PULLING THE STRINGS
Every abuse hides a source of pleasure. This programme zooms in on the many different appearances of power relations. Are we watching the ultimate humiliation or is it just instinctive behaviour? Ethical relativism has blurred the line between these opposites. A journey past border guards and gallery owners, and a cat-and-mouse game about who can hold out the longest.
The Sea is a Stereo – Mounira Al Solh
The Netherlands, 2007-2008, video, 13:07 min
The Sea is a Stereo is an ongoing series of reflections on a group of men who swim everyday at the beach in Beirut no matter the circumstances: rain, wind, war, etc … Even as we read this, the men might be swimming or preparing themselves to do so. The project is ongoing and consists of different elements: a number of videos, photographs, a lecture and other materials. Al Solh sees these elements as different possibilities for making The Sea is a Stereo, which seems to me a never-end- ing work – like the men who will never stop swimming.
Yellow Fever – Marianne Theunissen
The Netherlands, 2007, video, 05:20 min
Yellow Fever is a film about language, the visual language of a beautiful furnished house in which two ladies reside, as well as the language of their bodies. The ladies play with words, words that are not addressed to one of them in particular, but get lost instead in the house and in the ongoing physical confrontation. The rustling noise of breathing and the moments of stillness in which they hold their breath are marking the dynamics of the conversation.
Empire’s Border 1 – Chen Chieh-Jen
Taïwan, 2008-2009, video, 27:00 min
The new work, Empire’s Border (2009), is a film that opens showing the various and sundry checks that Taiwanese citizens must endure when applying for a U.S. visa for business, tourism, or family reasons. From there, it discusses how the empire employs all means at hand to penetrate every other area with its imperial mentality. In her interview with Chen Chieh-Jen, Amy Cheng writes that Empire’s Borders 1 goes on to reflect on the internalisation of imperial consciousness within Taiwanese society. In one sense it coaxes out the thinking embedded and internalised in their consciousness, while in another, the acts of writing and speaking about it are the beginning of a movement to eliminate imperialist mentality.” In other words, for Taiwanese citizens this work has the effect of stripping away internalised imperialist mentality and enhancing self- awareness. For the Empire, it is a “foreign affairs” protest against its domineering attitude towards foreign relations.
Sub-Optimal – John Butler
United Kingdom, 2007, video, 03:34 min
John Butler is known for his animated futuristic environments. Sub-Optimal takes place in this near future where power relations in human interaction loses its subtlety. We see labour arbitrage in a futuristic transaction space. An altruistic action results in a sub- optimal outcome.
We Could Have Helped – Cecilia Lundqvist
Sweden, 2008, video, 01:57 min
We Could Have Helped is an animated video. Three men in costumes represent rich men with power and possession. People who actually have the possibility to lend a helping hand, but in this video they choose to play innocent bystanders, all this while they are enjoying the situation. The men in the video are totally unaware of their shortcomings, and continue with their lives without taking any notice of these.
Please Say Something – David O’reilly
Ireland, 2009, video, 10:00 min
Please Say Something is a 10 minute short concerning a troubled relationship between a cat and mouse set in the distant future. The cat and mouse are confronted with both feelings of love and tenderness, but also with their basic instincts towards their significant other. The video contains 23 episodes of exactly 25 seconds each.
Discipline Aid Attempt #1 (confessions of a video artist) – Dafna Maimon
The Netherland, 2009, video, 10:48 min
A professional Dominatrix and Master dominate an artist for the duration of a day, for the purpose of bettering her career. The relationship between the slave and the dominators reflect upon the inner struggle of personal and societal guilt and pressure within a profession that is hard to define both in terms of structure and functionality. The power relations between hired and hirer, master and slave, actor and director become completely convoluted as the situation progresses.
Night School – Erkka Nissinen
China, 2007, video, 15:25 min
An assortment of characters is brought into a total institution where they are subjected to various mandatory exercises. The cast ranges from cooks to bears and prostitutes to digitally rendered panda bears. Offices turn into sci-fi environments and relationships between digital and real-life appear difficult to sustain. The interiors of Erkka Nissinen’s Night School (2007) are as cold as the human relationships it portrays. The character gallery is astounding and rich; their words are sparse and erratic. At the beginning of the work the artist wears a tie and reveals his feelings to a panda bear. In the middle of the confession he changes into a women’s attire, and is now wearing a British Union Jack top and a pink frilly skirt. Along the journey “the woman” is tempted by three fat singing chefs who lure her into performing immoral services. The plot contains surprising twists and perverse associations free from domesticities, the artist presents the catharsis of the work, a philosophical realization: human awareness of the possibilities of ethical relativism can be a result of unexpected circumstances. If only people kept their minds open when roaming around, it could lead to liberation.