polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Featured Artist: Armand Morin

"Pardon our dust" by Armand Morin, 2009 from Armand Morin on Vimeo.

Armand Morin is a student filmmaker from Nantes, France, who produces and directs films about Miami. Unlike the film representations that dominate Miami’s urban imagination, Armand’s work is subtle and experimental, more characterized by a keen eye for the colors, textures and shapes that represent the stillness of everyday life before the unhinged transformation in the city.

I first became aware of Armand’s work last year, as I carried out fieldwork for my dissertation in Miami and was immediately struck by several aspects. Instead of showing us a definitive thesis of Miami as a place, what I saw in his films was a process of interrogation, a desire to look for something.

This capacity of searching through film or making the familiar strange, is reminiscent of visual ethnography. To be clear, Armand does not produce ethnographic work; He is not recording practices of natives in far away places in order to question the universal nature of humankind. The visuals he produces retain a purely aesthetic purpose. They are discreet observations and essays about what makes Miami unique in the relationship between the landscape and its people. But these visual fragments lead to observations on the value of representation, the relationship between memory and place, as well as how urban history is recorded in a fast changing place like Miami.

Armand’s films also carry with them the position of the external gaze looking into a foreign place. This position is full of questions, contradictions and possibilities, but what is most interesting is that it becomes bare in Armand’s film through choice of subject, editing and narrative. Armand’s films become strange representations of Miami’s strangeness. They objectify the act of objectification, thus opening a new dimension of understanding for Miami.

Why do I say this? Because the challenge is not to imagine Miami, but rather to not imagine it. A city with so many exploited media surfaces in music videos, film and television leaves little place for the re-imagination. Armand’s films allow us to begin a process of visual detoxification.

After I encountered Armand's work, we started communicating, which led to a series of podcast interviews. The recording process continues, but now with a self-reflective tone. Interviews and more information about Armand’s work can be found at MUTT: Miami Urban Think Tank.