Guided by physical intonation, the dramaturgy of cartography and choreographic editing, Bhenji trans-verses and self-films along paths and root systems in Oaxaca, Jamaica, Philippines, Los Angeles and Tiwi Islands.
Conversations between image and sound form a resounding intimacy that hijacks us – or at least creates a quality of spirit hijacking. The merging of the scenes are themselves a nouveau trade route – informed by one person’s ancestry afloat with the impossibility of accuracy, the flakiness of autobiography and the creolisation of movements and gestures. Her hands are touching images, moving them, animating what arose between an impulse and a camera roll filled with data ghosts.
Bhenji’s edit implies a route that sways, flows, moves, and mirrors the present. The cognitive bridges between each shot forms a connective weave that captures her vision of physical intonations of transness. The framework remains the same in all of these different locations, alongside and interdependent on all of the various characters emerging and fading from the work because it is embodied and activated by Bhenji.
Bhenji Ra uses a point-and-shoot approach to build a switchboard of revelations: diary data of a trans-Oceanic map dependent on fleeting moments, low-battery hand-held camera work. This forces her image capture to surrender to associative montage, a ‘soft editing’ she describes as aiming for a feeling of lightness. A cloud, not a hard drive. The aim of this is to bridge mythology with witness-value, merging storytelling with story-living (two formats that exist irl or in gossip). Within the subtle cuts are spirit stitches, patchworking that echoes higher power passing human control. A spirit in body/a body with a laptop.
Deepening Bhenji Ra’s tradition of body capture and archiveology, Trade Routes wonders how bodies are bound to trade routes. By mounting sequences of day-to-day back to back/up and down Bhenji lays out a series of visual pleasures that’s both participatory and observational. Self-described expressions of mirroring, a form of ‘autonomous/accidental’ archive, a cinema of ‘following’ that draws out intimate linkages. Same, not sameness. If H. Steyerl declares the poor image (to her, a low-res keepsake) an ‘illicit fifth-generation bastard of an original image’, Trade Routes serves the aesthetic parlance of a third generation Filipina videogirl, permanently stuck en route on trans time. Refusing narrative comprehension in place of choreographic editing, the work is an international panopticon, out of sync and in sync.
From the clouds to the Cloud we’re pulled in all directions by Bhenji’s hyperactive camera. Because of Bhenji’s socio-cultural identifiers we think her motivation is political, until the seams of each stitch show focused poetics. On one side a man carves a pineapple in public, merging with a doll riding on a river. Bhenji oscillates between private and public – made possible by the (in)visibility of iPhone. She roams around. She creates an anterior stance as she’s always behind, always before, always in the lead up to a next. By collecting from the past and copy+pasting she’s leaving the future a weave of timelines, a remnant she won’t hold again. She’s on the lookout to find the deity in the download.