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Call of North and Hero City: a screening and talk with artist Ruth Maclennan, chaired by Roger Norum.

Pushkin House in association with Open College of the Arts is pleased to present two recent films by Ruth Maclennan, Call of North and Hero City. The films were shot in the far north of Russia. They were premiered at The London International Film Festival, in 2014 and 2016.  Maclennan’s film, Theodosia, made in Crimea was screened at Pushkin House in 2014. After the screening, the artist will be in conversation.

Call of North was filmed near the Arctic Circle in Karelia in Northern Russia, on land and on sea, in the summer and winter. Images of driving snow around a lighthouse by the frozen sea are succeeded by the endless daylight and unceasing florescence of summer. The film brings into focus a particular place – an ordinary place – on the White Sea. It follows people's relationships with the sea, and the changes that are happening with climate change and the geo-political shift northward. The traumatic past of the ‘Zone’ – Stalin's labour camps – and the purges, continue to be experienced as unfinished business, impossible to metabolize. The more recent economic collapse of the end of the Soviet Union, and the increasing political tensions of recent years are alluded to obliquely, hanging in the air.

The matter of place, the wetness and surfaces of the sea and land, the forces of wind and tide are the substances in which the stories, and gestures of people, are caught up in a continual exchange. The soundtrack is a chorus of sounds recorded in the field, of birds, sea, insects, grass, trees and wind, as well as boats, trains and cars, interwoven with the voices of marine biologists, sailors, fishermen, a retired teacher, a kolkhoz worker and miner, a telephone engineer, a cook, a hotelier, a little boy, and many others who live here.

Call of North is a call to pay attention to the voices that make up a place, that know it intimately, viscerally, and are of it, in the hope of grasping what living in the present moment means for life in the future.

 Call of North in Russian with English subtitles, Hero City in English with no subtitles

Ruth Maclennan’s work includes video installations, photography, bookworks, performance, interdisciplinary, collaborative and curatorial projects. Her single and multi-channel video installations focus on overlooked moments, material remains and fragments of stories that reveal unresolved conflict. Her film Theodosia was shot in Crimea a year before its annexation by Russia. It was screened at ICA, London, Pushkin House, and in the solo exhibition, The Faces They Have Vanished, at ICIA, Bath supported by a Joanna Drew Award. Anarcadia, a film, book and exhibition commissioned by FVU and John Hansard Gallery toured nationally, to Ffotogallery, Stills, and Castlefield Galleries, and to international film festivals. Other exhibitions and projects include Terrapolis, at French School Athens, curated by Whitechapel Gallery, Sea Change, (Cape Farewell), Interspecies (Arts Catalyst, Cornerhouse), Potential: Ongoing Archive, John Hansard Gallery and TENT Rotterdam, State of Mind, and The Archives Project residencies and exhibitions at LSE London; and her project, Polytechnical Institute for the Study of the Expanding Field of Radical Urban Life (  Bookworks include Hide, AIR 2011, Re: the Archive, the Image, and the Very Dead Sheep, with Uriel Orlow, 2004.

Maclennan exhibits widely internationally, in Europe, USA, Japan, Australia and Central Asia, Korea, Taiwan and Ireland. Her films are held in public and private collections, including Wellcome Collection and Centre Pasqu’Art, Biel. She has a Masters in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College, and in Modern Languages from Cambridge University.  

She has recently completed an AHRC-funded PhD by practice at the Royal College of Art, in Fine Art, on experiences of climate change in northern Russia and Scotland, following her expeditions to the White Sea and on Sea Change with Cape Farewell.  LUX Artists’ Moving Image distributes her films.

Roger Norum is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. He is a social anthropologist who studies the changing roles of mobility, media, social exchange and the environment in the contemporary world. His current research investigates the physical and symbolic consequences of increased mobility with an emphasis on the everyday geopolitics of territory, time and labour, particularly among among transient communities in the European Arctic.

Norum studied Near Eastern Society and Languages (Arabic and Turkish) at Cornell University, then moved to the UK to read Social Anthropology. He joined the University of Leeds in 2014 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, and was awarded his doctorate in 2015 from the University of Oxford, where he was based at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA) and the Centre for Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS). He has also worked at various times as a computer programmer, business strategist, creative writing teacher, tour operator, translator, editor, proofreader, photographer and Vespa mechanic. Norum still occasionally moonlights as a travel journalist: he writes a monthly column about mobile technology for Baltic Outlook Magazine and contributes as a writer and photographer to several international travel magazines. These activities have figured centrally in his recent academic research on the social and cultural politics of travel journalism and travel writing industry.

Tea served after the screening is included in the ticket price.