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grafisches Element

From a Place of Darkness

Status Artistic Survey: Film- and Video-Screening
21st December, 7.00 PM

Curated by Gülsen Bal and Walter Seidl

With Jorge Galindo & Santiago Sierra; Servet Koçyiğit; Kamen Stoyanov; Friedl vom Gröller; Ferhat Özgür; Isa Rosenberger; Renata Poljak

Venue: Raum D / Q21/ MuseumsQuartier Wien

The film and video screening project From a Place of Darkness deals with recent phenomena in history that affect personal stories, which are sometimes deprived of any notion of progress and conjure up our innermost fears dating back to ancient times and pushing us to where we reluctantly, with a critical eye, face the fact that “an unexamined life is not worth living”, as Socrates says – in an exploration of a rather difficult question of “waking life” where things that cannot be taken for real almost pass by like shadows.

The general backlash against social progress coupled with increasingly right-wing politics as well as the fear of the consequences of neoliberal and globalist politics has led to different forms of crisis, which make the individual feel helpless and unable to actively engage in social processes. On various levels, the videos presented suggest different viewpoints on public, private, social and political issues, which force us to rethink historical notions of progress and the inhibitions imposed upon the individual, who is often prevented from acting freely and without dependence on the permission of an/other.

The political and economic changes that have taken place since 9/11 have not only triggered notions of fear but also posed questions about the future developments of a world that is constantly affected by war and, since 2011, has faced various forms of crisis. Although these global phenomena do not directly influence the actions of the individual, they force us to rethink the status of a global world order and sometimes crush the hopes for a better future. Thoughts about darkness evolve out of these observations, which are treated on several artistic levels. The video programme directly and indirectly addresses some of these issues.

In the collaborative video work Los Encargados by Jorge Galindo & Santiago Sierra, black limousines are seen driving on one of Madrid’s main avenues, like a funeral procession. The limousines carry upside-down portraits of several Spanish statesmen, a symbolic decapitation. After a while the video turns upside down, suggesting that the real and the political world cannot exist upright simultaneously.

The video can be read as a severe accusation of political corruption put in a poetic form, where the images depict a procession of seven official cars crowned with gigantic portraits placed face down and also painted in black and white by Jorge Galindo from official photographs. The first is of King Juan Carlos. It is followed by the faces of the presidents of the successive governments since the transition: Adolfo Suárez, Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo, Felipe González, José María Aznar, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy.

In To Die For Servet Kocyigit associates American popular music with a purely poetic vision of escape to a better world full of hope. The well-known song You’ll Never Walk Alone exemplifies the way in which music and artistic expression can, and has over centuries, created a universal unity of emotions among different peoples, countries and culture, reminding viewers of their social and personal histories.

Move Your Hands shows a Bulgarian woman playing a home-made folk music instrument in front of the Centre Pompidou in France. Her noisy fiddle along with her insistence on remaining in front of the pedestal of a sculpture coincides with the cleaning crew removing graffiti from the wall behind her. This is where Kamen Stoyanov brings up the issues with the untrammelled commercialisation of the cultural field and of the public sphere. Seemingly secondary moments, inconspicuous people, acts or places take on a special significance as they play an unconventional role with regard to the dominant economic order. The problems associated with migration, cultural translation between cultures and the construction of identity come to light in this field of tension.

Friedl vom Gröller is seated in a dentist’s chair. She is undergoing a treatment that involves several phases and is composed in an escalating rhythm. She is examined, she receives anesthesia, and teeth are pulled. Rather than her eyes it is her mouth that initially serves as the open organ at the center of the image, appearing unreal under the dentist’s light. Around this center swirl the arms and hands of the dentist and his assistant, employing dental instruments and hoses. In the lower foreground we see Vom Gröller’s hand operating the camera by remote, using a ring on her ring finger to control the shutter. Later she even waves with her left hand while she is being operated on.

The video Remains of the Day conveys almost joyful but purposeless actions as people stand by the sea, letting balloons fly in the wind; they pull a ladder in opposite directions; they run down a street in unnatural attitudes. All these actions are clearly staged in a stark contrast to the apparently spontaneous atmosphere of video works like Women in Love or We Are the Builders. In a slow motion, Ferhat Özgür creates an enchanted tempo, several frames follow one another with the arbitrariness of dreams. And the contrast between the general feeling of calm and serenity of this video and the nonsense of the actions produce a clear metaphor that where freedom of action is restricted or forbidden the only possible escape and freedom is in futility.

The domination of Austrian banks in Eastern European countries, as one example of the transitional processes in the post-socialist countries, is the starting point of Isa Rosenberger’s artistic research. Searching for images to represent the abstract and immaterial politico-economic interlocking and negative spirals, in ESPIRAL Rosenberger adopts the motif of the Dance of Death, as a kind of morbid waltz, an image of destructive flows, turns and intertwining: a dark motif that is interwoven with the aesthetic dimension of the dance.

ESPIRAL should be interpreted as homage to the ballet of the German choreographer Kurt Jooss. In this expressionistic piece conceived as a dance macabre, Jooss translated the classical motif of late medieval art linked to motifs that reflect the period of the Weimar Republic, the first fascistic tendencies, the economic crisis, etc. Rosenberger translates this first political ballet into contemporaeity, but also into a proper genre, and she interweaves it with her own experiences and perspectives on current political and economic conditions.

Partenza expresses the global insecurity of contemporary society and the fragility of human existence. Metaphorically, they address a story about departure, waiting and separation, dictated by migrations. In the early 20th century it was usual yet traumatic for men to leave the Croatian islands (mostly bound for the countries of South America) due to poverty and hunger. One of these tragic stories is woven into Renata Poljak’s family history. The work is inspired by the life story of Poljak’s great-grandmother, who lived on the island of Brač, whose husband went to Chile looking for work in order to secure his family’s future. Like many of the island’s women, she waited for her husband, who, like many of the men, never returned.

Partenza (Italian for departure, and used in many of Croatia’s island and coastal dialects) is inspired by the contemporary tragedies of migrants at sea. Poljak uses this phenomenon as a connecting thread and a reminder that not so long ago we were in the same boat, which repeats very powerfully throughout history and suggestively points to the human condition as fragile and susceptible to political, economic and social changes.

The Open Space programme is supported by:

Stadtteilkultur, Interkulturalität und Internationale Angelegenheiten
Kulturabteilung (Magistratsabteilung 7) – Bildende Kunst

With additional kind support provided by Istanbul Bilgi University

From a Place of Darkness

grafisches Element