Training Ground by Aernout Mik.
A lot of people are on the ground held by uniformed guards and men not in uniform in what looks like a parking lot. A little in the distance a group of Truck Drivers are on their lunch break half watching this unusual rehearsal. The weather is hot and dusty, images of border countries cross my mind, I’m not sure if these people are trying to escape or are they are being detained, because they are criminals. Everyone seems very at ease, there is no one acting hysterically, it is an enactment. Later, (10 mins into film) it gets a little confusing when what appears the guards, are now on the ground held in a head lock by the alleged immigrants, next we see the truckers also getting involved. I’m really confused by the drama on the screen. The camera view switch’s to a truckers windscreen in a cab – they have a odd collection of super hero dolls on the dashboard, I feel a little safer from this point of view until the camera focuses on a particular doll that has a grimace and its tongue sticking out. It is this uncomfortable feeling I think Mik is aiming for. I’m a little put off from a particular man that is literally foaming at the mouth. The people are all actors I am watching a staged event.
Mik encouraged his actors to really explore a documentary about madness made in 1954 by Jean Rouch a ethnographer, whose film explores how a sect in Ghana acted out their oppression by the colonists, by a induced trance and undergoing a spiritual possession. Although in Mik’s film i thought everyone has contracted a disease or plague – everyone is affected no one can escape.
Aernout Mik’s work is usually video installations shown on any amount of screens. His work has a staged illogical narrative, as it has a series of actors and sometimes an official space that the work is set in. Power is questioned and official persons swap roles with unofficial persons, therefore it is difficult to gauge who controls who, and who is in charge. I think he is questioning that if major countries have a rehearsal or staged enactment of a catastrophe events either natural or sieges and war. Mik asks will discipline win or anarchy?. Who would you trust,? Is anyone accountable? He questions rules and regulations and breaks them by putting the viewer in a uncomfortable position to make a stance or a side with the controlled or controlling. This brings to mind the real events of looting and riots in New Orleans on the occasion of the catastrophic Hurricane Katerina, also when vast amounts of people didn’t work together when housed in a disused Gym for weeks.
The trickery of using a documentary film style arrests the eyes of the viewer and puts them in an awkward position of questioning what is real and unreal. In a catastrophic situation how would you react ?. Questioning humanity at its weakest most vulnerable point what side would you take. I feel a little uneasy and turn around to view the other videos which are on smaller monitors.