Artist and filmmaker Deborah Stratman makes work that investigates issues of power, control and belief, exploring how places, ideas and society are intertwined. Recent projects have variously addressed freedom, sinkholes, surveillance, the paranormal, sonic warfare, levitation, musical insects, faith and comets. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at the University of Illinois.
In 2015, Stratman visited SIFF on the occasion of a residency for cinema and sound artists, in partnership with Syros Sound Meetings and with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Athens. Twelve artists collaborated and produced original cross-media projects that dealt with the theme of khôra, a key term in ancient and contemporary philosophies of place.
An investigation of place begins in obscurity. So the phenomenon of place, what sets ground and boundary, what unifies the field of human experience, will always have to be examined in context. Khôra is an actual place on the island of Syros, and locations around Greece tend to have their own khôra. But it is also a word with a specific historical legacy, from Plato through Kristeva, from the ancient through the contemporary.
The residency took place at the Syros Institute, housed in the refurbished 16th century Jesuit Monastery of Ano Syros, a site that offers a rich historical context for the residency projects. Participants had the opportunity to work with two internationally acclaimed guest artists, Michael Pisaro (composer, California Institute of the Arts) and Deborah Stratman (artist & filmmaker, University of Illinois at Chicago), who will also contributed their own projects. The resulting works were screened as completed or in-progress pieces during SIFF 2015 in a special showcase screening.
SIFF hosted this residency in the hopes of creating a space for production within the framework of the festival, bringing the production and exhibition of film closer together, as well as creating an opportunity for artists to engage with certain places οn Syros and to create site-specific pieces.
In 2019, SIFF presented Deborah Stratman’s film Xenoi (USA / Greece, 2016, DCP, 15 ́) as part of its “Overexposure” program. The film was produced in the context of “Khôra.”
The Greek island of Syros is visited by a series of unexpected guests. Immutable forms, outside of time, aloof observants to our human condition. Accompanied by Michael Pisaro’s musical score, oscillating geometric objects visit various island sites: beaches, springs, half-finished concrete structures and Pherecydes’ cave, an important site in pre-Socratic cosmogony, among others.