I was struck by the visual effect of a military thermal camera used in a video installation by an Irish artist Richard Mosse and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten. It anonimised and dehumanised the victims of Syrian crisis even further, stripping them of their individuality, presenting them as bodies and numbers in cold monochrome. Yet it also brought their aliveness out in an incomparable way. Sensitive to heat, this heavy-weight camera accentuates or invades the spirit of life and conflict more than any other technique could. Shots taken from great distances let us, the Western Audience, surveil the movements of people and events unfolding on the shores thousands of kilometers away from us.
I was lucky to see a selection of socio-political films from this years’ BBC Arabic Film Festival, which were screened at Oxford’s St Antony’s College: “This is Exile. Diaries of Child Refugees” and “Cairo Drive”
“Ai Wei Wei became widely known in Britain after his sunflower seeds installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2010. This was the first major institutional survey of his work ever held in the UK and bridged over two decades in his extraordinary career. Curated in collaboration with Ai Weiwei from his studio in Beijing, the RA presented some of his most important works from the time he returned to China from the US in 1993 right up to the present day. Among new works created specifically for the RA, there was a number of large scale installations, as well as works showcasing everything from marble to steel to tea ans glass. With typical boldness, the chosen works explored a multitude of challenging themes, drawing on his own experience to comment on creative freedom, censorship and human rights, as well as examining contemporary Chinese art and society.”
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Ai Wewei instagram https://www.instagram.com/aiww/?hl=en
“Last year – in a live show I did with Massive Attack – we tried to evoke this new world. We used a song from the 1980s called “Bela Lugosi’s dead” – which I love because it has a very powerful feel of repetition. The audience were surrounded by 11 twenty-five foot high screens.
I’m not sure how successfully we did it – but what I was trying to show is how your past is continually being replayed back to you – like a modern ghost. And it means we stand still unable to move forwards. Like a story that’s got stuck.
I’ve put a short bit of it together from some camera-phone videos shot by the audience in New York. It’s a bit rough – as is the sound – but you’ll get a sense of it.”