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Diabolical Architectures of Colonialism (2023)

Diabolical Architectures of Colonialism, a research-based film, is a durational, allegorical response to the voices absent from data critically analysed in the Cecil Rhodes archive (held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford) from times during the Kimberley diamond rush (1871), South African gold rushes (1873-1886), and African expansion as a result of British, German, and Portuguese imperialism.

Created almost entirely in Unity 3D, the game engine software, this film subverts the three-act hero structure. It demands the viewer to stay with its temporal conceit, as it conceptually engages the legacies of time, labour, psychological, material, and climate decimation in colonialism's afterlives, examining how one's cultural history and current reality are embedded and continued within these evasive bureaucratic languages, ledgers, and legacies.

Premiered at Transmediale Berlin (2023).

Written, directed, designed, animated and edited by Michael Salu.

Runtime: 42 mins.
Losing is Ours

Based on Michael Salu’s 2023 book, Red Earth, Losing is Ours is a feature-length epic poem—a meandering meditative work, thinking about modern existence, as we relate or do not relate to the material compositions of our world. Taking the point of view of a low-frequency radio wave, we travel through materials, timezones and atmospheres as a quiet observer, folding time, considering humanity across history, both recorded and forgotten.

A collaboration with Lee Tesche, from the band, Algiers. 

Written by Michael Salu
Directed by Michael Salu & Lee Tesche
Edited by Michael Salu
Score by Lee Tesche, with support from Algiers and friends.
Cinematography by Lee Tesche, Sam Campbell, Ian C & Sinan Germi & Michael Salu
Produced by Lee Tesche & Michael Salu
→ In development
Listening to the Red Earth (2023)

This film was created to be presented alongside live readings from Michael Salu's book Red Earth, with additional live sound elements taken from the book.

In this performative reading, artist, writer and scholar Michael Salu opens up the cinema space for a meditation on listening to the polyphonous dimensions of earth – inhumane and human – and to the frequencies of colonial afterlives. Drawing from his recent literary work, Red Earth (2023), Salu coalesces sound, words, image and space into a multi-sensual choreography on selfhood, grief and loss meshing towards nonhuman perspectives.

Listening to the Red Earth was first performed and screened at Gropius Bau Museum, Berlin, in October 2023 and since has since appeared at the British Library, London, the Black Cultural Archives and the Royal College of Art.

Directed, shot and animated by Michael Salu.
Runtime 42 mins
Solitary Breath (2022)

Prose, film, deep-learning models, virtual sculptures, and virtual environments made with game engine and 3D software (deriving from computational translations of the prose) meet to evoke consideration for cultural dissonances experienced by existing across geographical and cross-cultural realities, observed through attempts at non-linear time/space inspired by Yoruba mythology, which can be potentially responded to in virtual space and is also illustrated in part by the looping presentation of this work.

Exhibited at Studio Hannibal, Berlin (2022)

Directed, shot and animated by Michael Salu.
Runtime 20 mins (loop)
Yesterday (2016)

“One may say that the Negro in America does not really exist, except in the darkness of our minds.”
James Baldwin

Shot in a single unscripted take, Yesterday is personal reflection on the hypersexualised and lucrative commodity of the black male image. Globally, yet most explicitly in America, the image or representation of the black male forms many of the building blocks of the economic infrastructure and gains of today’s consumer class and of course the economic history of America in particular. From a privatised penitentiary system, right through to corporate conglomerates such as Apple, the image and the narrative of the black male is that of an indefatigable commodity within the American dream. This is probably most explicitly witnessed within the evolution of Hip Hop over the last decades from street-level oratory urgency and anger to becoming the defacto, benign middle class corporatised ‘urbanity’. High fashion's appropriation of said urbanity and even the proliferation of ‘ebonics’ within internet vernacular also adds to this discourse of a perpetually prolific commodification.

Yet, but no different to ‘yesterday’, the black male is almost completely disconnected from its lucrative semantic economic value, increasingly so today given the top heavy trickle down from the large corporations buying up the language of the street and reselling their own voices back to them at a 500% mark up. Brilliantly re-affirming the unattainability of the American Dream.

The sheen of high fashion markets the parallel tropes of fear and desire of the black image back to us, the broader consumer market led principally by white male patriarchy allow us to consume this image, adopt its stance and its language, without ever really thinking about its restricted social or economic position within our globalised consumer society. The ‘Thug Life’ meme phenomena is an acute observation of this reality.

The sheen of high production and inevitable inherently politicised sexuality also masks the core experience within this film. We do not see this male’s real experiences beyond the mediatised (desired or demonised) version of him. We do not see his emotions, his vulnerability, his loneliness, or even him just having a haircut. Even the hair that is being cut comes with an inherent mystery still prevalent in conversation as why try to understand what dreadlocks are.

The film could only be really made once, as such a ritual would take another ten years or so to reproduce organically calling into question the relevance of materiality or authenticity. This durational ritual itself takes a flagellatory stance, questioning the codes of representation and ultimately the futility of chasing a visual representation of identity within an image culture the black male has little control of. 

Can you sit with this film through its banal duration and maybe also reflect on that which is inescapable from the black male who can not click away or close the browser window, as witnessed in the lives of many and those we’ve seen through the mediatised filter witness their own end through this hegemony. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. They were clearly not cut in on the deal and nor could they just look away.

Premiered on The Great Wall, Oakland (CA).

Directed and edited by Michael Salu.
Cinematography by Jacob Robinson.
Runtime 37 mins.
→ 2016
Nocturnes (2016)

A man alone with the night.A one-shot musing on the procreative power of insomnia.

Extracted from this private moment is an intimacy in its purest and somewhat illicit form with something one might hold dear. Do we ever see what the artist is feeling? 

A special artist commission for Piano Day 2016.

Piano Day is a worldwide celebration of the Piano founded by Nils Frahm.

A House of Thought production in collaboration with Float PR.

Director: Michael Salu
Featuring: Adam Longman Parker
Director of Photography: Lukas Feigelfeld
Sound mixing and location: Vox-Ton Studios Berlin 

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We’re constantly shooting, often as a form of note-taking. This process helps develop both aesthetics and story concepts
Salufilms is driven by innovative storytelling. We see a space in the industry for critical, exploratory work that can live with and beyond the cinema space. We aim to both celebrate and challenge the grammar of film, prioritising poetic exploration and innovation.

We also work to commission with brands and organisations keen to collaborate on original videos and films.

Film production is in partnership with House of Thought and friends.

‘As a director and artist, my interest lies in bringing to light stories of cultures, social realities and concepts often missing from official history books and records. As a progressive creative, I steep myself in the scholarship and history of filmmaking, with great respect for its many epochs and theories, which provides me with a solid foundation to question what film can be today and tomorrow as we find ways to exist and thrive across physical and digital realities. With years of experience creating narrative in the form of fiction and poetry, I am now applying this distinctive storytelling to developing a full-length narrative feature.’

Director, writer and artist, Michael Salu.

photo © Camille Blake

Michael Salu is a British-born Nigerian writer, artist, filmmaker, editor and creative strategist with an interdisciplinary practice, working creatively and critically with new technologies. As a creative strategist and creative director, with strongly literary and scholarly underpinnings, Ihe has developed ideas and designs for many cultural organisations and institutions, winning awards along the way. His written work has appeared in literary journals, magazines, art and academic publications, and as an artist, he has exhibited internationally. Salu has conducted extensive research into technology's impact on culture, including numerous essays and talks with organisations like 5x15. He runs House of Thought, an artistic research practice and consultancy focusing on bridging creative, critical thinking and technology and is part of Planetary Portals, a research collective with Kathryn Yusoff, Kerry Holden and Casper Laing Ebbensgaard.

His book, Red Earth, was published by Calamari Archive in October 2023.