Gerard Ortín Castellví on „Agrilogistics“ / interview

The artist, filmmaker and researcher was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1988. After studying at the Sandberg Institut in Amsterdam, he went on to Goldsmiths, University of London where he is currently taking a PhD. He has exhibited in Barcelona, San Sebastián, Amsterdam and Oslo while his moving image work has screened at the Anthology Film Archives in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and elsewhere. His short film „Reserve“ received a special mention at the Cinéma du Réel festival in Paris.

What was your starting point for “Agrilogistics”?

During the shooting of a previous film, Wolfdog (Lycisca), I stumbled upon an automated milking machine. Through sensors, a robotic arm, mechanized pumps and a centralized computer, this machine called “Astronaut” milked cows 24/7 by giving them surplus food. I was struck by the entanglement of the mechanism and the animal, by how these devices exert pressure on living bodies “optimizing” energy inputs and outputs to produce the food we consume on a daily basis. Two things happened afterwards: I stopped drinking (industrially produced) milk and I started my PhD research on automation in farming and agriculture. As I was reading, the starting point for the film became clearer: Could contemporary greenhouses be understood as media? I started seeing them as film sets, as stages where cameras move through rails to capture data from plants and vegetables; where bulbs, seeds, stems and fruits are processed by cameras to feed datasets that regulate their own growth. The challenge was to explore what, in the words of my colleague and researcher Krista Lynes, my camera could do as a sensor among sensors.

Do you have a favorite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

Perhaps the bird scene. We were filming in Drenthe (NL), in a very particular greenhouse, an old horticultural school that had been abandoned for many years. Unlike in high-tech greenhouses, the boundaries between inside and outside were permeable. One could see a continuous layer of vegetation penetrating through the glass structure. That greenhouse and its surroundings were an ecosystem in itself. Like any ecosystem, it hosts several species, like that Tawny Owl that we hear throughout the night sequence. In the scene that I mention, what we believe to be a Common House Martin, gets trapped between the brambles and the ceiling, the greenhouse somehow turns into a trap. I don’t mean it as a metaphor. To me it is one of the moments where the fictional strategies we were using and the actual web of life that inhabited the area coalesced.

What do you like about the short form?

I like its directness. Sometimes, in feature documentaries there is a tendency to exacerbate long observational shots. When it comes to films that deal with the ecological, such approaches can end up mystifying the landscapes and spaces we film. The short form forces one to negotiate other temporalities, perhaps to be more straightforward. It has its limitations, of course, but I often find them stimulating and generative.

Photo © Dorothea Tuch

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13:0824:45 Gerard Ortín Castellví / Agrilogistics

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