Yalda Afsah (b. 1983)
Tourneur (2018)
A bullfight in the South of France. White foam is flowing into the arena, blurring the view of animals and humans. Tourneur shows young men in the ring with a bull – their gestures are between archaic subjugation and modern dance. Image and sound, foreground and background, on-screen and off-screen combined in a highly artificial and surreal way. Up to the moment when the bull suddenly breaks through the presentation.

In her latest series Yalda Afsah explores the relationship between humans and animals, probing the boundary between care and subjugation and the dominance exercised by humans. Her works resemble choreographies, but the films themselves start from real facts. “Tourneur” is an abstract study about the archaic tradition of bullfighting in France. The film shows young men circling and taunting a bull that appears in the frame. The footage, made up of momentary sequences, removes the event from its cultural and geographic context, transposing it into an abstract cinematic space. Afsah’s sound track and the use of music highlight the physicality of the humans and the bull.

Artist and filmmaker Yalda  Afsah  (b. 1983, DE/IR) explores how space can be cinematically constructed and the documentary character of her works often veers towards forms of theatricality. This formal characteristic of  Afsah’s practice is conceptually mirrored in her documentary portraits of human-animal relationships that reveal an ambivalence between care and control, physical strength and broken will, instinct and manipulation. Afsah  seeks to question and to dissolve these dichotomies, while carving out a space to reflect on the possibility of an overarching empathy between species.

Focusing on different encounters between human and animal, Yalda Afsah’s practice continuously explores the possibilities for cinematically constructing filmic space. At the same time, the documentary character of her films fluidly transitions into forms of theatricality. Tourneur (2018) and Vidourle (2019) both document a kind of bullfight practiced in the South of France. Each of these films capture a strange choreography on screen, which could respectively be described as a ritual, a spectacle, a game or a fight – performative acts translated into filmic abstractions.

While the bullfight is a meeting marked by unpredictability, the animals’ movements in dressage are controlled down to the finest detail and seem far removed from the categories of nature, drive or instinct. The insight into how these animals are handled reveals an ambivalence between care and control, physical strength and broken will, instinct and artifice. Afsah allows her protagonists to dissolve these dichotomies – a symbiosis that leaves space for the audience to evaluate the possibility of an overarching empathy between the species, which seems rooted in mutual vulnerability.