Prix AWARE

Laura Huertas Millán
Nominee of Prix 2024

© Renato Cruz Santos

Susan Sontag writes “Everything shown is equally present, no matter when it takes place”.

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

La Historia, 2005
3’48  min| Vidéo PAL

Courtesy Laura Huertas Millán

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

La Historia, 2005
3’48  min| Vidéo PAL

Courtesy Laura Huertas Millán

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

La Historia, 2005
3’48  min| Vidéo PAL

Courtesy Laura Huertas Millán

Artist and filmmaker Laura Huertas Millán’s practice spans across different media: the moving image, writing, pedagogy, and long-term enquiries. Her early films (such as La Historia, 2005) were already haunted by her upbringing in Bogota, Colombia, a country mired in civil war1 and her experiences as a female first generation economic immigrant in France, where she has been working and living for more than twenty years. Profoundly marked by a native environment characterised by daily and pervasive violence, where storytelling was weaponised by armed forces from various political fronts, Huertas Millan’s works challenge oppressive narratives through experimental fiction-making. Her practice communicates a deep effort to understand living-together from a conscious, meaningful perspective, perhaps following the legacy of the Colombian household of low-income artists where she grew up, where culture and politics intertwined, and art was a space for alternative stories, joy, community, and survival.

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Aequador, 2012
19 mins  | HD | Stereo | DCP

© Laura Huertas Millán – Le Fresnoy studio national des arts contemporains, 2012

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Aequador, 2012
19 mins  | HD | Stereo | DCP

© Laura Huertas Millán – Le Fresnoy studio national des arts contemporains, 2012

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Aequador, 2012
19 mins  | HD | Stereo | DCP

© Laura Huertas Millán – Le Fresnoy studio national des arts contemporains, 2012

Her slow research methodologies permeate the camera to valorise the people she encounters throughout her films, in an attempt to deconstruct cinema and its traditional structures, to decentre and decolonise the field. Central to this approach is the series developed from 2009 to 2012 exploring the theme of ‘exoticism,’ which includes Aequador (2011), and Journey to a Land Otherwise Known (2012). These films dismantle colonial narratives of othering and racial oppression that undergo deconstruction through the lenses of sci-fi, speculative fiction, and lo-fi fantasy with a sharp criticism of anthropology.

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Sol Negro (Black Sun), 2016
43 mins  I 2K | Stereo | DCP

Courtesy Laura Huertas Millán

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

La Libertad, 2017
29 mins | HD | Stereo | DCP

Courtesy Laura Huertas Millán

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

jeny303, 2018
6 mins | 16 mm | Stereo | DCP

Courtesy Laura Huertas Millán

In subsequent years, partly independently and partly at the Sensory Ethnography Lab, she developed ‘Ethnographic Fictions,’ a series of works that includes Sol Negro (2016), La Libertad (2017), and jeny303 (2018). The “Ethnographic Fictions” concept offers a duality of intricate definitions that are key to understanding the complexity of her work: the acknowledgment that ethnography, initially perceived as a collection of narratives rooted in colonialism, can be viewed as a form of fiction-making, and simultaneously, that contemporary efforts in decolonial ethnographic practices have embraced tools from the realm of fiction. Distancing herself from the patriarchal and euro-centric “ethnofictions” of classical visual anthropology, she has carved a unique diasporic path and artistic cinematic language.

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

El Laberinto (The Labyrinth), 2018
21 mins | 16mm, found footage, HD | 5.1 | DCP

Courtesy Laura Huertas Millán

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

JÍIBIE, 2019
24 mins | HD | 5.1 | DCP

Courtesy Laura Huertas Millán

As this series of work led her to consider stories of generational trauma, mental illness, displacement, ecology, and gendered violence, her practice has naturally moved towards a reflection on cinema as an alternative state, a space for resilience and healing. Since 2018, Laura Huertas Millán has critically engaged with the notion of ‘pharmakon’ (an entity both poison and remedy), producing The Labyrinth (2018) and Jíibie (2019), challenging prevailing discourse implications surrounding the coca plant, a demonised plant in the Americas since colonialism. Traditionally cultivated in the lower altitudes of the eastern slopes of the Andes, the plant was criminalised during the European invasion, to erase indigenous economies and spiritual practices that relate to the coca plant. In the present day, forced eradication of illicit cultivation of coca is executed in an aggressive way by aerial spraying with herbicides (fumigation), causing chemical pollution, livelihood destruction, deforestation, and displacement. Its illegal trafficking contributes to the continuation of the war on drugs that continues to fuel Colombia’s never-ending armed conflict and neocolonialism.  In the past ten years, Huertas Millán has been doing fieldwork in the Amazon Forest, where she has spent time learning from, working, and connecting with the elder (abuelo) Cristobal Gomez Abel, a Bora and Murui inhabitant of the forest, who became her long time teacher concerning the power of the coca plant, and film collaborator. These latest works produced in the Amazon are somewhere between historical documents, myths, and fictional stories, and are built as spaces to advocate for the decriminalisation of our relationships with plants and to honour the indigenous resistances in Abya Yala, that have allowed the transmission of kinship, knowledge, collaborations and living with and among nature.

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Journey to a land otherwise known, 23 mins, 2011, 2K | Stereo | DCP

© Laura Huertas Millán – Le Fresnoy studio national des arts contemporains, 2011

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Journey to a land otherwise known, 23 mins, 2011, 2K | Stereo | DCP

© Laura Huertas Millán – Le Fresnoy studio national des arts contemporains, 2011

Laura Huertas Millán - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Journey to a land otherwise known, 23 mins, 2011, 2K | Stereo | DCP

© Laura Huertas Millán – Le Fresnoy studio national des arts contemporains, 2011

All of these films not only trace a constellation that helps us to understand Huertas Millán’s body of research, they also stand alone as immersive pieces of contemporary art where the artist builds visual and sonic worlds contributing a nuanced dimension to the experiential aspects of the recorded scenes. Paired with long-term research around colonialism, violence against human and more-than-human peoples, Huertas Millán’s films address key aspects, still unresolved, in the power dynamics between Europe and the Global South, offering new perspectives on analysing pluralities. She pours from the screen something sacred, decisive to creating an imaginary of a living-together that has yet to unfold.

Noelia Portela

 

Laura Huertas Millán is an artist, filmmaker, and writer from Colombia, based in France. She holds a PhD from PSL University (SACRe program) developed at the Sensory Ethnography Lab (Harvard University).  More than twenty film retrospectives of her work have been held internationally. Her films have been shown in leading world cinema festivals and won prizes at the Locarno Film Festival, FIDMarseille, Doclisboa and Videobrasil. She has had solo exhibitions at the MASP São Paulo, Maison des Arts de Malakoff and Medellin’s Modern Art Museum. Her films have also been exhibited and screened at the Centre Pompidou, Jeu de Paume, Guggenheim Museum in NYC, Times Art Berlin and presented in biennials such as the Liverpool, FRONT Triennial, Videobrasil, Videonale & Sharjah Biennial.

1
The conflicto armado, a never-ending and tentacular civil war, where normalised violence and human rights abuses created a brutal backdrop for civilians’ everyday life.

Noelia Portela is an independent curator and arts professional based in Paris. She studied at the School of Architecture and Design at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. In 2017, she founded Persona Curada, a non-profit experimental and itinerant curatorial project that aims to promote contemporary Latin American art in conversation with the French art scene. With Persona Curada, she organises exhibitions, screenings, performances and round-table discussions in collaboration with contemporary art institutions and spaces. Her texts have been published in numerous magazines including, Artishock Magazine (Chile), Relieve Contemporaneo (Argentina) and Obra Latinoamericana (Switzerland).

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