South London Gallery.
The information with the exhibition says that the work “takes as its starting point an extract from an interview conducted by the artist with a west African national seeking asylum in London, the work picks up on one strand from his life story and embeds it in several scenes that repeat in each film”.
The three films are progressively longer, and presented in successive rooms within the gallery. The central story is about how to make a trap to catch a bird, out of two sticks. In the first film a man is making a trap, there is a voice over describing making a trap. The second film is staged as an interview in which a man describes making a trap, but gets muddled about what the trap is for. More sinister overtones about his life story, his reasons for being interviewed, and the reasons for making the trap become apparent. The third is overtly fictional, in which a white man is in a country in which black people have the power. The story of making the trap goes around this circular film, the man over hears the story being told by a girl in class, he then tells the story to someone who might be a social worker, she then tells it to her lover, her lover then tells it to his daughter who then tells it in class. There is also another thread in which people are trying to escape a post apocalyptic city of the past, via the tube lines, but are being hunted down as if they are trying to gain illegal entry into another country.
As the simple story of how to make a trap is repeated and shifts meaning through the three films, this straightforward task becomes myth, memory, practical instruction, confession, show & tell. In the end the original meaning or intention of the story, and preconceptions about the background and history of the stories author have been challenged, shifted and blurred.
The statement that the origin of this story is an interview with an actual person suggests a social starting point, a perhaps anthropological root to the work. This questions the role of story telling in the work, who’s story it was to tell, does the distortion and shifting meaning of the story in the film remove it from the original teller, and in doing so allows it to reveal a wider story, and more of the realities of storytelling and description in various accounts of a life.
What does happen in an interview when someone is asked about their past?
In thinking about art and anthropology there is always the issue of who ends up speaking for whom, how far the interviewer shapes the interview (and there are several interviews and conversations throughout the films), what roles the anthropology and the art play, and their capacities to both enhance and obscure the other practice. In this work ‘Nostalgia’, the process of storytelling weaves these questions together around the very material functions of two sticks being used to make a trap.