By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
There’s a particular intelligence in John Hulsey’s intention of diffusing the imposing presence of the image as a monolithic1 symbolic element, projecting it against different interior and exterior structures in This Side of History (2018). Of course, this strategy of “image against format” has been down countless times in different situations, from expanded cinema works that push the format of the image beyond the dispositif of cinema itself (think Tony Oursler) to desires of manifesting a hidden presence, a memory or a manifested phantasmagoria inside the walls of a location in a film (like in José María del Orbe’s remarkable film Aita (2010)), among countless instances.
However, in applying this strategy to build up on a story of Jewish/Latino immigrants that seem to struggle to survive in an increasingly aggressive gentrification in the United States, Hulsey’s not only renouncing to expose the image as document as sole protagonist of the documentary, it’s also fusing the image into the material evidence of an apparatus which involves architecture and structure to bear witness of the problems in which the documentary lies. The gentrification of a city, its growing development and the apparent shrinking of the home as a personal space, are all intertwined with the stories of two different generations of immigrants who either seem to be resigned to the struggle in their memories or are agents of change repressed by political control.
Also conceived as a single channel installation between two walls and a roof, This Side of History accounts for the importance of the object of projection and the subject of projection, in a rapport between dispositifs that subvert the semiotic signification of the image, which is enhanced by the decision of the artist of subjecting his moving image to the irrupting presence of the structure, in its installation version.
1 I should annotate that I’m borrowing the term freely from Olivia Cooper-Hadjan, who used it in her presentation of the film for the English site of Cinéma du Réel: http://www.cinemadureel.org/film/this-side-of-history-2
Director, producer: John Hulsey