About the program

“Water, fire, sky, earth, and ether are elements—homey, sublime, dangerous, and wonderful—that sustain existence, and we still haven’t figured out how to care for them”

— John Durham Peters

Elements surround us in various shapes and mediated forms. Rather than offering a definitive answer to what elements are and what particularly they do, the artists’ films and video in this program presents a set of anthropological, historical, and poetic attitudes towards the elemental. Together, these works evoke a perspective on the world in which humans and elements are inevitably intertwined and share perceptual, geological, biological, and social histories.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen called these human/non-human entanglements “elemental relations,” a term that opens amorphous associations beyond the concrete thing-scapes. Elemental relations are rarely noticed or reflected on, not because natural elements are obscure or difficult to encounter but that they are too often taken for granted. This four-part screening and discussion program hopes to direct attention to elements of water, fire, minerals, earth and much more through cinematic works, which may lead us across rigidly divided territories and rethink the clear-cut human/nature division. Bringing together artists and scholars from Asia, North America, and Europe, each unit presents a direction in how we might take elements’ aesthetic, mythical and socio-political potentials in contact with our understanding of transnational histories, geography, and ecologies at large.


Program curators: Lukas Brasiskis, Weixian Pan, and Xin Zhou. 
Designer: Yutong Lin
Media and Tech support: Jianyin Fan

Lukas Brasiskis is a film and media researcher, teacher and curator, currently a PhD candidate at New York University in the Department of Cinema Studies and an adjunct lecturer at NYU and CUNY/Brooklyn College. His research interests include eco-media, philosophy and aesthetics of world cinema, expanded forms of moving-image practices as well as intersections between film and contemporary art worlds. Brasiskis’ texts have been published in both academic and non-academic media and he is currently co-editing a volume on Cinema and the Environment in Eastern Europe for Berghahn Books and Jonas Mekas: The Camera is Always Running for Yale University Press. He has curated a number of screening programs, including True Fake: Artists’ Films Troubling the Real (e-flux, NY), Ecology After Nature (e-flux, NY), From Matter to Data: Ecology of Infrastructures (with Inga Lace, MoMa, NY), Environmental Memories in East-Central European Art (Alternative Film/Video Festival, Belgrade), Landscape to be Experienced and to be Read: Time, Ecology, Politics on the work of filmmaker James Benning (CAC, Vilnius), Mermaid with The Movie Camera (Spectacle Theater, NY), Human, Material, Machine (with Leo Goldsmith, CAC, Vilnius, Lithuania), Baltic Poetic Documentary as Ethnographic Cinema (NYU, NY), Welcome to the Anthropocene (CCAMP, Lithuania), and a retrospective of the films of Nathaniel Dorsky (CAC, Vilnius) among others.

Weixian Pan is an Assistant Professor of Interactive Media Arts at NYU Shanghai. She received her PhD in Film and Moving Image Studies from Concordia University, Montreal. Previously she taught at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and worked as the lead coordinator and researcher in the Global Emergent Media Lab. Her research focuses on the critical intersection between media and environments, in particular through material and infrastructural connections as well as various forms of mediation. Her current book project examines how media shapes the materiality and imaginary of China’s riverine and oceanic environments. Her work has appeared in peer-review journals such as Asiascape: Digital Asia, Culture Machine, and Journal of Environmental Media.

Xin Zhou is a researcher, writer and curator based in Shanghai. His research interests are loosely connected around the concept of critical infrastructure, artist’s film and video, and the history and theory of science and educational films in socialist China. He has curated public programs and film series at Anthology Film Archives (NYC), Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (Boston), National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Korea) in Seoul, Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, and elsewhere. He has also written for a number of art and film publications, including ArtReview Asia, The Brooklyn Rail, Film Comment, Frieze, etc. He has a MA in Cinema Studies from New York University, and has previously held curatorial positions at Long March Space (Beijing) and HOW Art Museum (Shanghai).

Yutong Lin is a nakhi writer, graphic designer and researcher from Lijiang, Yunnan. She is intested in image-making in translation, transition, and translucent contexts. She will pursue a M.A. in film studies at Concordia University in Fall 2021.

Jiayin Fan is a sophomore student in Interactive Media Arts at NYU Shanghai. Born and raised in Shanghai, she enjoys travelling and explores artistic work through photography, video, and new media interfaces. Her academic interests include interactive experience in music performances, gallery and museum exhibitions, social media platforms, and web design.