In imaginary places: video art on the IHME Days

2084: A Science Fiction Show / Episode 2: The Fall of Artists’ RepublicFilm Still from 2084: A Science Fiction Show / Episode 2: The Fall of Artists’ Republic, 2014. Courtesy the artists.

Screenings of video art by Francis Alÿs and by sociologist Pelin Tan and Anton Vidokle on the Friday of the IHME Days will be Finnish premieres. A common feature of these pieces is their powerful ties to the places where they were filmed.

Alÿs’s poetic politics

Francis Alÿs has always been interested in border regions. In Watercolor, shown at the 2014 IHME Days, he carried water from the Black Sea to the Red Sea, from Turkey to Jordan, adding political dimensions to a performative gesture. The tracing out of political and poetic boundaries characteristic of Alÿs’s works is also present in his Gibraltar project from 2008. Children from both shores, Tarifa in Spain and Tangier in Morocco, set off across the Strait simultaneously. For a moment, we can imagine a bridge between Europe and Africa.

The lyrical The Silence of Ani to be shown on Friday is set on the border of Turkey and Armenia, in the ruins of the medieval city of Ani. Before it was destroyed and forgotten, this city that was the equal of Constantinople and Jerusalem was known for its “thousand and one churches”. A millennium later, Alÿs’s camera records the ruins of ancient glory now overgrown with weeds.

Nevertheless, if we listen carefully and sharpen our gaze, the signs of life returning to the city start to emerge. In the video young people hiding in the ruins listen to the calls reminiscent of birdsong that they play to each other – and reply to them.

The mass murder of Armenians a hundred years ago has aggravated relations between Turkey and Armenia, and kept the borders between the two countries closed. In Alÿs’s work a new beginning quivers in the air.

Art in 2084

Pelin Tan and Anton Vidokle’s 2084: A Science Fiction Show Episode 2: The Fall of Artists’ Republic takes viewers into the future, where revolutionary actions by artists have led to the birth of an artist-run state.

The videowork has been shot in the grounds of the unfinished International Fair complex commissioned from the architect Oscar Niemeyer in Tripoli, Lebanon. Niemeyer’s futuristic concrete architecture with its bunker-like spaces is a utopian project, whose failure parallels the ideal state to which the artists aspire. Construction work begun in the 1960s was interrupted in the mid-70s by the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war.

Historically the ideas of the human being, the state and art have been interwoven. Tan and Vidokle’s work unravels this bond, referring both to notions of the end of history and to St Francis of Assisi’s sermons to the birds. What is a human being, and what action, work or language defines the human? What happens if humans no longer work – if the aspirations to change the world and themselves reach their end? What happens if art displaces life? And above all: What is the significance and role of art?

These works to be seen on the IHME Days have been picked out by the Festival’s expert workgroup from international surveys of contemporary art. Alÿs’s The Silence of Ani was completed last year for the Istanbul Biennial. Tan and Vidokle’s dystopia is a commission for the Biennale de Montréal. Both works are connected to the theme of this year’s festival, i.e. art and communities. “Alÿs is searching for a tradition, a ritual or a narrative capable of founding a community, whereas Vidokle and Tan are examining a fictitious community falling apart,” says IHME’s Executive Director Paula Toppila shedding light on the selection process.

Read more about the videoworks and the artists here.