Lucien Castaing-Taylor, a filmmaker, artist and professor of Visual Arts and Anthropology at Harvard University, is the 2013 Herb Alpert Award Winner for Film/Video. He was at CalArts last week for a week-long residency, in which he screened several of his works, conducted a film workshop with 16 students and participated in student film critiques.
Self-described as an “anthropologist in recovery,” Castaing-Taylor switched his focus from anthropology to making works for the big screen. “I was fed up with academia,” he said during a recent interview, adding that he wanted to create art that was “messier” and “unruly.” His earliest film works (in collaboration with Ilisa Barbash) include In and Out of Africa (1992), an examination of cultural and racial politics in the African art market; and Made in USA (1990), a look at sweatshops in the L.A. garment industry.
During his CalArts’ residency, he screened three films, two of which are collaborative works with Barbash. Sweetgrass (2009) is a portrait of modern-day cowboys who lead their flocks of sheep to summer pasture; and Sheep Rushes (2001-2009) a series of films, video installations and photographs recorded in and around the Absaroka-Beartooth range of Montana.
His most recent work, Leviathan (2012), was created with Véréna Paravel. It’s a documentary that immerses viewers in the dangerous world of commercial fishing.
Though he had only spent a little time with students in the film workshop, he was already impressed with what he’d seen and heard on campus. “The CalArts students are way more intellectual [than the Harvard students],” he said. He did, however, suggest that CalArts should consider blurring the lines even further between experimental and character animation, noting that filmmakers may benefit from deeper “cross-fertilization” and “friction” in their works.