Love Story – a seven-channel installation by Candice Breitz – interrogates the mechanics of identification and the conditions under which empathy is produced, prompting viewers to consider: Why is it that the same audiences that are driven to tears by fictional blockbusters, remain affectless in the face of actual human suffering?
The work is based on the personal narratives of six individuals who have fled their countries in response to a range of oppressive conditions: Sarah Ezzat Mardini, who escaped war-torn Syria, José Maria João, a former child soldier from Angola; Mamy Maloba Langa, a survivor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Shabeena Saveri, an Indian transgender activist; Luis Nava, a political dissident from Venezuela; and Farah Abdi Mohamed, a young atheist from Somalia. The interviews were conducted in the cities where each individual is seeking or has been granted asylum (two in Berlin, two in New York and two in Cape Town).
In the first space of the installation, re-performed fragments from the six interviews are woven into a fast-paced montage featuring Hollywood actors Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore (cast here as themselves: ‘an actor’ and ‘an actress’). Each was asked to channel excerpts from three of the first-person narratives on a green-screen set, without the support of fictional backdrops, costumes, props, accents or interlocutors. Breitz’s edit intertwines the six renditions, plotting the diverse socio-political circumstances and personal experiences that prompted the interviewees to leave their countries. In a second space that is accessible only via the first, the original interviews are projected in their full duration and complexity.
Suspending viewers between the gritty first hand accounts of people who would typically remain nameless and faceless in the media, and an accessible drama featuring two actors who are the very embodiment of visibility, Love Story reflects on the callousness of a media-saturated culture in which identification with fictional characters and celebrity figures runs parallel to widespread indifference to the plight of those facing real-world adversity.
Breitz (b. Johannesburg, 1972) is a Berlin-based artist whose moving image installations have been shown internationally. Throughout her career, she has explored the dynamics by means of which an individual becomes him or herself in relation to a larger community, be that the immediate community that one encounters in family, or the real and imagined communities that are shaped not only by questions of national belonging, race, gender and religion, but also by the increasingly undeniable influence of mainstream media such as television, cinema and other popular culture.
Major moments for Breitz in 2017 included the Venice Biennale, for which she was one of two artists selected to represent South Africa (alongside Mohau Modisakeng); the inclusion of a new commission titled I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) in an exhibition titled Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; and the premiere of a major new video work, TLDR (this 13-channel video installation is the sequel to Love Story), at the B3 Biennial of the Moving Image in Frankfurt.
Breitz has had solo exhibitions around the world and has participated in several biennales, including in Johannesburg (1997), São Paulo (1998), New Orleans (2008) and Dakar (2014). Her work has been featured at the Sundance Film Festival (New Frontier, 2009) and the Toronto International Film Festival (David Cronenberg: Transformation, 2013) and has been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), MAXXI / Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (Rome), and FNAC / Fonds national d’art contemporain (France), among others.
Love Story (2016) was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), Outset Germany (Berlin) + Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.
Love Story, 2016 Featuring Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore
Based on and including interviews with: Shabeena Francis Saveri (03:38:49), Mamy Maloba Langa (04:15:35), Sarah Ezzat Mardini (02:47:52), Farah Abdi Mohamed (03:32:19), José Maria João (03:27:57) and Luis Ernesto Nava Molero (03:49:58)
7-Channel Installation: 7 Hard Drives
Duration: 73 minutes, 42 seconds, loop
Courtesy: Goodman Gallery
Love Story will be on exhibition at the Goodman Gallery Johannesburg from 3 February – 10 March 2018