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Work / Film

Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen’s filmic portrait of Senegal, posthumously narrated by Anni Albers

You’ve probably seen the work of London-based director Ivana Bobic before. Most recently she directed the Coppafeel ad encouraging women to check their breasts, and before that she created atmospheric fashion films for brands such as Stella McCartney, Whistles and Nivea, and music videos for Bloc Party and Nothing But Thieves.

Her latest film, though, moves away from her commercial practice. Explorers is an abstract documentary of design made together with Kenzo knitwear designer Siri Johansen during a month-long residency at Thread – a satellite of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation based in the rural village of Sinthian, Senegal. Using footage filmed in the village, narrated by Anni Albers using archive material, the film is a beautiful portrait of Senegalese life spliced with profound creative theory from one of the world’s most renowned designers.

According to Ivana, Siri was invited to the residency and asked her to collaborate. “We could make anything at all, the brief was open. We wanted an element of cultural exchange with the community, so for Siri this was about teaching the women in the village to knit, and for me it was teaching the kids to make films.”

During their month-long stay, Siri and Ivana documented everything they did, and carried out multiple mini projects across knitting, filming and photography. “I looked at movement with dance and football – both were big events in the village,” says Ivana. “It was a sprawling, exploratory body of work and a really mind-opening experience for both of us who were used to working commercially. It was about allowing yourself to try things, test, think and not about final pieces.” Ivana says the final piece takes on a “collaged” feel, accumulating and depicting their time there and the people they lived with.

Meanwhile, Ivana became fascinated with Anni Albers and, when she heard recordings of Anni’s lecture at Yale University, it all clicked into place. “She talks about the creative process and how you have to be an explorer, and the idea of starting with nothing and building up. The film then became an impossible, imagined dialogue between Anni Albers, me and Siri with all of our projects at Thread woven into it. Watching it now, it’s as if Anni had been there with us all along.

“In my mind, what Anni was really trying to say is that design, or any other creative process, is all about not thinking about yourself and instead letting the idea form itself, letting the idea dictate what it should be like. It’s about having the guts to do something completely new. I chose this excerpt because it was the process that Siri and I had to go through while we were at Thread, not knowing what we were going to do and gradually through careful observation, making something. 

“Amazing advice really, it could apply to any creative person. The idea that creativity is a process, where you build up step by step, applies to filmmaking very directly. And I couldn’t agree with Anni more when she says ‘Art makes you breathe easier’.”

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Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen: Explorers

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Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen: Explorers

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Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen: Explorers

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Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen: Explorers

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Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen: Explorers

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Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen: Explorers

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Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen: Explorers

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Ivana Bobic and Siri Johansen: Explorers