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Landscapes of restraint


14 November 2011

Landscapes of restraint

Two films, two co-productions by MACBA and Artangel, along with other art centres and the commercial gallery Marian Goodman. With Maribel Verdú as the actress and two artists of the type who function whatever the context. A war situation and some visual and sonorous results.

Entering into the iconography of Anri Sala (Tirana, 1974) situates one amidst a correlation of everyday objects, within a series of habitual actions, observed from a specific point of view. Angles that talk of the streets of Tirana or Paris, horizons that capture a beach, a zoo, a church or the suburbs of Paris.

The camera, that glides between scenes, disarming the image, is, as Jaques Aumont reminds us in a paragraph of The Endless Eye, his typewriter, his apparatus for audiovisual dissection. Sala composes and decomposes, investigating the content of structures, deconstructing subjects and objects, with the aim of unmasking all the psychic, political and socio-cultural levels of perception.

His eye analyses the audiovisual content so that it is rarely presented literally: image and sound calling for an interrogation to be made of reality. While at the same time that is which is not evidently present calls for the eye to intervene. Hence in one of his first projects, “Intervista-Finding the words” (1998), Sala went in search of words lost in time, through images that had been mutilated. The trigger for the work being the discovery of an old film that had historic material about Albania from the end of the seventies, images that transported him to the past of his mother and his country, a discourse that weaves between the private and the public. However the images lacked sound. Sala begins to look for words articulated by his mother in the interview. Images of a memory that resist being forgotten. The artist resorts to a school for the deaf to unveil the silenced words and when he manages to complete the piece he shows it to his mother, who remains confused and speechless. A direct confrontation with her own memory in an act that is inscribed in the desire to win the battle against oblivion. The nature of the work brings us closer to one of the fields that form the categories within which the works of the artist operate. On the one hand, a body of work with a documentary feel, and on the other, works with a strong aesthetic charge such as “Cymbal” (2004) or “Doldrum” (2008). In both cases the strategy is based on the capacity to present time in suspense, isolating elements so as to be able to read them from a first connection in which the autonomous is described in relation to a latent meaning. The work of Sala articulates a semiotic reading of the image his eye revealing signs that make it possible to interpret reality through perspectives that are not evident, nor apparently visible.

The work that he is presenting at the moment in MACBA is a cinematographic project carried out with the artist Sejla Kameric (Sarajevo, 1976) in collaboration with Ari Benjamin Meyers. It has been created, developed and filmed jointly and underlines one of the features that best defines the work of Sala, the aforementioned dialogue between image and sound, between the visible and the not visible, between silence and the acoustic. The audiovisual material has been produced under the same premise but has lead to two independent pieces.

Sala and Kamerić have developed two films produced from the same material but screened according to two individual viewpoints. For Sejla Kameric it supposes a return to her most recent history, situations that assail against the images of pain, against these sutured geographies that so aptly describe our contemporaneity. Her personal experience has unequivocally marked her attitude, not just as an artist, but as an individual who knows that she is part of a context that touches upon a shared one. Her writing be it audiovisual or photographic, is inscribed in a series of practices that make it possible to trace socio-political and personal questions in the exploration of personal cracks of anonymous signature. Individual and universal contexts directed towards a search for identity itself.

“1395 Days without Red” (2011), the title that designates both films, talks of the 1395 days that the city of Sarajevo remained under siege between the 5th April 1992 and the 29th February 1996. During this time the city went from 435.00 to 300.000 inhabitants and more than 56.000 people were wounded by snipers and grenade explosions. The audiovisual narratives are located in a territory that fights against oblivion, where the exercise to rescue memories and the landscape, both visual and audible, is approached with restraint. The same restraint that impedes any dialogue between the people who appear in the film, the same restraint that is palpable in the atmosphere that leads us into the corners and streets of the city, the same that allows us to listen to the 6th Symphony of Tchaikovsky interpreted by the Sarajevo Symphonic Orchestra or that at the same time prevents us from seeing the faces of the musicians, but above all, it is the same restraint that envelops the protagonists each time they decide to cross, or not cross, the street where they could be assassinated by a sniper.

The film focuses on the route taken by a woman, interpreted by Maribel Verdú, who, apparently without any aim, moves through the city at a steady pace. To stop or to run, her hesitation at the crossroads leads her to an existential doubt, a gesture that undoubtedly goes way beyond the frame, underpinning the fragility of a time and a space. A voyage towards universal memory, that harnesses the camera as tool for reflection, allowing the images to dialogue with the past, to which they belong, with the present, in which they find themselves and with each other. Here lies part of the audiovisual exercise carried about by both artists, two propositions full of shared, hidden winks, silences contrasted with images, symphonies that resound not just in the space of the orchestra, but that mark the pace of the film, in the silence and the murmuring. The two films form a score in which the tempo marks the rhythm of the image. The desire to carry on playing is the same as the one that encourages the men and women to decide to cross, to carry on.

Both films call for the image to be thought of as a reading that transmits time and space as a mode of resistance.

Imma Prieto has for years been marking out three paths from which to reflect about the different contexts that characterise our contemporaneity. Criticism, curating and teaching enable her to think about and establish dialogues from different perspectives and with different objectives, looking for bridges between them. Her research has revolved around performance and video, languages that both arose in the dawn of the sixties that is, in the last years of modernity. Is it because we don´t really know where we are now? Conclusion?

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