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Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
12 December 2006 to 2 February 2007
Reviewed by: Alexandria Clark »
"Human Dramas". A combination of real life and fiction; the memories and experiences of the artist's and her acquaintances and even of complete strangers, serve as the story line for Eija-Liisa Ahtila's cinematic video pieces.
In the Hamberger Bahnhof, Berlin, this strange yet compelling piece is set up in the darkness of one basement room. Two screens are erected to tell us an elaborate yet emotional and poetic tale of a struggle between a couple's divorce and the part that the narrator has to play within this scenario.
Two large screens, both have the same filmed location, yet are completely different. We watch a baby watching horses to music on the television in one screen, and with the other, we find ourselves in the place of that said child, watching the TV screen for ourselves. Almost forcibly taken in, we become part of this fictitious world.
The speech is in German so therefore I understood it through the subtitles. This held a strange sublevel within the work, where as I began to read the words, I could hear my own voice narrating and speaking and felt that once again I was becoming part of the story.
There is a narrator, acknowledged by the characters and also within her own words:
"I am sitting at the window writing a story about them."
As the viewer, you are continuously being pushed into this world, believing its events and emotions, and then suddenly pulled back to our reality. This constant uneasiness is a strange yet enjoyable experience as we are within the power of the narrator, just as the characters are themselves.
After the husband has died and woman is left alone, we find him returning through a pixelated hologram. He comes back to their apartment very briefly, and then takes the place of the narrator for the last few minutes. This is utterly bizarre as the only reason we are given for this is that
"he came back to show her how to bow
smiled then vanished."
Although I am sure there must be some profound meaning to this, it has unfortunately escaped me, and for me the piece would have been enough without this strange addition.
The words are poetic, beautiful, yet harsh and although there are parts of the story that I didn't understand, like the dogs barking or the computerised bowing of her late husband, the piece is incredibly emotive and all-consuming. The narrator pre-tells of what despair is to come, yet you are still shocked as the plunge through the dark icy waters. The reality of it all, the pain and the laughter, the uncertainty and the dictation from the narrator all begin to resemble our own lives as we watch theirs, and you cannot help but wonder whether these things could happen to us the audience, to me the viewer, and to who is narrating. In this piece, at times we become both the characters and the narrator.
I left that dark room; feeling. Feeling for the character's loss; feeling for the narrator; and feeling for my confusion of my future's possibilities. Eija-Liisa Ahtila compelled me to become part of this "Human Drama", and I left with the need of some sort of consolation for myself.
Artist and freelance writer working in the West Midlands. www.alexandriaclark.com
Hamburger Bahnhof »
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