A River Waits Reply

"As long as I see birds flying I know I am alive" by Ria Pacquée

Watching Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s powerful video, we were struck by its layered references to dissent, protest, and resistance. Its setting in public space is particularly notable in these times of domestic lockdown and isolation. Public space, with its implied openness and promise of dynamic interactions, has oftentimes been denied us in the past year. Yet despite these limitations, various forms of protest and collective gathering have occurred in the streets across the globe. Thinking about these sites has led us to a more poetic use of public space in the work of Ria Pacquée, a Belgian artist from the ARGOS collection, who explores public life as a dynamic construction through which identities are shaped.

In As long as I see birds flying I know I am alive, Pacquée assembles recordings predominantly made in public spaces in Paris, Kathmandu, Athens, Istanbul, Bruges, New York, Varanasi and Antwerp. By juxtaposing images of the sacred with those of a worldly nature, she undercuts the anthropological and scientific potential of her material – a disorienting strategy often used by the artist elsewhere. Two recurring elements, clouds of drifting smoke and prowling birds, evoke a dreamlike and looming atmosphere which makes even the most common gesture appear like being part of an age-old ritual, detaching these motifs from the geocultural realms they belong to.

Selected by ARGOS