Rabz Lansiquot on black film, using different mediums, and queerness

Filmmaker and curator Rabz Lansiquot talks getting an entry into filmmaking, working across different mediums, and their approach as a Black queer AFAB person.

How did you get into filmmaking?

I wanted to be a photographer for a long while and I’m not sure exactly when the turning point was. I made my first film Palimpsest in 2014 for SYFU Collective‘s Baldwin’s Nigger Reloaded event at Iniva and I think I just enjoyed being able to affect people visually and sonically at the same time, plus I think it’s such a central medium that has so much potential to be used as a tool for activism and liberation struggles. I nearly gave up on making films after studying my MA in Documentary Film mainly because I was frustrated with the Eurocentric approaches to it in terms of form as well as content, and I really did not want to spend years and years earning £50 a day running on sets before getting a foot in the door. But LUX giving me the opportunity to have where did we land exhibited there reignited my interest, and made me realise I could approach it outside of the ‘film’ industry, as an artist and programmer instead.

You’ve described a desire to approach Black film from a position of liberation as opposed to representation – how does this affect the way you deal with images of people in your film?

In this film I’ve attempted to address a huge issue in works that attempt to be working towards some kind of social change, especially as it relates to Black life, which is the replaying of images of violence, Black pain or death in film and video works. I think people assume that showing the ‘truth’ of a situation is a way to mobilise support but for Black people the expectation that these truths be evidenced in this gratuitous and spectacular way is just another form of oppression. But more generally my interest in liberation as opposed to representation comes from a frustration with the stagnant nature of conversations around race and film. There’s a tendency to simply celebrate visibility without an acknowledgment of what that means for real life, or for respectability politics to play a part in what is considered ‘good’ representation. One of the chapters in the film is ‘Representation (will not get us free)’ and I’m interested in going further to maybe discover what will. But as I say in the work, it’s not simple and I don’t have all the answers so I’m trying to work it out through the making of the work and the discussions it creates.

The images you use are explored both in your films and as physical objects in art installations – is this practice of working with images across several mediums important to you?

The original iteration of where did we land that was presented as an installation at The Gallow Gate last year was actually one of the only times I’ve ever worked in a medium that isn’t film. So it’s actually quite unusual for me! I made the installation mainly for practical reasons because I didn’t have time to make a film, but it gave me an opportunity to really sit with it and make a more accomplished film (eventually) than I would’ve made without going through that initial process. Someone who saw the installation actually told me they experienced it sort of cinematically and saw it as a sort of storyboard. I do like to flesh out projects over a period though, especially because I see my work as mainly a starting point or series of questions as opposed to me being an expert on anything. So presenting it in different ways (film, writing, talks etc) feeds into that well.

Do you find a queer approach to be significant when dealing with historical archives, as both yours and Zinzi Minott’s films do?

I’m not sure I really know what a queer approach is. Most things that are considered queer don’t reflect me or my experience in any way and I never fully get what people mean when they talk about ‘queering’ things because I feel like it’s become either really commercial and sellable, or highly intellectual and academic. Both of those approaches are completely divorced from my lived experience. I don’t think I could approach anything separated from my queerness and although many people probably wouldn’t see the work as ‘queer’, that’s always a really central part of the way I think and the way I work. I move through the world as a Black queer AFAB person so I see everything from a slightly removed position, nothing conventional in the world really makes sense to me so I’m always questioning things. I think that probably means I’m not as satisfied with the usual kinds of representation, or activism, that foreground assimilation or inclusion and that always leave someone or some part of someone out. I’m always searching for the thing that’s more radical, the histories that are ignored or the potential of the complete destruction of the world as we know it, because I have to.

Rabz presents where did we land alongside Zinzi Minott’s Fi Dem Series followed by a discussion on Wednesday 2 October at CCA in partnership with LUX Scotland. Click here for more information and to book tickets.

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