From 1 April, it will screen works by Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky, Gernot Wieland and Monira Al Qadiri, where private observations almost casually state the condition of a society. Whether the intimate view from close quarters is founded on childhood memories or a private archive, its critical potential serves to challenge existing orders and to undermine dominating narratives.
Elise Florenty &
Conversation with a Cactus, 2017
The enigmatic films of Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky create a space in which reality encounters myths, tales and utopias associated to a given territory. Their works explore the multiplicity of the self, through a spiral of metamorphoses that interrogate our power relation - always shifting - to the “Other” (the enemy, the animal, the plant, the spirit, the dead).
"Conversation with a cactus" is a reference to the so-called Hashimoto Experiment: in the 1970s, Ken Hashimoto – Managing Director of Fuji Electric and inventor of neon ad technology – joined his wife Washu in trying to help plants to speak. They wired up a cactus to a repurposed lie detector and converted electromagnetic vibrations into sound. One long-term objective was the ability to use plants as crime witnesses.
Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky were the first Europeans granted access to Hashimoto’s archives. Their film combines information from this source with historical media accounts and fictionalising elements. Framed by a narrative that addresses how contemporary Japanese society responded to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, the film poses questions about the potential for life beyond anthropocentric conceptions of the world. Watching a young Japanese woman attempting to teach a cactus Japanese, with a particular emphasis on the vocabulary required to describe (nuclear) disasters, we are not only reminded of John Baldessari’s famous video “Teaching a Plant the Alphabet” (1972), but we might read this as an unexpected window of opportunity for collaboration in the face of the silencing policy adopted by the Japanese government.
The film oscillates between different layers of time and reality, places and perspectives, always accompanied by an abstract but atmospheric soundscape. The dreamy mood that pervades the film reinforces a fluid transition between facts and myths inherited from the past, sensationalist media hype and hopeful utopian belief.
Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky are a Franco-German artist and filmmaker duo who have been working together since 2009. Their works have been shown, for example, at MoMA (Doc Fortnight) New York, Palais de Toyko, Centre Pompidou, Paris, n.b.k., HdKW, Berlin, MAMCO, Genf; CCCB Barcelona; Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz; Museu da Repùblika, Rio de Janeiro and Kasseler DokFest. In 2017 they won the EMAF Award for Conversation with a Cactus. Their latest medium length films “Back to 2069” (2019) und “Don't Rush” (2020) won prizes at Cinéma du réel, La cabina and Transcinema. Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky live in Berlin.
The Craft, 2017
Monira Al Qadiri works in the media video, sculpture and performance. One major focus of her work is the socio-cultural impact of the oil industry, along with its history and future. Another frequent theme is her questioning of (gender) identity. She often builds her works on autobiographical experiences, not least of Kuwait in the 1980s.
“The Craft” begins with footage from a car travelling through Dakar in 1982 – a film from the family archive with idyllic, dreamlike imagery that is up-ended when the speaker soberly declares: “Everything is not as it seems.”
The fundamental distrust articulated here permeates the whole film. It tells of a childhood in Senegal, where her father was a diplomat at the Kuwaiti Embassy. Al Qadiri and her sister gradually begin probing their everyday surroundings until they make a spectacular discovery: the Embassy is a command centre for extra-terrestrials and their parents are in cahoots with aliens.
Private VHS footage alternates with children’s drawings and family photos, narrating the sisters’ growing speculation as it spreads to every stable factor in their lives. From modernist architecture and the American influence on pop culture and fast food to war and peace: everything is questioned and read with fresh eyes – even the Second Gulf War is perceived as an alien invasion.
Al Qadiri’s work illustrates how utopia and paranoia are only a wafer apart, and it can be interpreted not merely as a farewell note to the “American Century” but also as a comment on the conspiracy theories circulating today.
Monira Al Qadiri is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal in 1983. In 2010 she was awarded a PhD by Tokyo University of the Arts for her research on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle East stemming from poetry, music, art and religious practices. Her work explores unconventional gender identities, petro-cultures and their possible futures, as well as the legacies of corruption. Venues to have shown her work include Haus der Kunst, Munich, Kunstverein Göttingen, Gasworks, London, Palais de Tokyo, Paris and MoMA PS1, New York. She lives in Berlin.
Thievery and Songs, 2016
Gernot Wieland’s artistic practice in recent years has centred above all on video and lecture performance. His work often combines historical events with seemingly personal memories where fact and fiction blend.
"Thievery and Songs" is made up of several interlocking narrative threads with no discernible hierarchy. A narrator betraying little emotion recounts his session of psychoanalysis where the therapist was remarkable less for his professional expertise than for his obsession with his patient’s Austrian origins. He tells the devastating story of a great aunt who, as a rural serf in the 1930s, suffered despotic treatment at the hands of a Nazi farmer, at the same time drawing parallels between Austrian post-war art and Catholicism and framing all this with a story about a Jewish dancer who fled to Mumbai in 1938.
Apart from performances he filmed himself we see adapted photographs, clay models and drawings. These partly visualise what we hear and partly undermine it in absurd ways. Apart from the reflections on Austria, the video encourages us to explore deeper issues about memory, about how history is written and how identity is formed. The tone is one of gentle wit hovering on the verge of melancholy.
Gernot Wieland was born in Horn (Austria) in 1968. He studied at the University of the Arts in Berlin and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. His films have been shown, for example, at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Kunstverein in Salzburg, the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, the Kunsthaus Graz, tge Künstlerhaus Bremen and the Videonale. Wieland has received a number of awards, including the EMAF Media Art Award 2019 from the German Film Critics. He lives in Berlin.
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