ultramarine is composed like a spectrum: it unfolds and intertwines fragments of meaning. This narrative form creates the possibility of connecting Kain's radical poetic to a larger frame of investigation: museum objects and artworks from very different origins, all stored in Toulouse museums and in collections of the Occitan region. These objects are put in dialogue with stage props and reproductions of art works that surround Kain in his Amsterdam exile since the 1980s.

Disrupting the Eurocentric written logic of historiography as well as that of museum classifications, Ultramarine sets a constellation of objects moving and acting, enabling them to perform their possible agency. The immersive experience of colour, a living, textured, spectral and polymorphic substance is here rendered inseparable from its political component and from cinema as magical practice.

The installation version of the film is the focal point of Blues Klair, a solo show touring Canada, first taking place at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University), Montreal, 2018, and later at The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019.

Stills

Vincent Meessen, Ultramarine, 2018. Stills

Bio's

Kain the Poet

Gylan Kain, also known under his stage name, Kain the Poet, is a poet, playwright and actor born in Harlem (NYC) and living in Amsterdam. His spoken word practice, in dialogue with Beat culture as much as the rhetoric of Black Power, is among the precursors to hip-hop. In 1970 Kain released his solo album Blue Guerilla on which he delivers incendiary lyrics over a background of free jazz. Through the Seventies, Kain operated the East Wind Cultural Center in Harlem and wrote for theatre, notably the plays Epitaph to a Coagulated Trinity and The Urination of Gylan Kain. At the beginning of the 1980s, he left the United States for Europe. There he collaborated with percussionist Z’ev and with Electric Barbarians, among others. While long remaining in the shadows, Kain’s performances and phrasing, as well as the radicality of his words have influenced numerous artists, notably Dr. Dre and the band The Prodigy who sampled his voice in their hit Voodoo People.

Lander Gyselinck

Born in 1987, the Belgian jazz musician and composer, Gyselinck first came to hip-hop before making his mark in the experimental jazz scene. Not only is he a prodigious and inventive drummer, but also a composer with his various projects, including STUFF, a quintet mixing hip-hop, jazz and funk, the duo Beraad- Geslagen, LABtrio and Ragini Trio, Sandy, the New York group Howard Peach, Sinister Sister, as well as his solo project, Known Alone. Gyselinck has received numerous prizes, notably three Music Industry Awards in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the Toots Thielemans Jazz Award (2010) and the Flemish Culture Prize for music (2015). He is a doctoral candidate at the Royal Conservatory and Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent, where he also resides.

Vincent Meessen

Vincent Meessen was born in Baltimore, USA, in 1971, and lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. His artistic work is woven from a constellation of actors, gestures, and signs that maintain a polemical and sensible relation to the writing of history and the westernization of imaginaries. He decenters and multiplies gazes and perspectives to explore the variety of ways in which colonial modernity has impacted the fabric of contemporary subjectivities. Both in his work as an artist and in his paracuratorial activities, he likes to use procedures of collaboration that undermine the authority of the author and emphasize the intelligence of collectives.

He recently presented solo exhibitions at Ellen Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal (2018-2019), Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse (2018); Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris (2018), WIELS, Brussels (2016), MUAC, Mexico (2014). With Personne et les autres, a collective exhibition at the Belgian Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale, Vincent Meessen has represented Belgium with ten invited artists from four continents. An evolving duo show with Thela Tendu has toured to BOZAR, Brussels (2017); Kunsthalle Basel (2015) and KIOSK, Ghent (2013).

Recent group presentations include Proregress, 12th Shangai Biennale (2018-2019); 50 Years after 50 Years of the Bauhaus 1968, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart (2018); and Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future, Taipei Biennale (2016). His films have been screened at numerous museums and art centers including MUMOK (Vienna), Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid), Lincoln Center (NYC) and in film festivals including IFFR (Rotterdam), IDFA (Amsterdam), Oberhausen International Short Film Festival and FESPACO (Ouagadougou).

Vincent Meessen is a member of Jubilee-platform for research and artistic production. 

Credits

Ultramarine, 2018
42 minutes, HD & 35mm, sound & colour

Directed by Vincent Meessen

Jesus Wept (The Journey of K)
Abridged version, written and performed by Kain The Poet

Music improvised by Lander Gyselinck

With guest appearances by
Dirk DeJonghe
Serge Nicolo & Germain Berdie
Noémi Panguiangani
Malek Terkemani
Valérie Alingrin
Gea Russell

Director of photography Vincent Pinckaers
Image assistants Artur Castro Freire, Lucy Mallet-Jemmings
Sound recording Laszlo Umbreit, Rémi Gérard, Frédéric Alstadt
Image editing Inneke Van Waeyenberghe
Sound editing Laszlo Umbreit
Sound mixing Rémi Gérard
Color grading Miléna Trivier
Lab  DeJonghe Film Postproduction
Subtitles Erik Lambert
Design Spec

Installation version 
Textile design Diane Steverlynck, Emilie Lecouturier 
Surround sound Lazlo Umbreit, Rémi Gérard

Production & distribution Jubilee-platform for artistic research and production
Executive producer  Inneke Van Waeyenberghe
Coordinator Annemie Knaepen
 Copywriter Jesse van Winden

Produced in collaboration with
Le Printemps de septembre, Toulouse
Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal
The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto

With the support of
Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (VAF)
Vlaamse Gemeenschap
Nouveau Musée National de Monaco

Screenings

AWARDS

Bright Future Shorts
Ultramarine wins an Ammodo Tiger Short Award

 

Statement of the Jury  :

“Rarely has the relevance of film to performance been so clear. The role of cinema here stunningly enforces the rhythm, vision, and urgency of the poet’s delivery. The film is precisely structured in a way that allows us to see the images the poet conjures, to sonorise the beat at which he speaks and to feel what is so radical in his utterance. The jury was utterly convinced.” 

The Jury : Nguyen Trinh Thi,  John Canciani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan

 

European Media Art Festival (EMAF) No. 32
Ultramarine wins a Dialog Award of the Ministery of Foreign Affairs

The Jury : Graeme Arnfield, Branka Benčić, Nicolas Feodoroff

 

PAST

48th International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR),World premiere screening
January  23 - February 3, 2019

Courtisane, Ghent, Belgium
April 3 - 7, 2019 

European Media Art Festival (EMAF) No. 32, Osnabruck, Germany 
April 24 - 28, 2019

Internation Competition of the Videoex Festival, Zurich Switzerland
May 25 - June 2, 2019

Festival International du Documentaire, FID Marseille, France
July 9 – 15, 2019

 

Installation

Like the shifting layers of blue in the film's 35 mm cinematic image, as well as the surround soundscape, the exhibition display – a modular textile display designed in collaboration with textile designer Diane Steverlynck and scenographer Emilie Lecouturier – offers an immersive experience to the visitor.

Vincent Meessen, Ultramarine, 2018. Installation views
Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse. Photo 1 à 3 : Damien Aspe, Photos 5 à 10 : Normal
Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal. Photo 4 : Paul Litherland/Studio

 

PRESENT

Vincent Meessen. Blues Klair
The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto

September 21, 2019 – January 05, 2020

past

Ultramarine
Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse
September 21, 2018 - October 21, 2018

Proregress
12th Shangai Biennale
October 11, 2018 - March 03, 2019
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 2pm to 4:30pm

Vincent Meessen. Blues Klair
Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal 
November 17, 2018 – February 23, 2019

 

Press

Frieze February 05, 2019

Le Monde October 07, 2018

 

Télérama September 24, 2018

press kit

Contact

Distributed by
Jubilee-platform for artistic research and production
www.jubilee-art.org 
distribution@jubilee-art.org