Mexico, mezcal and the meaning of home
Antoine Hunt is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work combines photography, sculpture, painting and film making. He has exhibited in the Bermuda Biennial 12 times. His 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork This Is Not A Home is a reflection upon his nomadic lifestyle which has seen him relocate his place of residence 19 times.
We caught up with Antoine to discuss the meaning of home and the making of his new feature length film In The Belly Of The Moon. The documentary, which recently premiered on i-Tunes, looks at the role of mezcal in both modern day Mexico and its folklore.
BNG: Your 2020 Bermuda Biennial artwork speaks to the notion of home, which is something that has shifted in ways that we could never have anticipated when the exhibition opened. Why did you choose to focus on this?
AH: In the last year I had an incident involving my health that left me feeling helpless and I realised that I had to dig deeper into my vulnerabilities for me to truly heal. These realisations led me to the understanding that my nomadic discontent made me feel like I never had a place that I could call home…
BNG: You split your time between Istanbul, Bristol, Mexico, Berlin and Bermuda. Why is this?
AH: Being a hapless romantic, Bristol, Mexico and Berlin are all places where I had followed my heart and found that each of these places had left indelible marks on my soul.
BNG: Where have you been sheltering in place?
AH: My very small flat in Bermuda has been my place of refuge, where it has been all too easy for me to bounce off the walls. All plans to be attending numerous film festivals have gone awry in the would be apocalyptic pandemic.
BNG: We’re spending more time at home than ever before. Have the shelter in place restrictions altered your attitude to what constitutes a home in any way?
AH: I am learning to not look at the place that I am temporarily occupying as a utilitarian, no frills, practical, just a place to temporary put stuff in. But as shelter that is taking care of me and that I should take care of in turn.
BNG: When you are able to travel again where are planning to go and why?
AH: Mexico will be first on the list as there is a film Festival in Oaxaca at the end of the year. Then onward to Canada to continue research for the next film project.
BNG: Your feature length documentary ‘In The Belly Of The Moon’ looks at mezcal and the traditions that surround it. What attracted you to explore this as a theme?
AH: I’ve been going to Mexico off and on for the last twenty years or so. Mezcal had always been a part of partying. That is, mezcal is a small part of my research of all aspects of the Mexican culture. It was not until around 2011 that I had found a deeper appreciation for the spirit by way of a film festival in Guanajuato, where I screened a film and then shot a short love film centred around the sometimes unquantifiable effects of mezcal.
This led to shooting the beginnings of the finished film In The Belly Of The Moon. The film begins with an epic poem describing how the gods created mezcal and the film gets its name from tales told long ago. The story says that Mexico City sits in a lake and looking from the mountains the city sits neatly in the moons reflection.
BNG: Could you talk us through the process of creating the documentary?
AH: At first it was elusive then it was hard, then it sucked and was eventually satisfying and not necessarily in that order. Shooting a feature film in a country where one does not have firm grasp on the language is not an easy thing. Topping that off with crew that did not appreciate not having the comforts of an air-conditioned studio to shoot in. The first day I fired someone, people got sick and not from the copious amount of mezcal that we drank every day!
There was an interesting visit to a rural hospital where I had to bring in our lights in order for the doctor to see what she was stitching. Then there was the time the crew dropped me off in the middle of nowhere so I could capture a time-lapse sequence and almost ended up as lunch for a pair of coyotes.
There are so many stories that lead up to me editing the footage over two painful years, including a near death experience. Not involving the coyotes. I learned much, not only about the technical aspects. I was forced to stretch and grow way beyond anything that I could have expected when starting out. Somewhere in this, a documentary was shot and completed.
BNG: Film, photography and sculpture are all part of your artistic practice. Do the different disciplines feed into one another?
AH: All that I make in my art is connected. Each discipline has technical aspects that satisfy part of my brain. Working in film, photography, sculpture and paint allows crossover. Each one feeds the other. Ideas cross pollinate.
BNG: What creative projects are you working on at the moment?
AH: In addition to the pre-production for the next film, I am working on a surreal photography based series that is destined to be displayed in the Bermuda National Gallery.