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Otro Mundo

Film by Anna Brass

Music by Umi Nowaz

9 minute HD video, looped

Commissioned by Senate House Library for their Reformation season. 

The Reformation was a rupture, shattering the old world and forging a new one. Otro Mundo explores this tectonic shift through images.

Before the Reformation, England was full of churches that were full of images: wall paintings, shrines, sacred sculptures, stained glass, roof bosses, rood screens, effigies, monumental brasses, alabaster altarpieces, reliefs, embroidered vestments and altar cloths; some of this survives, most of it is gone. For 16th century people these religious images held real, tangible power and to see them destroyed in bouts of iconoclastic violence was a brutal, psychic shock. But to modern eyes pre-Reformation imagery is strange and unfamiliar, and for us to attempt an understanding they have to undergo a kind of translation. The film pivots on this feeling of dislocation.

Otro Mundo shows a world of images that feel alive but remain distant; they’re elusive and unfathomable, like a lost language. They belong to the rich visual culture of medieval England from which we are estranged; we are only able to recognize slivers and bits from Bible stories.

Shards of stained glass and fragments of illuminated manuscript are interwoven with scenes of image making: astrological signs are painted onto a man’s body, pilgrims brandish oversize pilgrim badges, and God creates the universe on a pageant wagon. Motifs ricochet, and religious iconography becomes confused and entangled. The images are accompanied by music that’s been shredded - Umi Nowaz’s score has been cut up and set to shuffle: each time the video loops a new soundtrack is generated.