`Violence` as seen by video artists
By: Shazia Hasan
KARACHI: Moving away from the usual news reports being shown on television channels these days, the Goethe-Institut Karachi on Friday held a video screening of selected works depicting violence as seen through the eyes of artists.
“On Violence” was a compilation of seven videos reflecting the critical awareness of artists regarding various forms of violence. The videos have been selected by Kathrin Becker from the n.b.k. Video-Forum collection.
Thanking the Berlin-based curator and head of the n.b.k. Video Forum for visiting Pakistan for a second time, Goethe-Institut director Dr Marcus Litz said: “It is becoming more and more difficult to encourage artists to visit here and I am grateful that after holding workshops in Lahore, she has also come to Karachi on the request of our students.” Saying that he hoped that she would come here for a third time as well.Meanwhile, Kathrin before screening the videos warned her audience of disappointment if by videos on violence they thought about the things shown on television these days such as the recent scenes of the capturing and killing of the former Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.
“By definition, violence can be a rough or injurious physical force, an unjust or unwarranted exertion of power, as against rights or laws, a violent act or proceeding, and a rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language,” she said. “In art, the depiction of violence has a long tradition. One example is the battle paintings that were particularly popular in the 19th century. While these depictions of violence are positively related to governmental power and have a representative function, a lot of art works in the 20th and the 21st centuries use the depiction of violence in order to critique war, dictatorship, tyranny or other unjust and inadequate forms of political or social realities. But today the depiction of violence is often critically discussed in relation to its use in the media sphere, where it might not only appear as part of true information but be a marketing tool to increase demand and sales.”
“Video art with its long tradition of strong critical awareness of the media sphere often uses footage from the television in order to show the manipulative attitude of the media,” she added.
The longest duration video shown in the collection was a 9.46 min video made by Andreas Troegar called “911” demonstrated just that. The video made in 2002 switches between factual information and manufactured or exaggerated information created by the media hype during Sept 11, 2001 when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers.
Another video “Belarus segodnja” by Marina Naprushkina (2008) had five workers reading news items from a Russian newspaper. Although they read different news items, all began with lauding their president and his work. The video is another artistic way of showing how the media supported dictatorship though propaganda and how the people reading the news items accepted it all like unthinking robots.
The video works also showed the different attitudes of the artists who created them like “El GringoÂ”, a 4.12 min film by Francis Alys in 2003, which is filmed from the eyes of an outsider confronted by barking dogs who wouldn`t let the person move inside their territory, and they succeed at that, too. Other videos in the collection included “Free Society” (1988) by Paul Garrin, “Habitat C3B” (2008) by Niklas Goldbach, “Immer nach hinten” (2008) by Antje Engelmann and Â“Patriotic” (2005), a delightful humour-in-uniform parody of CÃ©line Dion`s `My heart will go on and on` by Benny Nemerofsky and Pascal Lievre.
About her organisation, Kathrin Becker said that they archived some 1,400 video works. But answering a question, she said: “We don`t publish them on YouTube as besides hurting their resolution, the website doesn`t really offer much guidance about them. Therefore, we hold such screenings four days a week where anyone is welcome to come and watch.”
About copyrights, she said that they had limited editions with around five copies released with the artist`s signature on the CD to avoid resale.
The curator also encouraged interested people to build a video art archive of Pakistani art videos. Â“It doesn`t take too much money or equipment to do the needful,” she said. “For video art today can even compete with cinema,” she added.