What kind of stories are we willing to listen to? What kind of stories move us? Why is it that viewers who will weep when watching movies will remain unmoved in the face of real-life human suffering? This seven-channel video-installation by the South African artist Candice Breitz interrogates the mechanisms of identification and empathy.
Breitz calls out attention to the firsthand accounts of anonymous refugees, persons who typically remain nameless and faceless, juxtaposing them to the universal allure of celebrities. In the first space of the installation, audiences watch an accessible ‘drama’ performed by two Hollywood stars, Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin, re-enacting excerpts from the interviews of six refugees. The fast-paced montage strips the intimate testimonies of their depth, complexity and nuances, turning them into a facile, mainstream product meant for popular consumption. In the second space, viewers can watch the original, uncut interview footage of refugees and migrants, including the shocking story of 23-year-old Sarah Mardini from Syria. In 2015, Mardini crossed the sea between Turkey and Lesbos, saving 18 of her fellow Syrians from drowning. The next year, she returned to Lesbos to aid activist groups and last year she was arrested, charged with refugee smuggling, an arrest that was met with international reactions.
Commissioned by National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), Outset Germany (Berlin), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg