press release

This film and video programme includes works in which the artist uses as a starting point a reflection on some area of recent history, both personal and/or political. Using mainly the documentary style, the works question the way that history is mediated or misunderstood. Some offer an alternative structure to look at acts of violence or memories of war and others examine the creation of myth associated with political circumstances.

The works will be installed two at a time for a period of two weeks each. For the duration of the show all works can be viewed on a monitor in the front space.

Hito Steyerl, November, 2004, 25 mins This is a short film loosely based on the life of Steyerl’s close friend, Andrea Wolf, who, prior to her assassination as a suspected Kurdish terrorist in 1998, was accused of being a member of the Red Army faction in Germany. Using Wolf’s biography as a structuring element, the film poignantly questions what we presently refer to as “terrorism” by imitating and subverting the gestures and postures generally attributed to the roles of perpetrator and victim. In this way, November is not a documentary about Andrea Wolf, nor is it about Kurdistan; it’s an elegy to a distant friend, an essay on the construction of mythic identities, and a commentary on the defunct ideologies of revolution.

Maja Bajevic, Double Bubble, 2001, 3.40 mins Addressing the camera, Bajevic repeats fictionalised statements which seem to justify acts of oppression and violence in the name of religion. Delivered in the first person, these statements are the same as those rationalising atrocities committed during Yugoslavia's civil war. Set in rakishly lit, empty interiors, Double Bubble's tone is decidedly noirish. However, there is no crime. Bajevic's performance would constitute a confession were her delivery not so assured as to become matter-of-fact. She repeats the statement once on screen and once on voice-over. As one voice speaks to the viewer, the other speaks for the viewer. The contradictory logic of each statement is not being challenged but affirmed, making Double Bubble a portrait of psychological submission to orthodoxy despite hypocrisy.

Renzo Martens, Episode 1 2003, 42 mins Upstairs space (This film will be presented every hour on the hour) Renzo Martens' video Episode 1 (2003) is both moving and genuinely -- if perhaps unintentionally -- funny. It presents a damning psychological self-portrait of the artist in the frame of a documentary about the appallingly war-torn city of Grozny. Clearly on a mission to overcome or win back a lost love, he unabashedly pitches his own personal distress against the tragedy of a whole city, weighing the major balance of pain and difficulty on his own score. Repeatedly asking insecure and petty questions about himself and about how to impress a woman in the course of interviews, he utterly flummoxes his bewildered interviewees, who mistake him for a journalist. The film relates personal, intimate and horrifying details of the lives of Grozny civilians while simultaneously revealing the artist's naive self-obsession. It is a strange and entertaining double portrait expressing the parallels of inner and outer turmoil.

Akram Zaatari. In this House, 2005 (Presented in collaboration with Ashkal Alwan), 30 mins In this piece two simultaneous display frames juxtapose an interview with an action: a former militiaman recounts his civil war exploits in a white house at a crossroads, while a worker digs in its garden searching for a letter the militiaman had buried in 1991, telling the owners he did not abuse the house that sheltered him and had tried to leave their property intact, contrary to official reports that sabotage was practised on a wide scale. Subtitles explain that army and police officers as well as the owners of the house were all present during the digging -- carried out at the filmmaker's behest -- but they all refused to be filmed; that is why the camera remains fixed on the hole being dug for the film's 30-minute duration. Once again an individual's personal document becomes the centre of attention, while the official interpretation is marginalised.

Kamal Aljafari, Visit Iraq, 2003, 25.40 mins Visit Iraq is a poetic document that exposes the stereotypical thinking that underlies many social and political clashes throughout the world. Aljafari exploits an urban fragment (which as the narrative evolves, turns out to be a powerful social one as well) of present-day Geneva: the abandoned office of Iraqi Airways. Through a series of interviews with people living in, or passing through this particular neighbourhood, Aljafari presents the viewer with a number of suppressed clichés about world power constellations and the positions that individuals take when confronted with the unknown, distant, or the other. Through the windows of the deserted agency, the camera registers dusty remnants of what once must have been a sumptuous interior that imposed respect and admiration. Here the empty abandoned office functions as a space from which one can speculate about its past. The artist does not offer us a real story, no account of events in the agency is provided; we only hear the opinions of the interviewees, which have clearly been influenced by stories perpetuated in the media. Aljafari facilitates this story telling, but at the same time, he makes us understand how suspicious he is of the superficial conclusions some people arrive at. In this way, Aljafari exposes the mechanisms of fantasy which - especially in current political circumstances - much too quickly fall into the trap of articulating overused , superficial conclusions.

David Maljkovic, Scene for a New Heritage, 2004, 4.33 mins Scene for a New Heritage begins with Maljkovic’s visit to a memorial park for victims of the Second World War erected under the communist government of Yugoslavia. The author of the monument, Vojin Bakic, worked on it from 1970 to 1981 and during the communist period all elementary schoolchildren were obliged to visit it. Between September 1991 and August 1995 the memorial park was in the occupied part of the Republic of Croatia and almost completely destroyed. Today it exists as an artefact, a structure without function, except for the grafted transmitters of Croatian television and T-mobile. As the artist explains: I dont know how I found myself in that place, probably my subconscious directed me because I only know that I stood looking at the monument for a long time. Finally I found a way to escape all these historical facts and the journey of the work started. I found myself in 2045, on the 25th May, following a group ofpeople on a quest for their heritage. Everything suddenly seemed without pressure history became a fiction and time created a collective amnesia. The people reached the memorial without knowing what or why it was there. They spoke in ganga, a Croatian folk song performed in primitive polyphony revealing a moment of good or bad mood. Their recognition of the forgotten place took a long time and their ignorance made them nervous. It looked as though only their moment could be their heritage.


A picture of war is not war

mit Kamal Aljafari, Maja Bajevic, David Maljkovic, Renzo Martens, Hito Steyerl, Akram Zaatari