by Marina Grzinic
In the context of the relation between history, activism, the image and capital, I would like to outline some topics that deal with capital, gender and positioning, i.e. with theory and history. My principal question is what kind of changes we can detect today in these paradigms, and, if possible, to rethink some old and new relations between theory, art practice and political activism.
1. The image
‘How to squeeze the body and fill it with oil and vitriol?’ – the body in Eastern European video art, the video works of Marina Grzinic/Aina Smid. The position of the body in relation to history and theory in the so-called post-socialist, post-Communist or post-capitalist context can be grasped precisely in Bilocation (Grzinic/Smid, 1990). Bilocation is the simultaneous residence of the body and soul in two different places. The term is perfect for delineating the process of the video medium, and for describing history in relation to the body. In Bilocation, original documentary footage shot by TV Slovenia during the ‘civil war’ in Kosovo in 1989 (a territory in the south of the former Yugoslavia, racked by national unrest and conflicts between its Albanian and Serb populations) has been used and juxtaposed with the imaginary world of synthetic video images. The documentary footage, which had not been shown previously on national TV, is overlaid onto the image of a ballet dancer (e.g., inserted into her eye, encrusted in her intestines, etc.). These are images about (historical) places, where our own memories become at once psychotic and erotic.
In Bilocation, the body is prepared and embalmed as a body was prepared for a socialist parade, or a condemned man on his way to the scaffold. It is as if the culmination of every parade was not the excitement it aroused, but might just as well be a body—embalmed, glazed, and made up as a victim. When dressing them for the parade, we are actually adorning the body, which is soon to be destroyed by lust. The body is re-picturing the visual rituals of the body in the East and West. Are we remaking the body of history? No, it is rather a simulation of its political and emotional co-ordinates. The body is used against amnesia, shifting tenses in a way that deepens our understanding of memory and history beyond the video medium. However, it is not only this; the way the body is presented in Bilocation clearly shows that the body in video is only the video resolution. Through an electronic and digital process of encrustation, a concrete destiny for the video medium— which in the 1990s relates to an entirely changed political and artistic context—is realized. Video works identify with the Zeitgeist of the War in the Balkans of the 1990s. The documentary shorts of the war are encrusted with constructed fictional material. Instead of simply identifying with a documentary about our present situation, the structures of electronic processes offer paradoxes and non-linear editing. Peace conferences to stop the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina seemed to be constructed with equal skill, but without resolution. Through video and the processes of re-appropriation, such as recycling different histories and cultures, a multicultural hybrid aesthetic condition is provided. This is an attempt to create empathy where apathyreigns, and to create anxiety without ecstasy.