An Online Video Exhibition curated by Monica Narula, artist and curator with Raqs Media Collective. With works by Alexandre Arrechea, Bady Dalloul, Fang Lu, Haroon Gunn-Salie, and Hayoun Kwon
A telegram (Greek tele: distant and gramma: letter) is a written message transmitted by using an electric device. These are usually transmissions of urgencies and anticipate a response. The urgencies could be of major or minor fluctuations, within the humdrum or delirium of living, making, and departing. To this belongs a sense of a halt, and a movement; a pause and a decision, a call, and a mobilization. In the five works here, we will sense distant and intimate worlds, who pull us towards themselves with an affectionate, yet disobedient embrace.
Haroon Gunn-Salie’s short film presents a series of temporary artworks by changing the ‘Zonnebloem’ road signs in central Cape Town to read ‘District Six’. Zonnebloem renamed (2013) is an attempt by Gunn-Salie to change apartheid and colonial heritage that dominates popular memory in Cape Town and South Africa through aesthetic and social intervention. A punctuation in time and place that opens both the idea of an alternate universe, as well as a different reality to the present one.
Hayoun Kwon makes an account of a Nigerian called Oscar, exiled in France, which confronts a historical and social reality with a personal and intimate testimony. The film Lack of Evidence (2011) is constructed through sequences juxtaposing different realities and then by becoming a mise en abîme of the story. The image becomes an elastic characteristic memory and recalls the process of reconstitution. From another perspective, this film questions what constitutes proof and whether this artistic reconstitution of a traumatic event could be used as evidence—whether art can even have an “objective” dimension.
Fang Lu films inside an abandoned museum, creating a scenario where instructed actors gesturally mime scenes from news and journalistic images outside China. No World (2014) points to the changing roles of the camera from a device originally invented to memorialize a moment, to a tool that situationally creates an event. The performance of violence, conflicts, and human relationships in the confined space blurs the boundary between the gallery and everyday life, between staged performance and documentary footage. It also opens the question of what it is that the next generation sees in its relation with the technologically mediated ‘event’.
In Scrapbook (2015), Bady Dalloul writes a letter to the viewer, imploring the witnessing of what we assume, but cannot know. In Hiroshima, Dalloul came across the story of Sadako, a young girl who suffered from leukemia as a result of the atomic bomb dropped on the city on August 6, 1945. While dying, she recalled the ancient legend that a person who makes a thousand origami cranes will have their greatest wish granted. Placed between the origami on yellowed pages in the scrapbook that makes the skin of the film, are texts and images combining reality and fantasy as they address questions of war, and political, military, and economic decisions, and their impact on the fate of individuals.
And, finally, in Alexandre Arrechea’s work White Corner (2006) he seems to be unwittingly attacking himself, a poignant comment on fear and the failure to recognize similarity in “otherness”.
All these works ask of us not for a simple withdrawal into introspection, but an awareness of the corners and edges of our slowly moving world. It is up to us—then—how we plan to respond.
About the Curator
Monica Narula is an artist and curator with Raqs Media Collective. She formed Raqs in 1992 with Jeebesh Bagchi and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. The word ‘raqs’ in several languages denotes an intensification of awareness and presence attained by whirling, turning, being in a state of revolution. Raqs Media Collective takes this sense of ‘kinetic contemplation’ and a restless and energetic entanglement with the world and with time. The members of Raqs Media Collective live and work in New Delhi, India.