Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme

Basel Abbas (*1983 in Nicosia, Cyprus) und Ruanne Abou-Rahme (*1983 in Boston, USA), live and work between New York and Palestine

Only The Beloved Keeps Our Secrets (2016)
HD video, color, sound, 10:09’

Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme: Only the beloved keeps our secrets (Filmstill), 2016
Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme: Only the beloved keeps our secrets (Filmstill), 2016

Using montage, the Palestine artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme in Only The Beloved Keeps Our Secrets reframe memories of historical events in the context of their difficile colonial history. The memories are interwoven with personal narratives related to the decades-long militant and confessional conflicts between Israel and “Palestine.”
The two artists, who were socialized in the pop and music culture of the 1990s, blend in their works media techniques like music and sound, image and text, or installation and performative practices to create imaginary landscapes. They tell of permanent crisis in a seemingly endless present that is shaped by a politics of want and disaster. Their archaeological method is characterized by the discovery and invention of chance constellations that direct the narrative and the gaze in unexpected directions—figures, gestures, objects, and places are sampled to arrive at a new, fragmentary script that interweaves the historiography of the present with imaginative scope of agency.
Only The Beloved Keeps Our Secrets is a quest for traces: Perhaps it deals with the chronicling of a wedding celebration with rituals and dances on a street in Jerusalem—or with a lamentation of the eradication of a living creature? The material collected by the artists over a period of five years, mostly from Palestinian territory, pieces together layers and cross- references to create an obscure entity that only captures a fleeting moment of testimony—before the next act of overwriting and deletion. The artists have also processed original footage from a surveillance camera installed at an Israeli military base in a monitored restricted zone near Hebron: here, they are thematically exploring the arrest and shooting of a fourteen-year-old boy who was harvesting gundelia, a plant commonly used in Palestinian cooking that blossoms for only a very short time and is considered a delicacy.


Aimé Césaire

*1913 in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, † 2008 in Fort-de-France

Une tempête. Adaptation pour un théâtre nègre (1969)
[A Tempest: Adaptation for a Black Theatre]
Over the course of decolonialization, the Afro-Caribbean writer Aimé Césaire coined the term “Négritude” in 1935 as a political concept denoting black self-empowerment against the French integration and assimilation efforts of a nationalistically oriented Francité, which pursued the objective of uniting all formerly colonized peoples under the French tricolor. The work cited in the exhibition, Césaire’s A Tempest: Adaptation for a Black Theatre, published in 1969, can be read as a possible anticipation of a response to the following question by Susan Buck-Morss:
Do the colonized remain part of a victim narrative shaped by Europe, or do they become emancipated players in a world of global transformation?
Like Pasolini, Césaire reworks a drama by Shakespeare by retelling the story of A Tempest. However, in contrast to Shakespeare’s imaginary island, Césaire historically relocates the plot to Haiti in the Antilles. With the slave uprising there in 1791, Haiti was the first Latin American country to win independence, founding its own country in 1804.
The two protagonists, Ariel and Caliban, are black slaves in this rendition, fighting about the right path to independence. While Ariel shies away from hopeless conflict, Caliban addresses his master Prospero directly and with provocation in his local language—“Uhuru” (Swahili for freedom)—and asserts a demand: “I won’t answer to the name Caliban. Call me X.” With this direct reference to Malcolm X, the civil rights campaigner murdered in 1965, and now a year after the killing of Martin Luther King, Césaire (who was mayor in Martinique for many years) intellectually anchored his discourse in the black civil rights movement of the time—as a both culturally and politically emancipatory play holding contemporary historical relevance.


CPKC (Emily Fahlén, Peter Spillmann, Marion von Osten)

The Center for Post-Colonial Knowledge and Culture Berlin (Founded 2008 in Berlin, live and work in Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden)

Viet Nam Diskurs (2016-17)
[Vietnam Discourse]
Archival installation, including 10 original drawings by Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss and 6 films, among others Russell Tribunal by Staffan Lamm: 16mm film on video, 9:27’, 1967/2003

CPKC: Viet Nam Diskurs, 2016—2017
CPKC: Viet Nam Diskurs, 2016—2017
© Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss, 1968

In 1967, the German author, filmmaker, and artist Peter Weiss published the play Vietnam Discourse. The subtitle counts among the longest ever in the history of literature: Discourse on the Progress of the Prolonged War of Liberation in Vietnam and the Events Leading Up to It as Illustration of the Necessity for Armed Resistance against Oppression and on the Attempts of the United States of America to Destroy the Foundations of Revolution. In their archival installation, CPKC analyzes the production context of Viet Nam Diskurs and formulates the shown material in close collaboration with the artist Gunilla Palmstierna- Weiss and the filmmaker Staffan Lamm.
He explores Vietnamese history, beginning with Chinese foreign rule in the second century BC, also covering the French colonial period starting in the late nineteenth century, the Japanese occupation after the end of World War II, the First Indochina War from 1946 to 1954, which put an end to French colonial rule and resulted in the division of Vietnam into the communist north and the US-supported south.
Playing a central role here is the chronology of the events that led to US intervention and to aggression violating international law during the Vietnam War (1957–75)—termed the “war of liberation against America” by Vietnamese history books.
The theater premiere took place in March 1968 at Schauspiel Frankfurt am Main. The performances were placed under police protection for public safety due to the massive student protests against the Vietnam War. Like the text, the play conveys the historical and political dimensions of the struggle for liberation in Vietnam, while moreover translating essential aesthetic features of Vietnamese culture. Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss developed her concept for stage design, props, and costumes from this intensive exploration of local Vietnamese art, theater, literature, and music, as well as the choreographic stage directions—the latter in close collaboration with Harry Buckwitz, the legendary interpreter of Brecht who also directed the play.
After the premiere, Peter Weiss and Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss embarked on a journey, first to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam or North Vietnam, which they documented with film and photographs. There, they met, among others, writers, patrons of the arts, and high-ranking military officials from the North Vietnamese government. Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss also traveled, in the company of North Vietnamese military, to the line of demarcation between north and south, where she found inspiration for a new kind of theater after experiencing various theater performances along the front line. Also of prime importance for the development of this material was the second Russell Tribunal, held 1967 in Stockholm and Roskilde. Established in 1966 by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell and the French writer Jean-Paul Sartre, the tribunal investigated US war crimes in Vietnam, not least with the aid of Peter Weiss and Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss. Ever since, the Russell Tribunal—supported internationally by many intellectuals from this period, such as Simone de Beauvoir, James Baldwin, and Alice Walker—has been considered a blueprint for further investigations carried out (as opposed to the Nuremberg Tribunal) without state influence, for instance the most recent Russell Tribunal held in Palestine in 2009.

Tim Etchells

*1962 in Stevenage, UK, lives and works in Sheffield and London, UK
W.S.L.S. (2017)
LED Installation

In Tim Etchells’s W.S.L.S, a single idiomatic phrase—Win Some Lose Some—scrolls repeatedly in a single direction across a large-size LED message display unit. The phrase— perhaps understood as a gesture of stoical resolve in face of shifting fortunes—is revealed only partially at any given moment, its incomplete presence as it moves across the restricted surface aperture of the display generating diverse vivid fragments and half-semantic sub-phrases hidden in the larger text (LOSE SO, ME WIN, etc.). At the same time, the circular looping of the text creates a repeated second “reading” already present in the work, in which the idiomatic statement Win Some Lose Some becomes, through its looping, the rather more combative Some Win Some Lose, the bluntness of which invokes not so much stoicism as a kind of fatalism. In its simple iteration and reiteration of a single fragment, Etchells’s W.S.L.S draws attention to the ambiguity and potential for interpretation even in apparently simple or straightforward language.

Tim Etchells

Of And From (On Freedom) (2017)
Wall text

Taking the form of a list, Tim Etchells’s wall text installation Of And From (On Freedom) iterates familiar and unfamiliar types, ideas, and experiences of freedom in a contradictory and freeassociating list. Shifting between contexts to create jarring and contrasting imaginings of what freedom might constitute and what it might be a refuge from, the work visits individual, social, political, psychological, economic, and purely metaphorical freedoms, as both positive and negative possibilities, never fixing a frame or ground for reflection or judgment. As with Etchells’s playful, improvised text performances (the ongoing Work Files series since 2014), the work is both a summoning of real-world images, debates, narratives, and imaginary configurations of the possible, as well as a disorganized linguistic exercise and exploration in which Etchells enacts and activates the generative force of language, itself a kind of freedom, both to visit existing scenarios and through juxtaposition, to create new ways of thinking on the topic at hand. Freedom, in this tangled inquiry, means both: liberty, on the one hand, yet all too often a “constraint of the other” or a “burden on the subject.” As the German philosopher and author Byung-Chul Han writes in his essay The Burnout Society, “the violence of positivity does not deprive, it saturates; it does not exclude, it exhausts.”— Text: The artist

Glenn Ligon

*1960, lives and works in New York, USA

The Death of Tom (2008)
16 mm film transferred to video (b/w, sound), 23 min

Glenn Ligon: The Death of Tom, 2008
Glenn Ligon: The Death of Tom, 2008
© Glenn Ligon, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Thomas Dane Gallery, London

Why should we tell a story or history? The German word for history, Geschichte, could also be understood to mean—in a literal sense—“layering events” (Ereignisse schichten). Possibly to the point of ultimate densification? In 1852, the American author Harriet Beecher-Stowe published the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In this novel, the black slave Tom suffered and ultimately died from his hopeless patience toward his master’s rule. In his experimental film The Death of Tom, the African-American artist Glenn Ligon reflects, through abstraction, on the ethnic conflicts dividing US society still today when it comes to the black population.
Ligon had initially planned to undertake a filmic reconstruction of the last scene from Edwin S. Porter’s silent film Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903), in which Tom, played by a white actor with his face painted black, dies. After viewing the material, Ligon determined that “his film was blurry and the images were gone.” He thus decided to use this “failed” spectral material in raw form:
as a reference to the disappearance of certain historical narratives and to the painful history of representing ethnic differences, here transformed into a juxtaposition of abstract, black, white, and gray tracks. What is more, Ligon commissioned the experimental jazz pianist Jason Moran to compose a soundtrack based on the vaudeville song “Nobody,” which is played during each light change in the film.
Written in 1905 and sung by Bert Williams, the song premiered in 1906 during the Broadway musical Abyssinia and was to become Williams’s signature tune. This Broadway comedy with a happy end tells the tale of a group of African-American tourists from Kansas traveling through Europe, a trip that, due to adverse circumstances, unexpectedly takes them to the British-governed kingdom of Abyssinia (Ethiopia)—to their former homeland. One of the protagonists (Bert Williams himself) is constantly followed by bad luck. In “Nobody,” he sings of the loneliness and desolation of a man lacking any kind of support. “When life seems full of clouds an’ rain and I am filled with naught but pain, who soothes my thumpin’ bumpin’ brain? Nobody.”


Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger

Frédéric Moser (*1966 in Saint-Imier, Switzerland) and Philippe Schwinger (*1961 in Saint-Imier, Switzerland), live and work in Neuchâtel

Capitulation Project (2003)
Video installation, 16mm film on HD video, b/w, sound, 21:34’

Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger: Capitulation Project, 2003
Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger: Capitulation Project, 2003.
Courtesy: Galerie Jocelyn Wolff / KOW Galery Berlin

In their work Capitulation Project, Frédéric Moser and Philippe Schwinger reinterpret, as a critical reenactment, the performance Commune (1971) by the American director Richard Schechner with the experimental theater company The Performance Group from New York.
The Performance Group, precursor to the legendary The Wooster Group, viewed themselves as “environmental theater,” meaning that each production took place in a room designed specially for this purpose. Frédéric Moser and Philippe Schwinger picked up on part of this stage concept and, inspired by the piece, wrote a new script.
In the 1971 rendition, the performers and audience engaged in a kind of “participative sit-in”, touching on issues like community life or living in communes, the murders by Charles Manson, and the terror and trauma of the Vietnam War, especially the My Lai massacre by US troops.
In Capitulation Project, in turn, the two artists reinterpret the material—two years after 9/11, against the explosive contemporary-historical backdrop of the Second Persian Gulf War—by applying the suggestion made by the French philosopher Jacques Rancière that fiction cannot be considered the opposite of reality, but that the real must be fictionalized in order to be thought. Here, too, the audience participates in the performance, yet the text and the performance of the participants is— similar to a Brechtian Lehrstück— certainly structured in a more methodical and controlled way. This gives the previously unassociated roles of victim, aggressor, witness, and commentator an opportunity to coexist as theatrical representations.

Pier Paolo Pasolini

*1922 in Bologna, †1975 in Ostia
Che cosa sono le nuvole? (1968)
(What Are the Clouds?), 35mm film on video, color, sound, 22’

In 1968, the comedy Capriccio all’italiana (Caprice Italian Style) was released, a six-part anthology film shot by six different directors. The fourth, What Are the Clouds?, was by Pier Paolo Pasolini, with the famous Italian cinematic comic Totò in his last role.
In Pasolini’s short film, Shakespeare’s Othello is presented as a marionette theater, with the life-size marionettes played by actors on strings. During the play, the marionettes question both their roles and their actions. Comparable to the tradition of epic theater by Bertolt Brecht, Pasolini shares these doubts with the theater audience, which is staged as an underprivileged class or as Lumpenproletariat. The course of history changes thanks to their revolt, with the protagonists of the play, Iago and Othello, ending up at the garbage dump—but not the Lumpenproletariat, which tends to be pejoratively called “human waste.”
Actually, it is the ideological and standardized narratives that end up as “historical waste” in Pasolini’s film, which concludes with ideas of freedom, imagination, poetry, and emancipation. Othello, reclined on garbage, sees the open sky for the very first time and asks, “What are the clouds?”
Previously, we had experienced an Othello immersed in doubt, asking why our actions are not identical with our thoughts. The character is played by a white actor whose face is painted black (known as “blackface”). With this exaggeration, Pasolini is referencing the racist implications of an all-prevalent politics of marginalization.
In his journalistic essay on “neocapitalism” in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s, Pasolini localized— after many trips to African and Asian countries—the African South just south of Rome, in what was an impoverished Italy at the time. In his “Prophecy” of 1965 (published in the volume Ali Blue Eyes), dedicated to Jean-Paul Sartre, he imagined the mass exodus of people from the African continent to Italy and Europe, where they rebel against long-standing injustice and would rather become aggressors than teach “joie de vivre, liberty, and brotherhood.”
Pasolini probed Othello’s sense of doubt, having grown up in the agricultural region of Friuli, against the backdrop of a “value vacuum” prevalent in Italian society starting in the early 1950s. The concomitant double standard not only affected those living in cities, but also rural areas as well,whose inhabitants were forced into mass migration due to economic neoliberalism.
In his film, Pasolini transfers his critique to the cultural and social ramifications of the “dictate of an all-permeating economy,” on the one hand, by having Othello (speaking either Italian or Roman dialect) meet characters communicating in Neapolitan, Sicilian, or Friulian dialects. With the erosion of the rural communities and the pressure exerted by neofascists, these dialects were in the process of disappearing. Pasolini counters this cultural deterioration of value with a political stance by, on the other hand, introducing as narrative the emancipatory gesture of self-liberation and resistance, of both the “marionettes” and the audience.
The film also toys with various references from theater, art, and philosophy: for example, at the beginning a poster is shown, announcing the premiere of the marionette theater. On this poster we see the famous Las Meninas (The Ladies-in-Waiting) from 1656 by the baroque painter Diego Velázquez, a painting that is constantly shifting the boundaries between pictorial space and the viewer’s space, between that which is rendered and the act of rendering, between reality and conception. The French philosopher Michel Foucault devoted the first chapter of his book The Order of Things to this painting, which was published in Italian the same year that What Are the Clouds? was produced. Here he used a semiotic approach to critically question the regulative and analytical competency of state and society in relation to the individual. He interpreted freedom as an emancipatory act for reformulating precisely such relations. Foucault’s essay on Las Meninas is a key text treating questions of representation, and some publishers at the time selected the painting by Velázquez for their book covers. After his early expulsion from the communist party, Pasolini became a dissident libertine and showed solidarity with the misery of the “ordinary people.” In his writings, he spoke out against party corruption, the Mafia, neofascism, environmental destruction, and neocapitalism with its consumerism and hedonism. In his opinion, the latter were the drugs of everyday life that had led to moral dilapidation and a coarsening of values.
However, for an essay collection about youth and politics in Italy, Pasolini selected the title Luthern Letters, published shortly after his death. Here, he called for a fighting spirit that refuses to accept “things as they are.”


Catarina Simão

*1972 in Lisbon, lives and works in Lisbon and Maputo

Mueda 1979 (The Mozambique Archive Series) (2013)
HD video, b/w, sound, 11’

Catarina Simao_Still Mueda ONE
Catarina Simao_Still Mueda ONE

In her long-term research project The Mozambique Archive Series, and also in her more recent artworks, the Portuguese artist Catarina Simão deals with the collective cultural and visual heritage of violence and emancipation, both during the fight for liberation and since the independence of Mozambique from Portuguese colonial rule.
Using the technique of re-montage in her documentary essay-film Mueda 1979, she tries to come to terms with a massacre that took place on June 16, 1960, in the province of Mueda in northern Mozambique. On this day, citizen representatives from Mueda entered a building occupied by the Portuguese colonial administration and demanded their independence.
Here, the artist draws on the film Mueda: Memory and Massacre by the Brazilian director Ruy Guerra, who was born in Mozambique. The film, released in 1979, stages this historical event on site, for the eighteenth anniversary, as a reenactment with residents of Mueda. Ruy Guerra had also filmed his seventy-five-minute film (or eighty minutes in its original, uncensored length) in documentary style. The theatrical storyline is focused on the collective memories of this massacre, which was already a popular play for theater in 1978. Since the late 1960s it had been performed as part of cultural activities in many political-military centers of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), such as in neighboring countries like the already independent Tanzania.
In her film, Simão interweaves texts and oral history about the traumatic events from the past, integrating an excerpt from Ruy Guerra’s film. The plot shown there is considered to be the main event ultimately triggering the armed resistance against the Portuguese colonial powers. In 1975, Mozambique attained its independence as a republic.


Catarina Simão

Uhuru: Stamp. Genealogy. Anatomy (2015)Table of didactic elements

Catarina Simão: Mueda 1979 (Briefmarke aus Mosambik zum 20. Jahrestag des Mueda-Massakers, Filmstill), 2013
Catarina Simão: Mueda 1979 (stamp from Mozambique for the 20th anniversary of Mueda massacre), 2013

Uhuru means freedom in Swahili— more precisely, freedom of land use. Under the conditions of the independence movement, and through the heightened nationalism in Mozambique, the meaning of the word Uhuru started to change. It came to stand for a concept of freedom that later implied “national independence.”
Similar to her long-term research endeavor The Mozambique Archive Series, with her various textual works and films, the artistically autonomous work in book form, Uhuru: Stamp. Genealogy. Anatomy, is part of a research project lasting several years. After The Mozambique Institute, it is Simão’s second published book.
Here she has assembled various items, including film stills with layers of current materials and texts, on a quest for the original, uncensored version of the film by Ruy Guerra. Also interwoven are interviews and historical documents on the pedagogical experiences and film projects by the filmmakers Jean Rouch and Ruy Guerra in Mozambique during the 1970s. The book also provides information on a failed large-scale project by Jean-Luc Godard who had been invited by the government to develop a master plan for the newly emerging state television station.

Part of Uhuru: Stamp. Genealogy. Anatomy is a postal stamp released by the Republic of Mozambique on June 16, 1980, in remembrance of the Mueda massacre twenty years earlier. The date of June 16, however, reminds not only of the massacre, but also of the day on which the Mozambican metical replaced the Portuguese escudo as currency. Moreover, it was the Day of the African Child, in memory of the massacre on June 16, 1976, in Soweto, South Africa, also called the “student uprising.” On this day, children were protesting against the racist educational policy of the apartheid regime. Internationally, the Day of the African Child was not introduced until 1991.


Ana Torfs

*1963 in Mortsel, BE; lives and works in Brussels
Story Generator (2015)

Ana Torfs: Story Generator, Installationsansicht Atelier Vlaams Bouwmeester, Brüssel, 2015
Ana Torfs: Story Generator, installation view Atelier Vlaams Bouwmeester, Brussels, 2015

In ihrer intertextuellen Installation Story Generator entwirft die belgische Künstlerin Ana Torfs eine neue Lesart der letzten 500 Jahre belgischer Kolonial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Das Rotationsobjekt aus Kupfer ähnelt nicht nur Rollkarteisystemen wie dem Rolodex, sondern auch dem berühmten Bücherrad von Agostino Ramelli aus dem 16. Jahrhundert. Es erinnert außerdem an die mechanische Lesemaschine, die der französische Schriftsteller Raymond In her intertextual installation Story Generator, the Belgian artist Ana Torfs suggests a new approach to interpreting the last 500 years of Belgian colonial and economic history: The rotation object made of copper is reminiscent not only of a rotary file system like the Rolodex, but also of the famous book wheel by Agostino Ramelli from the sixteenth century. It likewise calls to mind the mechanical reading machine designed in the 1930s by the French writer Raymond Roussel, together with the Argentinian pataphysician Juan Esteban Fassio, as a reading aid for his intricate texts, or the Mutoscope, an apparatus invented in the mid-nineteenth century to present moving images according to the stroboscope principle.
The Story Generator contains 505 index cards with a wide variety of images and text excerpts that can be read by two viewers sitting across from each other at the same time. This gives rise to a dazzling web of associations and cross-references that lead the exhibition visitor through stories and scenes of a fragmentary history spanning more than 500 years. Yet Torfs’s anthology is obviously not “neutral”—without a doubt, her guiding principle is the growing degree of wealth in our part of the world, since the beginning of modernity, including its material, scientific, artistic, and cultural developments and achievements that are owed to the brutal exploitation of people and regions abroad.
Brussels as the capital city of Europe becomes a focal point here, the site at which the artist looks back at a large number of relevant figures from the long history of economic and political power, often in surprising combinations: Emperor Karl V, Albrecht Dürer, Carlota of Mexico, Joseph Conrad, the pioneer of Africa research Henry Morton Stanley, Patrice Lumumba, and many den 1930er-Jahren gemeinsam mit dem argentinischen Pataphysiker Juan Esteban Fassio als Lesehilfe für seine verschachtelten Texte entwarf, oder an das Mutoskop, ein Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts entwickelter Apparat zur Vorführung bewegter Bilder nach dem Prinzip des Stroboskops. Der Story Generator enthält 505 beidseitig bedruckte Indexkarten mit einer Vielzahl von Bildern und Textausschnitten, die von zwei sich gegenübersitzenden Betrachter_innen gleichzeitig gelesen werden können. Diese bilden ein Netz von Assoziationen und Querverweisen, die die Besucher_ innen durch Stories und Szenen einer mehr als 500-jährigen, fragmentierten Geschichte führen. Torfs Anthologie ist dabei offensichtlich nicht „neutral“ – ihr Leitmotiv ist der steigende Grad an Reichtum in einer westlich © Ana Torfs, Story Generator, 2015 geprägten Welt seit dem Beginn der Moderne mit ihren materiellen, wissenschaftlichen, künstlerischen und kulturellen Entwicklungen und Errungenschaften, die sie der brutalen Ausbeutung von Menschen und Regionen in Übersee verdankt. Brüssel als die Hauptstadt Europas wird dabei zum Brennpunkt, in dem die Künstlerin eine große Anzahl maßgeblicher Figuren aus der langen Geschichte von ökonomischer und politischer Macht – in oftmals überraschenden Kombinationen – Revue passieren lässt: Kaiser Karl V., Albrecht Dürer, Charlotte von Mexiko, Joseph Conrad, der Pionier der Afrikaforschung Henry Morton Stanley, Patrice Lumumba und viele andere.


Ana Vaz

*1986 in Brasília, lives and works between Paris and Lisbon

Amérika: Bahía de las Flechas


Ana Vaz: Amérika: Bahias de las Flechas, 2016.
Ana Vaz: Amérika: Bahias de las Flechas, 2016.
Courtesy: Ana Vaz

“It is said that the first European ship with Christopher Columbus as captain docked in 1492 along the coast of Samaná in today’s Dominican Republic.”

According to indigenous legend, the conquerors were met by a shower of arrows, carefully planned and orchestrated by Caribbean natives, the Taíno.
It is with a forensic gaze that the Brazilian artist Ana Vaz inscribes into the texture of the landscape both the obvious and the hidden details of an epochal turning point in her video essay, with the film camera playing an active role.
By navigating the camera in Amérika: Bahía de las Flechas like a foreign, sometimes wild body that becomes an arrow, she seeks ways to reanimate and revitalize this gesture from the past: “arrows against a perpetual ‘falling sky.’” On the narrative level of the film, she weaves the indigenous narrative of the arrival of the Spanish fleet and the resistance of the Taíno with the indigenous myth of the “feathered serpent” that travels from heaven to earth once a year. In terms of form, the rotating camera pans, with adjustments that are at times disorienting, allude to the indigenous view of a cyclic relationship between heaven and earth.
In view of the historical and anthropological cartography that colonialization altered through the clash of two cultures, Europe and America, Vaz fictionalizes her narrative and expands it to add to the historical narratives a dimension that is essential in her eyes: human violence applied to nature. And in the interrelationship between an even more distant past and the present day, she correlates a geological viewpoint with an ecological one.
The film was shot at Lake Enriquillo— a saline lake, named after the Taíno chief Enriquillo, that is currently being impacted by profound changes in its ecosystem. Whole animal species have been forced to migrate and the surrounding area has been evacuated, and the sprawling coral wasteland is laying bare the geological past of the lake. A substantial number of Taíno still today remain concealed under the surface of this lake, attesting to the constant, though invisible, presence ofthis culture and to the temporal superimposition of geological, historical, and present-day time.
The perspective adopted by Ana Vaz—geological, indigenous, historical, and contemporary in equal measure— takes a critical stance toward the “Age of the Anthropocene” (now officially declared), which has substantiated, based on long-term research, the profound damage and partially irreversible ecological repercussions of man’s interventions into nature since the beginning of industrialization.


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