Forest Tales: Toward a Practice of Eco-Cinema


While eco-cinema has emerged as a robust field of discourse over the last couple of decades, its lens is largely focused on cinematic representations of nature and the cultural ecology of cinema. Following Nadia Bozak (2011), this paper offers a different line of flight for eco-cinema, one invested in examining the material impact of cinema alongside its representational ecologies, leading to an embodied practice of the “cinematic.” Forest Tales is a crystallization in this practice-as-research experiment that inhabits the cusp between cinema and performance. A queer sci-fi eco-feminist re-telling of the Indian epic Ramayana, the project reimagines the tale in the voice of Sita—the female protagonist, who is literally the daughter of the earth. Originally imagined as a film, this project intended to extend the ethos of ecology into artistic practice by finding human-powered energy solutions (bicycle-powered, hand-cranked, etc.) for the production. However, since the most environmentally friendly film is one that never gets made, the project now exists as a performance of the film. Given the narrative, visual design, and modes of production, audience members are invited to participate in a collaboratively imagined cinema; by “becoming-camera” and “becoming-projector,” participants enact the centrality of the spectator in the cinematic apparatus. What emerges at the end of Forest Tales is a shape-shifting, material-discursive cinema—a larval cinema—that flickers in the interstices of our interaction and intra-action (Barad, 2007). Arising from a passion for the moving image, and an awareness of being deeply implicated in its eco-logics (Ivakhiv, 2008), this is the formulation of eco-cinema that my practice aims to elaborate on—one that replaces “cinema” as the ontological unit of inquiry and proposes instead the “cinematic,” allowing for a process-relational practice which does not miss the forest for the garden.

Author Biography

Anuj Vaidya, UC Davis

Anuj Vaidya is an artist, educator, and media curator whose practice inhabits the cusp of cinema and performance. Invested in process, and with a keen sense of the material ecologies of his practice, Vaidya’s work seeks to engage a politics of retreat, where retreat is reflection, self-care, and reorientation towards an eco-practice. His collaborative project, LRS (Larval Rock Stars), with artist/scholar Dr. Praba Pilar, provides the engine for his larval method. LRS rejects the category of the “human” and posits, instead, the “larval” as an emergent space which hold the potential for forms that are in the process of actualizing. Vaidya has been co-director for the South Asian Film Festival in San Francisco, since 2008

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