Andres Serrano’s Shocking New Film Delves Into the Chaos of the U.S. Capitol Riot. He Thinks Trump Will Love It
The artist's first-ever film takes an unflinching look at American history.
It’s entirely fitting that Andres Serrano, a boundary-pushing artist who always (sometimes eerily so) has his finger on the pulse of culture and current events, is set to release a film—his first ever—that delves into the riot at the U.S. Capitol that unfolded exactly a year ago today.
The 75-minute film, titled Insurrection, could be “one of the most violent and controversial films ever made,” Serrano said.
Far more than a simple look at the events of a single tumultuous day, the film spans a much longer time span, stretching back over 150 years of American history, juxtaposing a range of often unexpected musical scores with historical footage that deliberately mashes up celebratory events and disturbing instances of violence, all of it serving as a backdrop and ominous lead-up to the January chaos.
Just one example of the jarring film sequencing is footage of Great Depression-era riots and instances of hate crimes, followed by jubilant “support our troops” performances of the same eras.
“Film was a natural, particularly with the insurrection,” Serrano said in a phone interview with Artnet News. “This is not a story to be told in pictures. Maybe others could do it in pictures, but I feel like it needs to be compelling. I knew that the power of film combined with dialogue and music would be very different from the power of art or still photography.”
Serrano said that, despite the often controversial photographs that made him famous, he has never considered himself to be only a photographer.
“Even though I take pictures, I’m an artist,” he said. “Photography is my art practice, but I can do other creative things.”
Following the riots, Serrano spent months going through photos and footage of the uprising, including material uploaded to conservative networking website Parler. Support from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit CulturalDC (known for financing artworks such as Jennifer Rubell’s Ivanka Vacuuming in 2019) and the London-based organization A/Political (which has worked with Serrano before) helped push him past the finish line when he felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material.
Serrano said in statement that his intent is to “viscerally remind the viewer, again and again, that history repeats itself in specific ways.” More than anything, he said he hopes that even pro-Trump individuals will appreciate the film for their own reasons.
“First of all, Donald Trump will like [the film] because Donald Trump is very proud of the work he did as president and as leader of his supporters,” Serrano said. “It makes me very frustrated and mystified why it’s not so obvious to everyone what happened at the Capitol. It happened the way it did because Donald Trump, president of the United States, made sure that things went down exactly as they did.”
(Trump initially planned a press conference at his Palm Beach mansion today, on the anniversary of the riot, until fellow Republicans persuaded him against the idea.)
For Serrano, it’s important that the members of the mob “came from all walks of life”—young, old, family men and women, business owners, and many others.
“Whether or not they intended to become part of the mob, they did become part of the mob,” he said. “So when these people see the film, I think also they can look at it and say: ‘You know what? We did that. I’m glad we did it.'”
Serrano says that he intends the film to be an “immersive” experience. “I’m taking you there. I’m locking you inside those people, like it or not. You not only see them, you hear them and you feel them. Whatever you think of those people, I don’t care. I’m just taking you for a ride along with them.”
The film’s in-person debut in Washington will take place with an invitation-only audience, but a series of free public screenings in the U.S. capital are also planned. (The full programming schedule is here). There will be additional screenings and discussions with the artist at a handful of cultural institutions around the country to follow.
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