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Review: The Prehistory of Crisis (1) – Project Arts Centre October 24th – November 29th 2008

Sonst wer wie du? Who else Like you? 2005 is one of four video works shown as part one of ‘The Pre-History of Crisis’ in Project Arts Centre. As part one of a two piece project, I am curious to see how part two responds to the changing Irish context as described in the show’s gallery guide.
The Prehistory of Crisis (1) – Project Arts Centre October 24th – November 29th 2008
Sonst wer wie du? Who else Like you? 2005 is one of four video works shown as part one of ‘The Pre-History of Crisis’ in Project Arts Centre. As part one of a two piece project, I am curious to see how part two responds to the changing Irish context as described in the show’s gallery guide. The four video pieces on show made by artists from Germany and France, Holland and Serbia described as being produced in response to ‘power displacement experienced by citizens and civil servants, new nationals, migrants, nion nationals and migrants without rights to work’. 

As I observed and watched the work on show I responded with a sense of uncertainity as viewer. Elements of the narratives made complete sense but they also were familiar and unfamiliar, unresolved and unsettled me in parts.

I engaged with more Sonst wer wie du? Who else like you? 2005; a film by Jeanne Faust and Jorn Zehe’s because it gave me a sense of the familiar, the vast lansdcape on view seemed familiar and known to me.

I viewed a vast open field through a fixed camera offset by large mountains, levelled and centered by a horizontal industrial townscape. It seemed like a contemporary pastoral image but it wasn’t. The sounds that are heard are industrially ‘Sheffield’ like which also contrasts and merges with the vast agricultural setting. The camera’s fixed view is only disturbed by the sound of a car arriving somewhere behind the camera. Slowly a young man in a red t shirt emerges in the distance and walks towards the camera. . In some ways the scene is stangely ambient his red t shirt offsets the green of the field, his role isn’t clear but yet I knew he was a worker, possibly migrant. While he is positioned left of centre closer to the camera, a conversation is struck up between the young man and a person behind the camera. He might be the camera operator and may not be. A confused conversation builds through polish, german and english he is asked by the character behind the camera to ‘get his ticket’ and did he ‘find something?’ The unidentified off screen character builds uncertainity for me, is it an official? Someone who holds power as they seem to hold a more dominat role. As the young worker leaves the scene nothing seems resolved in the conversation. His human presence is partnered by a combine harvester entering the screen. Where does he go? Where is he from? In many ways I sense a feeling of powerlessness as a result as nothing seems resolved.

Tessa Giblin’s gallery guide claims what issues part one of this part two show might address, particularly that a crisis may emerge while Ireland declines further into recession possibly effecting an upsurge in Irish Nationalism. This seems a little nebulous. The context of the work on show reflects centres of conflict in Europe and the impact of colonial powers and its systems it imposes. The strongest parralell presently is Ireland’s current recession and the vulnerability of the migrant worker trying to work legally or illegally and the implicit and explicit systems that control that experience. Not surprisingly I am interested to view how artists will view an Irish context before the period of crisis has hit.

Notes about the artists:
Jeanne Faust and Jorn Zehe are german artists living and working in Hamburg. Both have worked on a variety of video projects together and Faust is strongly influenced by Fassbinder. Faust’s intention is to confront and specualte on the viewers prior experience of film and television through her own film footage.

Posted By: siobhan geoghegan (194.125.14.47)

Review: HOME

Andrijana Stojkovic’s 7min 30 video piece is situated about two thirds up the left hand wall of the exhibition space. This work is shown on a TV screen and not projected like the other films. So this piece is physically the smallest and most difficult to view due to its situation in a corner of the space. The fact that the film is in a corner highlights the cornering of her subjects.
Stojkovic’s piece titled ‘HOME’ which was made in 1996 explores the situation of a couple ( we perceive the man and woman depicted as a couple due to their sharing a bed space) who are living in a gym turned refugee base. A text explaining the identity of the man and woman featured appears either at the beginning of the piece. When I viewed the work I read this text at what I thought to be the end of the piece, if a work is looped then where is the end or beginning?

The printed text accompanying the exhibition is presumptuous and overwhelming. The oversized folded pamphlet printed with the colours green, white and orange(gold). In a time of recession why print a text where one fourth is explanation and the rest is colour and images from the exhibited works? The whole other side of that folded piece of paper is blank which suggests to me pure waste and contradiction. The blurd in the white booklet refers to the exhibition as hoping to activate within us ‘ some sort of responsibility for coming to an awareness of the complexity of otherness and the complications of “living with others”’ is there a danger in presupposing a certain attitude, is it easier to make an exhibition fit together if there is an already predetermined attitude directed towards the viewing public?

Going back to the particulars of the piece, HOME draws the attention in by focusing on small details of everyday life, a quiet humble life. We are shown hands making food with a limited kitchen set, two people eating the food, the clearing away and after diner activate of mending a clock and a game of cards. The mending of a clock seems significant during a time when perhaps that is the most abundant aspect of life, passing and spending time. In our busy work filled days we wish for more time whereas in this piece time is the enemy.

The crux of this work I thought was the final parting shot which pans slowly outward. It is only during this that we see the couple are in a dormitory style setting. What the viewer saw earlier as a simple domestic even private scene is shattered to reveal a crowded forced ‘home‘. The technique of simple camera observation and a focus spanning outward toward the end I found very effective. I say effective in the sense that I experienced empathy for these people and watched the video piece again. Stojkovic’s observational style and fact like stating of events allows the viewer to connect with her subjects on a level because we feel we have seen something of their lives. The lack of dialogue or the choice not to interview these people indicates their voicelessness but in making a video piece they have a visuality. The question lingers, what happens to people like this in times of economic struggle? They are already victims of an unfair system. Will the second part of the project The Prehistory of the Crisis (II) due in June give us any answers?

Posted By: Edel Horan (86.46.236.239)

Hunters and Gatherers

Along with three other films “Who else like you” by Jeanne Faust and Jorn Zehe was shown in Project Arts Centre as part of an exhibition project entitled The Prehistory of the Crisis, which attempts to reflect on the current cultural and socio-political relationships in Ireland in the face of recession. In particular the focus is on the experience of migrants and their relationship with the society in which they find themselves, against the backdrop of changing economic situations within those societies.
The film is shot in one take; the camera stays still for the entire 9 minutes. A Magnificent mountainous landscape is spoiled by the sight of a small industrial town. Luscious greenery of some kind of crop enhances the foreground. Diving in and out of the greenery is a young man who appears to be gathering something. At a closer look comes the realisation that the “gatherer” has no container in which he could store whatever it is that he is collecting. This evokes associations with futile labour, one which appears not to have any objective or purpose. The clothes which the gatherer wears – T-shirt and shorts- are worn and faded, suggesting the image of an impoverished seasonal worker.

While the viewer is given time to make these observations, a background sound can be heard, which is that of an approaching car, we hear the door slam closed and footsteps coming ever closer. Much like the viewer the person arriving on the scene takes time to observe the “gatherer”. We never see this newly arrived person as he stays behind the camera for the entire duration of the film; we only hear his voice: “Hombre”, to which the gatherer reacts and comes over. “OK, he got it”, the newcomer tells himself, switching to German. The fact that he hesitates as to which language he should use indicating his awareness of the fact that the gatherer is a “foreigner” although he cannot be sure of what nationality. He continues, saying: “I lost something, maybe you’ve seen it…”, to which the gatherer only shakes his head in response. The “conversation” continues along these lines, eventually we see the “gatherer” take off his T-shirt and throw it over his shoulder. The man behind the camera is domineering, his confidence indicating that he speaks from a position of power and superiority. In contrast the “gatherer” speaks with his gestures, the separate words that occasionally come from his mouth are mumbled – and not subtitled – his lack of voice is associated with powerlessness and oppression. The voice behind the camera continues: “you are some kind of gatherer here? Some people are gatherers, some are hunters…”

After that dialogue, or rather monologue the “gatherer” approaches the man behind the camera and disappears from the frame – only the landscape unfolds in front of the viewer. We can hear the sound of a closing car door in the background. The “gatherer” comes back into the frame within a minute, smoking a cigarette he walks away from the viewer. “Go buy yourself a ticket. Buy yourself a ticket and fix your cough”- shouts the man behind the camera to the “gatherer’s” back. They are the words of a person who has just given somebody money and now gives them instructions on how to spend it. The fact that the “gatherer” comes back into the frame smoking draws associations on stereotypical “post-coital cigarette”.

We can only guess about the transaction that took place behind the camera, but it leaves us in no doubt about who was exploited. The “gatherer” goes back to his rummaging through the green. A tractor comes into the frame and waters the crops.

Within a few short minutes of the film the artists draw the picture of displacement, of how that displacement leads to subjugation and exploitation. The film evokes images of a disparity of power between individuals, and of how that gap can be exploited to the advantage of one person at the expense of another.

Posted By: sviatlana (89.204.245.99)


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