Foundland is Lauren Alexander and Ghalia Elsrakhi, two Amsterdam-based artists. For Impakt, they contributed a video installation to The Impossible Black Tulip of Cartography in which they show several cartoon videos which are overdubbed in Arabic to make it seem like the characters are speaking about the Syrian revolution. Standing in front of a video in which Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, here representing Maher and Assad, talk about gleefully massacring civilians, I have a flash interview with mrs. Alexander.
Impakt: Could you tell me how Foundland got started, and what you think it means?
I studied together with the girl I’m now working with, who is from Syria. We did a masters in Design together, and I think we both had a similar approach to things, were both interested in political issues. Ever since 2009, we’ve been working together. What we’ve been doing for the past year and half is really trying to look for interesting things that are happening online, mainly on Facebook, to do with the Syrian revolution. In the other exhibiton we did for Impakt, at BAK, we looked at the propaganda images created by the Syrian regime. In this exhibition, we decided to focus on what the Opposition is creating in terms of visual statements.
This is a collection of videos made by the Syrian opposition. Most of them are re-dubbed videos from Syrian childhood. Many Syrian children who grew up in the 80s and 90s knew these anime cartoons, and now they are fighting this revolution, and they are using these cartoons to tell a different story, one they are themselves very active in. This idea of rewriting your own story over things from your childhood was something that we found very fascinating, especially in relation to Western images.
What’s particularly interesting about Syria is that in the 80s there was a very strong regime in power. Censorship was extremely tight, and especially on things that had to do with the West and Israel. But people still remember Mickey Mouse from their childhood. Somehow, those things still managed to infiltrate into society, even though there was such hard censorship.
Impakt: Do you think your work has a political message, or do you just aim to collect and document these videos? I’m asking ask because the name ‘Foundland’ might suggest that you just stumble across these things, and take a neutral stance towards them.
No, that’s not true. Our work is really about creating a vision of how we see things. That’s why we call it Foundland, not because we just found something, but because it’s reclaiming.