artist / participant
The narrative videos produced by Julian Rosefeldt (b. 1965, Germany; lives in Berlin) often address the ritual aspects of daily life, which express a wish to find meaning in our lives by imposing order on the chaos surrounding us. His works, referring to different sectors in society, stretch the boundaries of engaged art through aesthetics aimed at arousing the viewer's empathy. Rather than "aesthetic correctness," he says (in analogy to the concept of "political correctness"), he prefers theatrical staging in highly stylized and controlled compositions. Rosefeldt places his figures in distant settings and employs rich cinematic means, produced in collaboration with many professionals, such as performers, set builders, sound people, and photographers. He films his works with a 16-mm camera, usually used for films projected on particularly large screens. The films, converted to video and then transferred to DVD, are presented as multi-channel, panoramic-screen installations. The current video is a shortened version made by the artist of his work Asylum, first shown in 2002 as a ninechannel cinematic installation at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. The work's title has various meanings - personal or political shelter, refuge, sanctuary, as well as hospital of the mentally ill - all of which find expression in it. Asylum explores a particularly topical subject, both in Israel and around the world: the cultural displacement of people who have left their countries and try to assimilate in a culture foreign to them. But more than the figures themselves, the work presents our stereotypical view of them, for the figures are stripped of individuality and each group of people depicted is characterized by stereotypes associated with their ethnicity and jobs. A hundred and twenty performers - Chinese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Kosovan-Albanian, Romani, Afghan and others - participate in the work, all of whom Rosefeldt met in asylum seekers' hostels, on the streets, in pubs, clubs, and social institutions. They all seem doomed to a Sisyphean fate of performing strange, meaningless tasks: men stacking piles of newspapers while wind produced by a giant turbine blows them away; women vacuum-cleaning a cactus garden; Asian cooks sitting in a giant cage, tearing up the Styrofoam packaging of takeaway food. In the short version of the work the scenes of the different groups, which were originally projected each on its own screen, are interwoven. At the end of the video they all sing together, a cohesive chorus voicing a wordless cry.