With: Mark Aerial Waller, Gabriel Lester, Halil Altindere, Bodil Furu/Beate Petersen
Curator: Hans Askheim
LIVE PERFORMANCE | VIDEO SCREENING | PUBLICATION
What is going through an artist’s mind when they decide to engage with social and political issues in their work? By initiating a dialogue around different approaches to social and political engagement in art, Real Vague seeks to address this question, particularly where the social or political may seem “hidden” or “indirect”. In addition to film screenings, the event will include a performance, a lecture and the launch of a publication. Featuring interviews with the participating artists, the publication will give an insight into the artists’ own thoughts about their social and political engagement. The event will conclude with a discussion, when artist Mark Aerial Waller will be available for questions.
The five participating artists are Mark Aerial Waller, Bodil Furu/Beate Petersen, Halil Altindere and Gabriel Lester. A diverse mix of artists from different parts of Europe, they all convey many layers of meaning in their work and different interpretation possibilities. But they may seem to have in common an underlying social and political engagement. Rather than telling “grand narratives”, the artists here seek to find alternative and subjective ways of story telling
– conveying situations seen with individual eyes. Could the search for alternative ways of storytelling be described as a wish to resist the globalised and streamlined life? Or are there completely different reasons behind both the social and political engagement in itself – as well as the engagement’s “hidden” nature? Could it be that the social and political engagement’s “indirect” nature indicates that the engagement does not play a central part of the motivation behind the works?
Mark Aerial Waller’s works often create a notion that something terrible is about to happen. This is also the case for Waller’s new performance The Mantle, which, in the form of a fashion show, presents models wearing MA1 Bomber jackets, and models demonstrating life vests. But is it Waller’s intention to create a ‘doomsday’ atmosphere? At first glance it may seem so, but the performance also contains a playfulness, and a focus on how confusing and ambivalent symbols of war and disaster can appear. The MA1 Bomber jacket functions both as hero-symbol, but it is also being equated with skinhead and queer culture. The life vest ritual is both a sincere reminder of the dangers of drowning, but it is also something most of us – those without fear of flying – have observed light heartedly and with aesteticized eyes. Waller plays with our perceptions of safety, and indifference, creating nuanced and complex impressions from the area between emptiness and engagement, superficiality and deep seriousness.
With a fragmented but everyday approach to storytelling, Gabriel Lester’s work combines decorative elements with more conceptual and theoretical matters. The video The Cola Yoghurt Project (2004) reveals a multi-faceted humour that addresses questions concerning the EU and its new member states in a complicated but clear way. In most of Lester’s works, fragmentation is an important element. Fragmentation is used both as a method of weaving several stories together, and a way of opening up the viewer’s own imagination. Lester’s works form complex and aesthetically seductive situations, but at the same time they also seem to contain a “rest” of engagement.
In 2004 Norwegian artists Bodil Furu and Beate Petersen made the video Kabul Ping Pong. They both normally work as individual artists, but in Kabul Ping Pong their practices meet in an experimental and radical approach to video production. Furu/Petersen’s video Kabul Ping Pong (2004) focuses on a specific political and social conflict. The video consists of three personal stories from a country haunted by conflict. One child, one newspaper editor and one minister all convey thoughts around this country’s situation, and future, after more than twenty years of conflict. The video gives a rare insight into the situation in Afghanistan, and shows in an ambivalent way how difficult it is to understand such a conflict seen with “western” eyes: Does the video have a philanthropic purpose, or does it seek to convey more general thoughts around culture and identity?
Halil Altindere’s works often use indirect way of showing political engagement. His video videos and installations address the Kurdish question in subtle and elusive ways, almost as if there is something he does not want to tell us. The video Walk (1999-2002) shows a man walking along one of Istanbul’s most busy and colourful streets, Istiklal Caddesi. He is pulling a piece of string attached to a Marlboro cigarette packet after him. The Marlboro packet is folded so that it is meant to resemble a dog. What does Altindere want to convey in this video? At first glance it seems like the video could be an ironic comment on commercialisation and globalisation. But the video also hints at an underlying unpleasantness. The Marlboro packet, here in the form of a “repressed” and “worthless” dog, give associations to the “Marlboro Man” – both a hero and an outlaw at odds with the authorities. In a Turkish context, and in the context of Altindere’s work as a whole, could this video be associated with the situation of the Kurdish people in Turkey?
It is not the intention of this project to attempt to “understand” the complex relation between art and social/political engagement in art. And it is not the intention to “interrogate” artists about their social and political engagement. But it would nevertheless be interesting to hear their thoughts about this aspect of their work. In these artists’ works, do the social and political elements play a central part? Here, for example I am thinking of Rancière’s comment that "art cannot merely occupy the space left open by the weakening of political conflict. It has to reshape it, at the risk of testing the limits of its own politics". Perhaps this is what these artists are trying – to implement such tests?
- 4:00pm - Mark Aerial Waller performs The Mantle
- 4:30pm - Pause
- 4:45pm - Screening of Gabriel Lester’s The Cola Yoghurt Project (2004)
- 5:05pm - Screening of Hail Altindere’s video Walk (1999-2002)
- 5:10pm - Screening of Bodil Furu/Beate Petersen’s Kabul Ping Pong (2004)
- 6:00pm - Break
- 6:10pm - Discussion
- 6:30pm - End
This event is supported by: