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Associate curator Marente Bloemheuvel explains the rationale behind the latest EYE exhibition, running March to May 2019.

A Tale of Hidden Histories focusses on the work of artists Broomberg & Chanarin, Omer Fast, Chia-Wei Hsu and Meiro Koizumi who set out to examine how audiovisual media can be used to explore, deconstruct and 'unmask' stories about history and thus determine the subjectivity of its sources. Across nine works the artists investigate how stories are constructed and how they change when told and retold from various perspectives. The majority of stories tell histories which derive from conflict zones.

This is not an exercise in finger- pointing and exposing the inadequacies of any given historical method. Indeed, the new interpretations we see are artistically-derived, non- scientific and particularly unjournalistic. "What they're especially making clear is that there are many stories, and many interpretations, and maybe not even one of them is right or correct or true," underlines EYE associate curator Bloemheuvel.

"Omer Fast is an artist who plays with fiction and reality and truth as well as dealing with the psychology of contemporary drama," she continues. "We show a work called Continuity (2012) in which a family - a man and a woman - reunite with their son who comes back from Afghanistan where he has served in the army, but the story becomes quickly more complicated because after around 15 minutes we see his parents pick up a different boy at the station. And this homecoming repeats itself and the nature of their grief becomes ambiguous."

Bloemheuvel cites Meiro Koizumi's Portrait of a Young Samurai (2009) in which the artist asks an actor to play a farewell scene of a young kamikaze pilot, which he has to do over and over again. "The artist is constantly intervening and he is asking the actor over and over again to express more Samurai spirit, and as the video unwinds the actor starts to cry and you see his pain. He seems to be brainwashed in the whole process, and he's really pushed to the limit. He can't take it anymore. It feels like there is a symbiosis with his character and for the viewer this is a very moving experience."

In Chia-Wei Hsu's Huai Mo Village (2012) the artist focuses on the story of a Taiwanese priest who served during the Cold War as a CIA informant who subsequently founded a local orphanage whose occupants were invited to capture on film the narratives of the Cold War era told by the priest. "So we see the priest telling his story, but we also see the film team at work recording him, so these kids from his present are filming the memories of his past."

For Broomberg & Chanarin's Dodo (2014) the artists re-discovered the Mexican set of the film Catch-22, footage of which was combined with montage of the film's unused nature shots, as well as five photographs of a dodo egg. The starting point was the representation of war as presented in the classic novel, underlines Bloemheuvel, before it explores many side roads, discovering common ground en route. "The result is a multi-layered work on the representation of war and the impact of the Hollywood industry on the landscape of another country, in this case Mexico."

"What you see here are smaller histories of people that serve as an example of a greater political reality," Bloemheuvel concludes. "The artists do it completely their own way - it's really a different way of working if compared to a scientist or a journalist. What makes these works interesting is that they always leave it completely open as to whether something is true or not.  I even believe that the question of truth or otherwise doesn't matter  for them."

The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of films, talks and events in the cinemas entitled 'Shell Shock - Post Traumatic Cinema'.

SEE NL Magazine #34 November 2019 / Sundance, IFFR, Berlin and Clermont Ferrand issue

SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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