Jessica Sarah Rinland (SMACT ’18) on ‘Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another’

Jessica Sarah Rinland, Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another, 2019. Film still.
ACT at MIT

Jessica Sarah Rinland (SMACT ’18) was recently interviewed by Andrew Northrop for Filmmaker Magazine on her film Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another.

Excerpt from interview by Andrew Northrop below:

When we enter a museum and engage with its objects, we might not think about the people responsible for making those experiences available to us. Behind the public walls of the museum, conservators, preservationists and historians work tirelessly to restore and preserve the artefacts that we as visitors ponder over. These undertakings are celebrated, explored and reflected upon in Argentine-British artist Jessica Sarah Rinland’s latest film, Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another. It’s an investigation that amplifies the tactile qualities of the many processes involved in repairing objects, fabricating copies and ensuring their long-term saving as historical records, presenting actions in close-ups filled with haptic energy….

Prior to the film’s appearances at True/False, Cinema du Reel, FICUNAM and Glasgow International Film Festival, Rinland spoke about the research involved in the film, her own appearance within it, how conservation practice often mirrors the natural world, and the film’s extended life through her long term engagement with museum practitioners.

Filmmaker: Was there a specific preservation project that inspired you during the research stage? How did the film evolve?

Rinland: It started around 2015. A friend of mine was working at the V&A and had overheard a conversation about a cupboard filled with ivory in the conservation department. My friend later put me in touch with Nigel Bamforth, the director of furniture conservation there. I was interested in there being a cupboard filled with raw ivory at an art museum versus a natural history museum.

I’d go in every so often and chat with Nigel. He’s interested in other ways of thinking about conservation, so I ended up spending a lot of time with him and we talked about other museums doing this kind of work. The Natural History Museum is a museum I’d worked at a few times when working on previous projects with whales, and Richard Sabin—the curator of mammals—put me in touch with Lorraine Cornish, the head conservator there, so I spent a bit of time in the lab with her and her colleagues. When thinking about making the tusk replica, Richard and I chose a tusk from the Natural History Museum collection. I was then led to the facsimile technician at the British Museum, Mike Nielson, by another friend working at NHM.

I had funding to spend time in Brazil working with archaeologist Eduardo Neves, who introduced me to various museums across the country in Belem, Manaus, São Paulo and Rio. I had a residency at Harvard at the time, so the tusk went on to be made and conserved at the Straus Center for Conservation at Harvard Art Museums.

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