Virtual Women Filmmakers Festival: Screening with Beatriz Santiago Muñoz

  • On Wednesday, March 16, 2022, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) hosted artist and filmmaker Beatriz Santiago Muñoz for a virtual film screening and conversation about her work that explores the picturesque landscapes, fraught histories, and complex demographics of Puerto Rico. In "Otros Usos (Other Uses)" (2014), Santiago Muñoz captures, through the view of a refracting prism, the deceptively beautiful island of Vieques, which the US military used as a weapons testing site for six decades. Through this creative play with light, reflection, and distance, the artist imagines other uses for this terrain after the military’s pressured exit from the island in 2003. In "Gosila" (2018), the artist explores the disordered aftermath of hurricane Maria. By presenting an intimate exploration of often-stereotyped spaces, Santiago Muñoz’s reflections on her home fracture expectations and illuminate her subjects in new ways. All artwork clips have been removed from this event recording.

    Santiago Muñoz is joined in conversation by Taína Caragol, curator of painting and sculpture and Latino art and history at the National Portrait Gallery, and Saisha Grayson, curator of time-based media at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

    This program was part of SAAM’s fourth annual Virtual Women Filmmakers Festival, which was presented completely online and ran from March 1-23, 2022, in honor of Women’s History Month. In 2022, the festival focused on the theme of “(Re)Making Space,” and featured the following artists: Sasha Wortzel, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, and Shirin Neshat. Through their artistic choices, the conventions they overturn, and the visionary insights they bring to each frame, each artist uses their cameras and imaginations to reshape how we see the world. Through powerful and experimental artworks, they invite us to examine our relationships to and deeper understandings of chosen landscapes.

    This program was made possible by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Because of Her Story, and was co-presented with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Hello everyone, good evening. I'm Saisha Grayson, Curator of Time-Based Media at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, I'm so glad you could tune in for this, the second of three live screenings and conversations we're hosting for the 2022 Women Filmmakers Festival at SAAM “(Re)Making Space.” Tonight's featured artist-filmmaker is Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, and we'll be joined in our conversation after the films by Taína Caragol, the Curator of Painting and Sculpture and of Latino art and history at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. In addition to tonight's special guests I want to sincerely thank the expansive team at SAAM that makes this series possible and the American Women's History Initiative for supporting the Festival in this, its fourth year, and the folks at Smithsonian AV for bringing the Zoom to your screen and to our live captioner for making our conversation accessible to all. As we gather tonight in cyberspace, physically scattered in different locations please join me in acknowledging the native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we each sit, including the divers and vibrant Native communities who make their home in DC where SAAM's historic buildings reside and where I am in Lenapehoking, also known as New York City. For more on the Lenape, also known as the Delaware Tribe, visit their official tribal website, linked in the chat and to learn more about the Native peoples where you are you can begin by cross-referencing the digital map Native Lands and the National Congress of American Indian’s list of tribal representation, also provided in the chat. And now as we settle in for this program I would like to invite us all to take a deep breath. To find a slower pace within our body and to let the tick-tick of tasks and to-dos drop off for now and I’d like to suggest you put away other screens and get comfortable in your space and draw your attention to this virtual intersection where you, me, and the work of Beatriz Santiago Muñoz can meet because her work is often about slowing down and finding other paces -- and drawing attention. When I was thinking about this year's Women Filmmakers Festival and a desire to kind of think about space, as a way that filmmakers can get us to look at and attend to it differently, there is nobody who more aptly fit that theme or consistently makes this question a center of their practice than Santiago Muñoz. For me over the past few years there's been this real underscoring of how profoundly where we are impacts how we experience the world. And then also an urgency sort of related to how the environment is becoming an obviously existential consideration and how we relate to that as one that we really need to attend to, so I knew that this would be the focus for this year's festival and that Santiago Muñoz had to feature prominently. I first met Beatriz when curating a 2016 show on Agitprop, which we defined as art not just about political causes but art that sought to make change in the world through its form and how it's distributed and how it reaches people. And at that time her reputation reached from Puerto Rico where she lives and works to Brooklyn, where I was, for her anti-colonial feminist film practice as well as her role in creative activism and pedagogy. And in preparation for that show we discussed her work as a co-founder of Beta-Local, an art platform and educational, experimental program in San Juan and her work organizing and leading these itinerant or walking seminars --- with filmmakers and theorists and curators, moving as a group around Puerto Rico and different landscapes to kind of learn from those spaces.But in typical fashion, as we were talking, she radically shifted my whole way of approaching what could be considered Agitprop, suggesting that we look at her film, “La Cabeza Mató a Todos,” which is both an artwork but she said “also a spell”– a formal and ritual instantiation of poetic irrationality created expressly to confront and dismantle the irrationalities of the military industrial complex and the endless war machine. I've been thinking a lot about that, I’ve been thinking how deeply we've needed this spell for all the years since that conversation. War has been a constant for regions across this planet ever since and even as we focus on it today as it ripples in horror through Ukraine and Europe. And the militarism and imperial project of the US has also been a constant, shaping Puerto Rico's landscape and people's experiences for centuries through very much to the present.And so this history and current realities will be one we'll really be able to delve deeply into after the screening thanks to Beatriz’s and Taína’s real expertise in different ways of thinking and approaching this. However, in watching and talking through the works we'll see next, I thought it was interesting because the inverse might equally be true – that Colonialism and Militarism are themselves spells, a kind of form of mind-control that instills in all of us the message that this way of organizing, and ordering, and seeing, and destroying the world is perfectly rational and obviously inevitable. And maybe it's filmmakers and artists like Beatriz that are the spell-breakers, snapping us out of this seemingly sensical mirage and disorganizing our viewing and thinking so other possibilities, other ways of thinking and being can emerge. So with those thoughts in mind, I'm really excited for us to watch together two works that do just that. First, “Otros Usos,” or “Other Uses,” from 2014 --- which is shot from the docks of Ceiba, where fisherman repurpose decommissioned military infrastructure for sustenance, and where you can see these lush views of Vieques, which hardly hint at the Island’s violent and toxic legacies after decades as a US military base and weapons testing site.
    That short film will be followed by “Gosila,” a 2018 film made not about Hurricane Maria but amidst the aftermath, showing what life was like after this global warming super-charged storm reshaped the land and pathways through it, but also revealing really what comes before that histories of disinvestment and disinterest that are implicit in the failing infrastructure and slower, or absent institutional responses. So we’ll have lots to chew on from those. But final housekeeping before we play those - as noted in the chat we have live captioning, so you can access that along the bottom of the picture during the Zoom. And during YouTube… but in the live Zoom you can also submit questions using the Q & A box so feel free to put those in as you think of them. You don't need to wait for the end but we’ll turn to those later in the discussion. And because we are screening through Zoom, sometimes connectivity can impact resolution or playback speeds -- if you notice any distortion or lags just assume that's the platform and not the piece. With that, we'll start the screening and I'll have my guests come and join us for conversation. Thanks.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Thanks. Let's take another moment, Taína and Beatriz, if you want to join me on screen, turning on your cameras… Thank you, Beatriz again for sharing those films with us and letting us share them with our audiences and for joining us. And you too, Taína. I feel like every time I see your work, it actually makes me want to take a pause before I even speak. There’s that's sort of,… one of my invitation for that deep breath was really inspired by your work, this sense that there's a moment necessary to just sort of let a different kind of time sensibility come in and be part of the body. And that's so different than -- than the way we're used to kind of film and media working on us. You know, the expectation when you open your screen or you turn on the TV is that something is going to kind of bombard you and so that's something I -- I hope we can get into as a strategy and it's related to kind of the first question I wanted to put out there, which is, you know, in previous interviews you've talked about there being kind of ---
    three visual or filmic stereotypes or works that film does in and around visualizing Puerto Rico and that you can sort of typologize those: there is economically motivated, kind of, tourist views; there is military and disaster propaganda; and then there is, kind of, ethnographically-oriented, othering gaze. And here you have this practice that are, kind of, slices through all of those and does something so drastically different. I almost want to go back to the moment where you realize, that there could be another way. When did you zoom in on film as the space you wanted to make that intervention and then how did you think about what a practice could be or approach that could shift that, or work differently in the spaces that matter to you.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Well, first things thanks for the invitation and the really generous introduction and to the work and your reading of it. I think that rather than realize that there was a different way or somehow being able to see it, it was more of a, you know, going through first a kind of recognition of the way that those visual languages were ordering me and my own ability to see things --- so I think that -- and then the necessity to respond to that, not just with a critique like “this is the way that surveillance imagery works” or “this is the way that, kind of, a reconnaissance of a territory works,” or “this is, you know, it comes from the tradition of landscape, you know, and describing a property” --- yeah you're frustrated it's like frustration Tarabut rather, like, okay, so that must be just ONE way of looking. I -- that's the one that I am organized by, as most of us are, and it must be, sort of, standing in the way of being able to see and imagine other things. And so -- and then I use a lot of processes that -- that are maybe like using Chance Operations or paying attention to what other people, other bodies in space, you know, how they are using landscape, how people are moving or out of necessity or out of ingenuity, ingeniousness?

    - (Saisha Grayson) Could be both.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) You know, inventiveness, you know, and trying to think in the same ways and putting obstacles in front of, you know, those ways that I have been taught to see by -- by cinema --- and trying to generate other images that I hope will surprise me. I don't -- I don't work so much with an image already in my mind, but rather I try to engage with processes that I hope will create other kinds of images.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah, it's interesting, I realize in setting up “Gosila” I didn't fully mention but I think you see that in the prism disruption in “Otros Usos” but also when you screen “Gosila” in a gallery setting, it's through a kind of broken piece of glass. Is that still your preferred installation?

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Right. Through the same piece of glasses that my daughter appears in the film looking through it, which is a piece of Fresnel Lens from a lighthouse lens that had already been breaking for a long time but, you know, its pieces were strung around Maunabo when after the hurricane.

    - (Saisha Grayson) That is interesting. That sort of distills this idea of,… there is both this sort of the ongoing infrastructure failures that they're not attended to, and then the way the hurricane seems to be the cause of everything, but in fact, it's sort of manifesting things that are already happening.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yes, there's many times where you would see something and you will be like “Hurricane”?” or “Before the hurricane?”

    - (Saisha Grayson) Right. Yeah, and that kind of ability to see different is also alongside this ability to, kind of, mark time differently or experiencing time differently, and when we start to, kind of coming together as a trio that was something Taína that you were, kind of, immediately drawn to, the sense of time in Beatriz's work and I wanted to give you, you know, an invitation to, kind of, talk about that and what drew you to, what you saw and, you know, if there are questions you have for Beatriz about how that functions for her.

    - (Taína Caragol) Absolutely. First of all, it's lovely to be here tonight with both of you. Thank you so much for the invitation. Yeah dude that's like my whole life I understand completely around like I'm not Legos I'm not sensitive fuck you all I'm just frustrated and eightAnd indeed, I'm fascinated by the temporality, sense of temporality in your work Beatriz, and it seems to be a very important strategy in your -- as you were saying just now, your witness and characterization of envisioning a place, in particular Puerto Rico, in -- in “Gosila,” in “Otros Usos,” in “La Cueva Negra,” for which viewers must have received a link, there are many evocations of the passing of time as we see it in Puerto Rico and in the Caribbean --- and very often it is marked by different aspects of nature. And you know, in “Gosila” I think the horses copulating are a wonderful metaphor of that, it is like –-- you know, it is like an act of nature, it is a function of nature, and life goes on, right, after the hurricane. The leaves that start to grow in the -- in the trees after Maria, the paths being cleared, the sounds of the night, the evening the coquí, these little frogs we have, you know “Otros Usos,” the motion of the water, the very act of fishing, which is so much about waiting. So it would be wonderful if you could speak about how you approach temporality and why is that kind of rhythm important to you?

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah, I -- I think that maybe you described it well already. I think that I'm trying to pay attention just recognizing that my own sense of time is subjective, that I am ordered as well in that sense, and so one -- one good way that I have to get out of my own sense of time is to pay attention to processes that are outside of me. And so, for example, I didn't go looking for horses copulating but I was just --- happening to be shooting the landscape and -- and they stood in front of me, you know, perfectly framed. So you know, it's also, you know, a lot of it is responding, you know, recognizing an event and paying attention to it because it is asking to be recognized in some way. That's the moment of encounter where maybe, you know, some -- some interesting things can happen and -- and my attention and their inattention to me is so evident that it becomes -- that becomes the idea on camera, you know--- it becomes that, both their -- both my or our looking at their copulating and also their complete inattention to our look and that was something that I was -- that it sort of repeated in other moments of -- of the film, even though, you know, the film is made up of these, as I had mentioned before, bits and pieces that I had not thought of putting together but that had come from a desire to damn that's cool-- to document without documenting the -- through a catastrophic image --- you know? Because -- because the image of catastrophe is an image that is used just prior to creating an argument for wiping a slate clean, displacing people, even, you know, in Puerto Rico's history this way of looking and creating images has been used as a moment before this expropriation of huge tracts of land. So that's something that I was interested in. There's no way to undo it, but rather to -- to go around, how can you recognize this moment? But without falling into the trap of reproducing an image of catastrophe that is an invitation to -- to see ourselves only as destroyed, only as, you know, a people in need of saving or -- yeah. I went from time to someplace else.

    - (Saisha Grayson) No, it's interesting because I'm thinking through a couple of things that are sort of implicit in that and in the way you used the strategy of going around and to the side because there's both -- you know, there's how the image of catastrophe opens possibility of wiping clean and control which is something Taína, kind of, is also talking about. She's doing this research project on 1898 and how imaging the colonial was so important and, you know, I hope that you'll talk more about kind of how you're seeing this in that context. But then there is also the way in which imaging it as beauty, as just sheer beauty also is insufficient or is distracting or, maybe, undercuts the sense that to see is to know completely, and that -- and how much that operates in the images of the Vieques, where you know as you said before, there's no way to see the toxic residue or the cancer rates, that's not something that the camera can show us -- and so how do you get around that?

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Right. Yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) So you talked about the prisms as a strategy for that, you know, if you want, I don't know how you, kind of, pick which strategy for which site might be really interesting to think about.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah, I was -- I was -- I had been interested first in looking at that site, largest US Navy base outside of the contiguous US, so huge piece of land that the United States had used as a -- as a Navy Base and the place from which bombing planes took off and bombed in the Vieques Sound and Vieques themselves practiced bombing for 60 years, which practice bombs are real bombs. And so I was interested in, you know, the -- this -- this base closed in 2003, and it had been more than 10 years since it had closed when I was filming and so I was trying -- very frustrated, you know, looking through my camera, looking at the ways in which the, kind of, monumental scale footprint reproduced itself through, kind of, rational use of the lens. I was trying many different things, I produced three or four films and actually a soundpiece in the process of these experiments, and this was, you know, I would -- I would spend a long time there just like looking at the ways people were breaking into the space, you know, cutting the chain link fence and going inside and using it in many different ways. One of them was as a place to fish from the shore. And it was through the observation of people fishing that I understood that there was a way to transform the scale and that it was through small formal interventions. So in my case, I made these objects, these mirrored objects that I could hold in my hand in front of the camera lens, I was shooting 16[mm], so I didn't know exactly how it was going to come out, there's more -- there's -- I think you can even tell, like, sort of nervousness of the hand, you know, playing with it in relationship to the place. And it was a really a formal experiment to turn this image that through the cameras has so often been used, you know, as a -- a – “this is my land,” you know? As a way to demarcate a territory that is owned, as a way to describe the territory. So I wanted to transform it into something that could be held, that could be thought about in terms of a human scale. So you know, it's a -- it's a visual experiment to produce a different kind of image. The sound that you hear, I know somebody mentioned, is it silent? It's really low, but it is the natural echo that the warehouses on the shore create as they mirror the sound that is produced on the coast. So you can hear the conversations of people in the dock from very far away, you know. And so it's a -- it's a, kind of, formal response to the shape of -- that the shore takes.

    - (Taína Caragol) I think I have a question that is related to that, perhaps -- perhaps the answer has already been given, I don't know yet, but maybe there's more to elaborate on, Beatriz? And indeed it's the role of narrative in your films. I think we were just speaking about how you want to use the camera in a different way than -- to reproduce systems of seeing that are already in place, that are colonizing, that are oppressive --- in some kind of way. But there's also something very interesting to the -- to the structure of the narrative in your work, which is non-linear very often, and where temporalities overlap, and that is the case in “La Cueva Negra” and perhaps you can speak a little bit about that. I -- you know, in a moment where so many people are describing themselves as storytellers, I notice this very much a trend in art and in filmmaking to talk about yourself as a storyteller, I feel your work does something quite different than traditional storytelling.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean sometimes you can read narrative into anything, so I guess it depends how one -- how wide or narrow one defines it. But I guess I don't -- you know, I think that there's a kind of -- there's a -- a danger to -- to structuring things in terms of story, they require us to think through individuals, they require certain kind of identification with interiority, character development, da da da da.And there's many things that cannot be described in this way, and are maybe flattened by it. I'm also, I guess if I was going to pick like a literary form that I'm more interested in, it would be like Olympian literary experiments or poetic forms, because I think, in a way, at least for me, I feel like there is a work that I need to do first that is about moving things around and trying different ways of sense-making that comes before coming out, you know, like creating a whole new way of seeing. So I'm more interested in this process of sort of breaking things apart, like how about like this, how about like this, how about like that. And -- and -- and sometimes that means, you know, of course failed -- failing at some experiments, you know? But whereas -- whereas story requires -- it doesn't require -- I guess could you think about it differently, but seems to require, to me, a more traditional structure. I've been working on a really different film for the past few years, that is a kind of this very, very loosely based on Monique Wittig’s “Les Guérillères,” which is an experimental narrative novel. And so it's a novel, you could say that it tells a story, but not really. It has no protagonist, it's really about language, she's doing something else completely, so I'm kind of interested in those -- in those experiments, yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Something you said just struck me and it's, you know, like the way you do, you make me think entirely differently about something I think I've thought about awhile, but you know what the category of experimental documentary implies is that a real documentary or normal documentary imposes a narrative that is completely not documentary and that we've gotten so used to that kind of controlling of the narrative that when we actually are in a space where somebody just sits with what's happening --- like just creates space for the space to unveil itself, for the people to behave in ways that surprise and that then aren't sort of re-cast and reshaped to make us comfortable with them or to understand them as protagonists in an arc, that that's what we've naturalized and how much that kind of points to –-- at what you've been talking about the sort of colonialization of our imagination to the degree we don't realize when that's happening and how it's operating and then what it does and makes it unthinkable. So when… you kind of play with the term “ethnographer”-- what that legacy of film means alongside an experimental one that's more in the poetics and I think what you were just saying really got me to think about how interesting it is that you -- that those are the words that we use to talk about what you do instead of documentary.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Mm-hmm. I should say that there's actually a really interesting essay written by a documentarian Brett Story, also there’s been a lot of work done by experimental documentary makers over the past few years on this, kind of, insistence on storytelling and what it does, what it might leave out, and what kind of assumptions it makes about, you know, identification, like if that's the only way that we can approach something, sort of saying this person is like me, they're human just like me.

    Then what does that mean?

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Maybe there's ways of being or thinking that are completely, you know, different and that you cannot identify with and that doesn't -- that doesn't -- that shouldn't be a requirement for understanding different forms of life and thinking, yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah. Taína, do you want to jump in?

    - (Taína Caragol) Yeah, well I have a lingering biographical question, Beatriz, that really ties in, also into -- well, for partly into my research for this exhibition that Saisha mentioned that I am co-curating with Kate Lemay, 1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions with curatorial assistant Carolina Maestre, and this is a show that will happen next year at the National Portrait Gallery in April about the culmination of U.S. expansionism in 1898 through the Spanish-American War, the Annexation of Hawaii and a year later the Philippine-American War. And two things that have been -- well, really, really fascinating to me, that I was already familiar with, but I've been able to dive deeper, of course, are the diasporas generated by 1898 the migrations and the sort of positionality that provides us as migrant beings from both places in a way. And of course, as we've been talking about the systems of visualizing the colonized and the other. And I know you were trained here in the US, in Chicago, I -- am just going back to that first question that Saisha asked you about, how did you come to make work that really tries to dismantle that, you know, that colonial gaze and that ethnographic gaze in relation to Puerto Rico, you know, how did the experience of, you think -- how do you think the experience of being trained on this side in the US informed that? And informs your -- your positionality as a filmmaker.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah, well that's interesting, when I think about it, I think -- I mean, I don't think that it's the -- it's the US training at the School of the Art Institute or University of Chicago that created the archive. I think it's like --- it's the archive that we have from the moment we start looking at images, photography, it's -- you know, it's one that comes from all kinds of image-making and circulation that I would have experienced, you know, in Puerto Rico, as well, that I --- experienced in Puerto Rico, and then, it was actually in graduate school that I had--- because I had some fabulous teachers who introduced me to the works of Sara Gómez in Cuba, who introduced me to Octavio Getino and Solanas’ work, and I saw experimental Latin American film when I left Puerto Rico. So it was -- that was actually maybe an introduction to ways of thinking that I had not had the opportunity to think about, and -- and then -- and then when I -- when I went back home to Puerto Rico I had this really more sensorial experience of understanding that certain things about modes of production and ways of making work simply did not apply, that applied in Chicago did not apply in Puerto Rico --- and that I needed to craft different ways of working that in a way were much more artisanal, that paid attention to things that happened around me there in Puerto Rico that did not happen, you know, in Chicago. I just, you know, I started making like when I -- when I went back home I started making a lot of work that used techniques, theater techniques from Augusto Boal a lot of structured improvisation and this is something that didn't come out of nowhere, that came more from looking at the work that Puerto Rican theater makers, who had --- who were doing a lot of street theater and, you know, what were their references and finding their kind of community of thinking that maybe could apply better to what I was -- what I was trying to do.

    And so I kind of put those two things together, you know, getting that film education that I was able to -- to have access to in graduate school and then putting that together with other ways of thinking, making art and theater in Puerto Rico that I didn't get in -- through my education, yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) That's interesting. I guess I tie that, then, I'm curious once you're in San Juan and you are working on Beta-Local and you also worked on these Walking Seminars, and were that --- was that maybe also in relationship to this kind of idea of improvisation and -- and kind of an ebb and flow and how does that, kind of, seminar in the space and with other people go on to influence how you make films subsequently.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah, that came from really thinking about, like, you know, once you start questioning some things you start questioning a lot of other things, as well. So like, wait, what am I doing teaching, you know, film, sitting in a room with -- we're not moving from the chair, all we're doing is speaking, but I'm talking about how one needs to respond with sensorial attention -- that doesn't make sense --- Like, what kind of form can we come up with that would generate that sensorial attention without having to describe it, you know. How can we all see it? That was a way of generating, ok, maybe the class needs to be moving on foot. And the first thing we would do, the first seminar was, first we go to point A then we go to point B, and we were moving in a car from point to point. And then after that first seminar we realized, oh, we -- we can't just go to point A and point B we know how those two points are organized and what they are. This is a base and this is, you know, for example, so we need to walk from a place to place and sort of that will generate the kind of sensorial attention to place, a place that has no name, that has no order that we can recognize. So you know it was a project that kind of transformed collectively through -- through making and -- and, yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah and that seems like something that you then do do in your films, which is sort of let the subject and space transform what it is you think you might do there or what it might mean when it reaches the film.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Right. Yeah. I mean I usually start with a kind of, you know, I called it like a structure in my pocket, you know, that I just offer, you know, like here's a structure, like, let's play with this --- because it's a kind of excuse, you know, to start from --

    - (Saisha Grayson) To start from somewhere? Yeah, people get very intimidated if you don't offer someplace to start. I think that's very true.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah, and I learned also pretty quickly that if you don't -- if you don't start from a place that changes things upside down to begin with then we tend to sit down and just talk or, you know, like then we tend to repeat the forms that we know, but so if you start, even if it's insane and it doesn't work, if you start with a thing that, you know, that shakes things, then okay, we tried that, that didn't work, but there's a thousand other things that you could try, yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Okay, well that's a great segue to one of our audience questions, so we're going to start to bring in some audience questions and we've got a couple but feel free to put some more in, we've got a couple more minutes.And one guest asks, you know, that there's a challenge to sometimes understanding maybe what you're trying to express, which is something I know you’ve talked about, is where expression falls in your practice, but are there other kinds of approaches you might take for -- for your work or different scenes, you know, in kind of, I don’t know, if there's messages to convey or something you do want to get across, if that's not always happening.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah, I guess – hmm, hmm, I mean, I have -- I do normally think of this not as something -- not as expression, not as individual expression, but as experiments, you know, that -- that are produced through an encounter, and sometimes there isn't anything really to understand about expression beyond that, it's just sort of to engage with an image or --. But I guess I understand the question in the sense that, I would say, yes, I tried many different things. And -- and -- and I understand that failure is part of the process of trying many different things, yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah. So another question is about considering how the impacts of the US military seem unreal to those who do not experience it directly, as it is both kept secret and at a physical distance and that's something that we were talking about as well. Can you speak to lens-based practices perhaps contributing in visualizing this. In this case, I am not sure if it is visualizing the absence or when you visualize something that you don’t see, do you kind of add to the sense that it's unreal or not there, and how do you see your work engaged in perhaps hyperreality via video.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) I'm not sure I know what hyper reality is.

    - (Saisha Grayson) I'm not sure either in this context.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Well, I think that, I think of my practice as contributing to creating languages, visual languages that -- that can respond to or be analogous or be recognizable as the -- you know, as that experience. And so, you know, for example, in the film that is made up of pieces, you know, of the months after the hurricane, you -- those are images that may be hard to recognize for somebody that did not go through that process. But for almost, you know, for anybody that was in Puerto Rico or -- or has gone through a moment like that, it's why would they be chopping those trees with, you know, by hand, with a machete, you know, what it --- how did --- you know --- you're sort of -- you kind of understand the moment and the pace of the moment.
    And so that's -- I think that --- that, for me, it is not just important to have a visual language that describes to others, but that describes to ourselves and is recognizable to ourselves, as well. And that's the language, there's so much media that is made about Puerto Rico that we're not the -- it's not for us, you know? It's not -- it is -- it re-presents our experience as others to others, but what I think you know film can really do is allow us to think in different ways, and so I'm interested in that and in making – and in engaging with that, that problem, yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah. That's so interesting. Taína, do you want to add to that it? It felt like you were really feeling that.

    - (Taína Caragol) It represents our experience as others to others… say no more. That's like, wow.

    - (Saisha Grayson) There's a question in the Q & A that has a long introduction and it's about an exhibition at De Paul university, but I'm going to go to the question and then other people I think can read the intro, because it relates to what you were just saying, but that it was sort of presented with minimal captioning and seen as an opportunity to experience the messages with the piece and issues and the concerns through the artists’ eyes. Do you think seeing through the artists’ eyes is your point or seeing through the subjects, the other eyes in dissimilar spaces such as campuses, corporate or council commissions to which our people come from and that place -- and then places that have no name or official address, to marketsplace like Bodegas, or mom's kitchen with the smell of food, I think [inaudible], I don’t know what that is, I think that is a way of saying, some of this question, sort of, who is it for, and who -- who is expressing, and who is being subject, but I think there's something in there that's even more pointed about what you were talking about.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah, I mean I guess there's -- I'm really interested in there's a moment I started thinking if you were going to tell a history of photography in the Caribbean, how would one tell it? Like you have to think about it from the point of view of the subject. You would you have to tell a history of photography from the subject's point of view as a person, as a person making meaning through the pose, through ---

    saying no, you know, go with your camera someplace else. All of those are -- are part of the history of photography. I'm definitely interested in that, in the subject. I don't know that I can occupy the subject's point of view, but rather I'm interested in -- in that possibility of encounter, sort of like you know what happens, you know, when you -- when you see, you know, the offer of the camera, which is I think of it as taking your eyes out, really big, and going “here are my eyes,” you know?

    What do we do with this? Like where do you -- how do you want to direct my eyes? What does it mean for me to look with you, next to you? What kinds of things can I see that I couldn't see otherwise? Yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah, and I'm sorry, I realize I missed a key part of the question so this is an exhibition about The Young Lords which is an important activist group in New York, and then I think that question felt like it was about the artist's take on them rather than the subject so that's important. And also in there was the question of how your work is exhibited or does it make the rounds at universities and colleges, which I think ---.

    it does, do you -- do you prioritize that or do you find that a good space for -- for having these kind of conversations alongside and with the work?

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah, I guess, you know, I don't know, my work circulates mostly in spaces like museum institutions, gallery spaces, I have a -- I mean of course there's always like a community of -- of artists and filmmakers that show the work in universities and things like that, which is like we show each other's work.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) And -- and I think where it's -- it's harder is -- I don't know about harder. I mean, I guess for me that -- that circulation, you know, in museum spaces is the -- the institutional, you know, moment in which you have to sort of deal with ways of looking that are in particular, you know, that come from particular histories of display and exhibition.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah, I was thinking, you recently had a solo show at the Broad Museum at ---, is that Michigan University? So that's also an interesting space very often, these very beautifully polished architectural gallery spaces that do you have a community for thinking around it. It seems like that would be a good fit. I wanted to ask Taína, do you have other questions that you wanted to bring to the fore?

    - (Taína Caragol) Well, only a comment that -- that thinking about your work in institutional spaces, that are not exactly contemporary art spaces but more, let's say historical museums, you know, or museums where -- where art and history intersect, it must -- I would imagine it was really provide a very striking contrast.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Mm-hmm.

    - (Taína Caragol) To -- well, to the ways of seeing that are embodied in the collections and in the exhibitions.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Mm-hmm.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Yeah, I've been thinking about that too just at SAAM we have this landscape collection and so to think about your work in relation to both the histories of photography and surveillance but painted landscape, that also has its own legacies of domination and erasure, so it is really --- it is exciting for me to think alongside you of other ways of seeing that -- that when you walk into a space and not kind of have to organize it in that way.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Yeah. Yeah.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Anyway, so I think we're perfectly at time for this wonderful conversation, and it's been a real joy to be in conversation and to think about these works, and yes I want to encourage people, we didn't get to talk about it quite as much as we might have liked but “La Cueva Negra” (The Black Cave) is a longer piece by Beatriz that she's willing to share with us that you can all --- you have password, links, access to to watch until March 31st. And you have two works in an upcoming coming film festival, is that right Or one? Okay.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: If anybody is in New York, it's part of Art of the Real in Lincoln Center.

    - (Saisha Grayson) Wonderful. Okay. Well. Rush out there and go see that. And then know we'll be back here next Wednesday for our next film screening on March 23rd again at 5:30 pm Eastern Time with the incredible Shirin Neshat, so please register for that one as well and join us and thank you all. And thank you all who joined us out there in cyberspace. Have a wonderful evening.

    - (Beatriz Santiago Muñoz) Thank you everyone. Thanks for coming.