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Dis/Orienting the Border: The Poetics of Disorientation in Avant-Garde Accented Narratives

Christine VICERA


As products of “dual postcolonial displacement and postmodern or late scattering,” accented filmmakers experience migration “not only as a movement in space, but essentially a movement in time” (Naficy 11, Köhn 109). This paper uses Robert Throop’s four forms of temporal orientation to addresses the ways in which the migrant’s spatiotemporal movement–one that characterises the migrant’s subjectivity–is manifested in the poetics of disorientation that undergird the works of Chantal Akerman and Mona Hatoum. The poetics of disorientation that embed the aesthetics and narratives of Akerman’s avant-garde film, News from Home (1977), and Hatoum’s uncharacteristically autobiographical video installation, Measures of Distance (1988) blur the demarcated lines of national, generic and stylistic boundaries. This paper furthermore highlights the function of autobiographical content in decoding the screen as a canvas of the exile’s liminal space – one which oscillates between the imaginary homeland of the past and the host country of the present. Autobiographical landscaping, together with the avant-garde aesthetics in each of these works, function to critique how dominant cinema, in its representations of migration, eschews the spatio-temporal complexities of migration. In appropriating avant-garde aesthetics, these films allows for the spectator to make sense of, and to experience the migrant’s spatio-temporal disorientation, while at the same time unmake the boundaries of the Orient/Occident, past/present, there/here, private/public, self/Other which are no longer seen as lines of demarcation, but instead points of contact.

Keywords: film studies, migration, accented cinema, aesthetics

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.23.2