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Le Génie Civil
Claes Söderquist & Jan Håfström

Le génie civil consists of numerous etchings and photogravure prints from an engineering journal, illustrating the advancement of industrialism in the late 1800’s. The filmed illustrations are allowed to speak for themselves as still images during a prolonged cinematic time, a kind of viewing time. In a reciprocal and dense interaction with a collage of noise from trains, rain, thunder, a ticking clock and organ music, the material is brought to life and the narrative of the film slowly emerges. Because the images in Le génie civil are taken out of their original context and placed in another time and space, they link the past with an ongoing present.

Keywords Experimental
Aspect ratio 1.33:1 (4:3)
Prod. format Generic film
Duration 00:11:00
Language No dialogue
Color BW
Year 1967
In VOD Claes Söderquist: A Retrospective in Eight Parts
Latest screening Mar 9, 2023
Jun 5, 2019
Apr 9, 2019
Watch at home on Vimeo Rent this work for public screenings

About the artists

Claes Söderquist

Claes Söderquist

Born in 1939. Studied painting at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Works as a curator and film maker. Lives in Stockholm. Chairman of Filmform’s board 1999-2012. Söderquist has curated several comprehensive exhibitions at Moderna Museet in Stockholm: “The Pleasure Dome”, American Experimental Film 1939-1979 (1980 in collaboration with Jonas Mekas), Nordic Film (1983), West German Experimental Film (1985 in collaboration with Birgit Hein) and Swedish Avantgarde Film 1924-1990 (tour in the US in collaboration with Jonas Mekas and Anthology Film Archives in New York).

Söderquist has also exhibited his own films and video works at the Center of Contemporary Art in Kristianstad (2014) and a solo exhibition of his work was presented at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Stockholm 2013). His films have been screened at Avant (Karlstad 2006), Moderna Museet (Stockholm 2012) and Turbidus Film (Stockholm 2014).

To find out more about Söderquist: OEI #69-70: On Film (2015), Magasinet Walden (2012 i valfiskens buk), Passager (catalogue, two volumes, 2013)

Jan Håfström

Born in 1937. Lives in Stockholm.

Jan Håfström Studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. He is one of his generation’s most acclaimed painters and sculptors, but has also directed and participated in films since the 1960s. One of his latest appearances is in his son Mikael Håfström’s film adaptation of Jan Guillous “Evil”, 2003.

His contribution to Swedish film is above all the experimental documentary. Together with Claes Söderquist, he made the short film Le génie civil in 1967, which consists of stills from technical journals from the 19th century. This consideration of Western technology optimism and the emergence of modernity gained a commendation in the Orient that Håfström did on his own that same year. Together, the two films explore and thematize memory and history writing, where the Eurocentric worldview is exposed to dissection. In 1970 he participated with a manuscript for Per Berglund’s film about the so-called Salaligan, Den Magiska Cirkeln, and a few years later, he and Anders Wahlgren made a short story about the artist Carl Graffman, Dömd till dårhus (1976). He participates as an actor in Claes Söderquist’s Epitaf (1982), and it is of course more than a guest play at an artist’s colleague; Epitaf is reminiscent of Håfström’s films and other art, by thematizing the memory and the images of the past.

Jan Håfström has said that he learned to dream in the cinemas, and the film’s suggestion power can also be seen as a recurring motif in his painting and graphics, where the popular culture templates are reused to make a journey into the interior of the western civilization. One of Håfström’s favorite references is Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, and like his protagonist Marlowe, he has made a journey into the painful points of memory.