A Short Film For Laos

Several people grouped close together are viewed from a low angle at night time. A woman stands in the centre looking at the camera, with a man leaning on her shoulder behind.

Join us at CAMPLE LINE on Thursday 16 November for a special screening of A Short Film for Laos by the influential American artist, Allan Sekula (1951-2013). The screening will be introduced by Dr Stephanie Schwartz, Associate Professor of American Art at University College London. 

Filmed in 2006, A Short Film For Laos is a portrait of contemporary Laos featuring numerous encounters with its inhabitants, and linking footage of the present day with remnants of myths and war. 

Of the film, Sekula said that he felt obligated as an American to visit the ‘Plain of Jars’, an archaeological landscape in Laos consisting of thousands of stone jars scattered around the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau, and a site that was heavily bombed by the US Air Force during its nine-year bombing campaign in Laos (1964-1973). 

‘In the retelling, the story of the war and the ‘mystery of the jars’ begin to intertwine. An ancient civilization forged an electrical connection to the sky and a secret magnetism brought American bombers to earth, where they were refashioned into spoons.’ — Allan Sekula

After the screening, Stephanie will share a short response to the film, placing it in context with Sekula’s wider creative practice.

Allan Sekula (1951-2013) was an influential artist, writer, and teacher. His works include books, photographic sequences, written texts, slide sequences, and sound recordings. They frequently focus on large economic systems, critiquing global capitalism and reflecting on power relations in contemporary society. 

His films and videos have included Tsukiji (2001), Gala (2005), The Lottery of the Sea (2006), and A Short Film For Laos (2006). Sekula’s books include Photography Against The Grain (1984), Fish Story (1995), Dismal Science (1999), Performance Under Working Conditions (2003), Titanic’s Wake (2003), and Polonia and Other Fables (2009).

Dr Stephanie Schwartz is Associate Professor of American Art at University College London. Her research and teaching address photography and its histories, with a particular emphasis on American documentary. Stephanie is the author of Walker Evans: No Politics (University of Texas Press, 2020) and the editor of Modernism After Paul Strand, a special issue of the Oxford Art Journal (2015). She is currently writing Forgetting Reagan: Allan Sekula’s Documentary for MACK Books Discourse series. 

Andrew MacCrimmon is an artist, curator and early-stage researcher based in Glasgow. His work is concerned with the use of photography as a social practice and the presentation of images, both still and moving, as a tool of critique. Applying a critical realist approach, recurring themes in his work range from representations of labour to analyses of wider economic systems.

Andrew is a PhD student at The Glasgow School of Art and his current research project entitled ‘Assembled Movies’ investigates the moving image works of American theorist, artist and writer Allan Sekula, specifically those made between 2001 and 2012. It examines the works from this period as a body of work and how Sekula utilises the medium in various forms to further offer greater scope in addressing the thematic concerns he had been confronting since the 1970s, primarily through sequences of documentary images and text.

Supported by Friends of GSA and Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI. 

A Short Film for Laos
Dir. Allan Sekula
2006, USA, 45mins
English, Lao & French

+ post-screening talk by Dr Stephanie Schwartz

Hosted in partnership with Andrew MacCrimmon & The Glasgow School of Art

Tickets on a sliding scale:
£5 / £3 / £2 / Free
Ticket guide available here

Watch Online:
17 November - 10 December

‘A Short Film for Laos’ is available to book and watch online from 17 November – 10 December. Online viewers will also be able to watch a recording of Dr Stephanie Schwartz’s response to the film. 

Watch at Cample:
Thursday 16 November, 7:00pm

The screening will be followed by a short response from Associate Professor in American Art at University College London, Dr Stephanie Schwartz

Dr Stephanie Schwartz Talk (Recorded at CAMPLE LINE, 16 November 2023)

Previous screenings by Allan Sekula

This is our second presentation of Sekula’s work at Cample Line, following our 2019  screening of Allan Sekula and Noel Burch’s The Forgotten Space (2010).

Supported by Friends of GSA and by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI