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Into the Hinterlands and How to Rust: Two Films by Julia Yezbick

  • AgX Film Collective - Building 18, 2nd Floor 144 Moody Street Waltham, MA USA (map)

Balagan presents two films by Detroit-based artist and filmmaker Julia Yezbick.


How to Rust // 2016 // 25 minutes // HD and Super 8 to video

How to Rust is a short essay film that explores the mythologies of Detroit through the material metaphors of Olayami Dabls' installation piece called: "Iron teaching Rocks How to Rust." Dabls’ installation is a metaphor for the forced assimilation of Africans to European culture and language. Here Dabls’ bricolage of the postindustrial landscape becomes a commentary on the half-life of Fordism, where the relationship between cultural production, history, and place is recast, revealing larger truths about how we mythologize a former glory and shape an imagined future.

Into the Hinterlands // 2015 // 39 minutes // HD video

The Hinterlands, a Detroit-based performance ensemble, practice a form of ecstatic training (inspired by the teachings of avant-garde theatre director Jerzy Grotowski) which they see as a provocation towards the unknown. To them, the “hinterlands” evoke an area lying beyond what is visible or known—a space of unknowability, both physical and imaginary whose mystery is its very source of generation and from which, they believe, true creativity emerges. Their practice is one of rapturous play, of finding the edge of one’s balance, and the limits of one’s body. Yezbick trained with the ensemble for a year, always filming while physically participating.

Each session – typically lasting for several hours without interruption – followed an unscripted, non-verbal improvisation during which they developed gestural “grammars” through repetition, patterned breathing and movement. Imagined affective landscapes were conjured, as audio compositions from field recordings swelled through the room. Rather than allow the viewer to gaze upon the ruins of Detroit, this piece makes an aural gesture toward the city beyond and summons the space of an inverted hinterland, an unknown inside to be plumbed for creative inspiration. Continually looking for new ways to “see” with the camera (shooting with her feet, shoulder, and neck), Yezbick’s embodied camera immerses the viewer in the collective ecstatic experience; merging the space of their ludic play with the liminal space of the cinema.

This project was funded in part by the Film Study Center and produced in the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University.


Julia Yezbick is a filmmaker, artist, and anthropologist based in Detroit, MI. She received her PhD in Media Anthropology and Critical Media Practice from Harvard University and an MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Manchester. Her audio and video works have shown at the Berlinale–Forum Expanded, MOMA PS1, the New York Library for Performing Arts, Pravo Lujdski Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Mostra Internacional do Filme Etnográfico, Rio de Janeiro, the Montreal Ethnographic Film Festival, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit. She is a Kresge Artist Fellow for film, the founding Editor of Sensate Journal, and co-directs Mothlight Microcinema in Detroit.

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