On the first day that Toni Serra lectured our class, he gave us an introduction of some of his main points and ideas that he tries to convey in his projects. One of those ideas were the concept of vision. He suggested that even though we see a lot of images, these images actually make us blind to the real things happening around us.
He drew a diagram that was a straight line and arrows pointing towards the line, but never going beyond the extremities of the line themselves. He said told us that this is what we see or rather are allowed to see. But once we take a step back from the world that we are accustomed to and truly start to see with our eyes, we start to see the ‘gaps’ in the line. Toni then erased some sectors of the original line and drew smaller lines below the original line where he originally erased. This image helped us realize that there are a lot of possibilities to see and interpret what we see.
A very important question that he asked us was that why is it so easy to imagine the end of the world, but hard to imagine a world without capitalism? For Toni Serra, the conception of being poor is something implemented and not necessarily an actual state of being. For example, he told us of a group that lived happily in their homes and were satisfied with what they had. But once television came, they saw themselves as poor. That was the first time that they thought of themselves as poor. We are so quick to accept the way things are because “las cosas son asi” but never truly challenge status quo.
By accepting the labeling of things and ourselves, we limit the different possibilities and shapes that a certain idea can take. We slowly start to lose our own hegemony of ourselves and the ability to imagine outside of our labels because we accept the dogmas behind each label. Because of capitalism, we are living someone else’s dream and not our own because capitalism has robbed us of our imagination. He gave the example of someone dreaming of having 4,000 workers while we are the workers that he dreamt. Capitalism does not like to be called anything because it is our reality and rejects anything that does not encapsulate its dogmatic features or philosophy.
On the second day of the workshop, Toni started the class talking about the presence of the “new power” which is the act of not resisting. An example of this is a commercial from Mexico that encourages workers to continue working despite their working conditions and the crisis. Serra also showed the class video clips that were made to teach people about the purpose of their work. These videos included a simplified animated depiction of workers in a factory, and how their work benefits their society. He described capitalism as a system where more is better, but also highlighted the detrimental effects of this way of thinking.
Also among the discussions on the second day of the workshop were about his movie, Borders as a Center. The film included fragments of videos from borders across the world. In his film, the Border as a Center, students got to see how his work is produced. Serra is a media archaeologist, and uncovers work from other sources, such as the border control. The Border as a Center, is a collection of different videos that tell a story about the effects of borders globally, and shows them as the center of conflict and violence.
Furthermore, Serra depicts them as a way to carry out our prejudices. On the second night of the workshop, students attended Carleton’s International Film Forum and watched Serra’s video. After the video, there was a question and answer section where students asked questions related to the process of creating the film and the influence of borders in society today.
In our last workshop class with Toni Serra, we watched several clips from the documentary «Local Solutions for a Global Disorder.” The class interpreted these clips, discussing the ways in which capitalism encourages the exploitation of land and the exploitation of farmers because they are forced into debt to maintain a high volume of production.
We also watched clips from the film «The Mahabharata,» which led to a conversation about how we are taught to live as human beings separate from nature. However, as Toni pointed out, our bodies are intrinsically a part of nature. For this reason, it is important to maintain a dialogue between nature and ourselves rather than with a system of capitalist exploitation. We also found as a class that, although this connection with nature begins individually, it is important that we establish a connection to nature as a society as well.
Finally, our class discussed the ways in which experiences of love and death teach us about life. As Toni noted, the experience of love takes you out of yourself and that, in itself, is a revolutionary act against a capitalist framework. Death, on the other hand, teaches us to find solace in uncertainty, because we never know when our last day will be. With this idea, we finished the workshop.
The brochure that a group of students created for the Carleton International Film Forum:
Three students from the class conducted of a formal interview with Toni Serra and created the following video so that others can get to know Toni Serra and hear the ideas from his work that he shared at Carleton.