Paul Chan (b. 1973)
Untitled Video on Lynne Stewart and Her Conviction, The Law, and Poetry (2006)
On February 10, 2005, Lynne Stewart was convicted of providing material support for a terrorist conspiracy. She is the first lawyer to be convicted of aiding terrorism in the United States. Stewart faces thirty years of prison and will be sentenced in September 2006.
Untitled... is a video portrait of Stewart. The video focuses on the relationship between the language of poetry and the language of the law. Stewart speaks both languages, and employs poetry as a "knotting point" to connect ideas of beauty and justice for juries and judges alike. The film takes Stewart's understanding of poetry and the law as a departure point to explore the possibilities of a poetics capable of articulating the pressures of terror and justice.
"Paul Chan's portrait [is] of Lynne F. Stewart, the New York lawyer convicted last year of aiding Islamic terrorism by smuggling messages out of jail from a client she was defending, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Now disbarred, Ms. Stewart faces a 30-year jail sentence.
The film, which Mr. Chan calls a work-in-progress, simply shows Ms Stewart talking; in a sense it is a self-portrait. She talks about her trial, about her career as an activist lawyer and about a personal politics that sounds instinctual rather than ideological. She also read poetry.
One of the poems she reads is William Blake's "On Another's Sorrow" from "Songs of Innocence". It isn't "political" in any overt way. It is filled with both questions and answers. While she reads, Mr. Chan turns the screen into a field of changing colors, so that we concentrate on the music of the words, the activism of the soul that poetry is, the power outlet that art can be. It's a simple device, and like any effective political action, right or wrong, brilliant because it works." --Holland-Cotter, New York Times, January 17th 2006