Thoughts On: Berlin Gallery Weekend (Part One: Candice Breitz)

Candice Breitz

Love Story at KOW, Brunnenstrasse. 9, Berlin.

Stills from Love Story, 2016
Featuring Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore
Top: Shabeena Francis Saveri, Sarah Ezzat Mardini, Mamy Maloba Langa 

Bottom: José Maria João, Farah Abdi Mohamed, Luis Ernesto Nava Molero. 7-Channel Installation 

Candice Breitz is a South African Artist from Johannesburg and has been working in Berlin since 2003. She will be representing South Africa at the 57th Venice Bienalle in 2017 with Profile which was on show near the entrance of KOW on a small monitor with headphones.

Love Story, a seven channel video installation, was commissioned by National Museum of Victoria (Melbourne), Outset Germany and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. It was premiered at Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and there is an accompanying publication which I am going to ask the RGU Library to consider purchasing.

I had done some research in advance of my visit to Gallery Weekend and Love Story was mentioned by a few publications as one of the exhibitions not to miss. I was interested to see the work as it features personal interviews recounting stories of having to leave home suddenly/unexpectedly/for circumstances out-with your own control, which is something I have been exploring within my own work this semester. I was very curious to witness and understand the way in which Breitz would present these people and their stories.

Love Story is based the work on accounts from six refugees of their escape from their home countries (Angola; Democratic Republic of the Congo; India; Somalia; Syria; Venezuela) due to conditions under which it was impossible for them to live. The refugees were interviewed in the countries where they are seeking, or have been successful in their application(s) for, asylum.

The seven videos (amounting to twenty hours of footage) that Love Story is comprised of are spread over two floors within the gallery. The first video that you encounter is the 73-minute film in which Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin recount the refugees stories. This work confronts us with the fact that we are far more likely to identify and embrace fictional lives and characters than we are to sit down to absorb and empathise with the real-world adversity which many people face. Throughout the 73-minute work Breitz intercuts and contrasts the stories and characters, pitting them against each other even as she pits us against the reality of our own ability to absorb, empathise and listen to others. I really liked Love Story’s inward questioning and meta-refractional approach to challenging the presentation and representation of refugees and peoples of colour.

Ironically, given that the premise of the video is based on people not having enough attention span or time to absorb the message and stories of the refugees (hence why their stories have been performed by two Hollywood heavyweights), I actually only saw the 73-minute cinema-screen-sized video as I had somewhere else to get to and I was going to be late. Downstairs from the main screen were a further six screens showing the full interviews from the refugees. I did wonder why people were going downstairs but at the time I thought I had seen the whole work. So I essentially typified exactly what Breitz is demonstrating, and I think this only serves to highlight how effective Love Story is.

More information on this work can be found on the Artist's website

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