John Akomfrah, Shimon Attie, Jeremy Deller & Cecilia Bengolea, Stan Douglas, Omer Fast, Kahlil Joseph
The synthesis of videoart, tendentious documentary and music videos from American and European artists, which sensitiely react on the authentic social and demographic problems of mostly the American society. Music plays here a significant role and a means of expressing the themes of individual works. Despite the seemingly entertaining musical format the authors managed to underline the very important and interethnic relations and tensions heavily discussed today. The works come from various contexts and their connection in one exhibition only multiplies deeper levels and meanings that could otherwise remain unnoticed. Moreover, this exhibition represents a new thematic chapter in the exhibition history of Galerie Rudolfinum.
The exhibition Domestic Arenas is a unique inquiry into problems hinted at using video art as a medium. Video art appears to be ideally fit for this purpose due to its extraordinary emotional immediacy, the way it switches between paces and tones of the narration, visual authenticity and – what is really important in this project – the presence of a musical score. The exhibited works oscillate between an infinite six-hour stream of music (Stan Douglas), which undulates, as a mass unchained, in long sequences and counter-movements, temporal leaps and deliberate irregularities of the tempo, and intense and very social analysis of practically excluded groups, dynamically delivered through a portrayal of street dance competitions (Jeremy Deller – Cecilia Bengolea), or highly emotional scenes of clashes between vastly different worlds on the streets of Los Angeles (Khalil Joseph).
An authentic testimony of a film installation m.A.A.d. from Kahlil Joseph raises the question what it means to be a part of the comprehensive and varied environment of the black representation. Joseph drew inspiration from the Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city, and he used home videos made by the singer’s uncle in 1992. Very cinematographic and slow-paced stories by Omer Fast are stand on a quite different level. Video titled Continuity tells the story of a married middle-class couple living the experience of having their son return from Afghanistan. Refugees’ anxiety of the loss of their own world, identity issues and difficulties caused by a political conflict is captured in the videoinstallation Stateless by Shimon Attie. John Akomfrah, on the other hand, turns bact to the 16th century, which is the backdrop to an epic fantasy drama of the beginnings of the slave trade.
A set of six videos that, together, make this exhibition, would suggest a continual narrative of a story. Here, however, every video stands alone; it has no connection with the other works. The videos can be viewed in any order and no matter how many times; it is also possible to revisit them and consume them in different combinations. Each work opens one “domestic arena”, symbolises one major issue and problem – still, one can find a number of other variations and facets for each one.
What all the presented works have in common is the broad spectrum of definitively formulated views and fierce statements on issues which oscillate between happiness and pain, between life and death, between a quest for identity and spirituality – issues whose complexity destines them to be a world onto themselves. With a view to activating new circuits, we must try and position these sovereign entities in other, distinctly different social situations that lack this historical experience.