Ilona Huss Walin
Personal statement about my art, process and intention:
The video ”En lärares interaktion med sina elever, som inte längre finns där” (2009) is a reconstruction of a video documented classroom situation with thirty students and a teacher. The teacher’s interaction is then replayed in an empty classroom by a professional actor. Without fellow players the actor tries to imitate every detail of the teacher’s social interaction, including body language, tone and rythm of voice.
The videowork is strongly connected to the video documentation from the authentic lesson since the actor is imitating every aspect of the teacher’s interaction. At the same time the final videowork is very different from the video documentation, since the pupils are no longer there. I think there’s a tension between the authentic and the interpreted in the videowork, for example the teacher’s vulnerability becomes more obvious in the videowork. It´s a different working process for the actor to imitate someone and to act a social interaction alone without fellow-players.
My intention with this video project is to explore what happens when I portray a teacher exhilarated by the connection she has made and the social interaction with her students, who no longer are present (but yet present at some level through the played teacher’s interaction). I´m interested in showing the contrast: a person who alone embodies a very social situation. At the same time I show an authority in action but in an original way since the students no longer are present. In this way certain aspects we otherwise wouldn’t see from a well known situation becomes highlighted. I´m interested in the friction that is created during the working process, since there’s a conflict when the presumptions for social interaction (the students) are not present in the videowork. This is a challenging and interesting working process, which can lead to an unpredictable process of interpretation. Many images can be changed, i.g., the image of the teacher or the image of the pupils or the school, both within me and within the viewer of the video. The video might also allow the viewer the intellectual space to think on his/her own about the played situation from his/her own pre-understandings and experiences. In one video I let a male actor play the female teacher (and the opposite in another video) which also contributes to a more complex interpretation. As a development I have also reconstructed students social interaction with people who are nolonger there.
I take inspiration from feministic art- and film theory which creates awareness of how Hollywood productions, as they have for decades, portray the image of women as objects (who don’t have a gaze on their own). Subsequently, the man is portrayed as a subject and his gaze is on the female object. The viewer of a Hollywood-film is manipulated to completely forget his/her own gaze, as well as the camera gaze, and therefore unconsciously identifies with the principal actor: the male subject and his gaze on the female object. In this context, gaze of course means not only a looking eye but also an intellectual understanding and will.
My aim is to cause confusion and curiosity, with my playful and alternative interpretation of object and subject and the way I visualize the three gazes in film: the film-viewer’s gaze, the camera’s gaze, and the actor’s gaze. I find it inspiring to analyze how my own art (and the artistic work of others) can manipulate with the three gazes in a different and experimental way and therefore create an alternative kind of process of interpretation of the object and the subject. I’m strongly motivated to contribute in creating alternative images of society from this point of view (i.e. the image of the teacher or the pupil, or the image of male or female). I don’t limit my videos to deal with only how mainstream films reproduces the image of the woman as an object but more generally the process when relationship between the object and the subject is created in different situations in our society and how pre-existing images, often subconsciously contribute to this process.
The aspect of object and subject is also present in my earlier videowork, Rat export Hamlet. The living rats are subjectified in some sense since I let them interpret Shakespeare’s drama Hamlet in a human installation built in the scale of rats. It was a dramaturgic challenge with an unpredictable work process to create the drama Hamlet in relation to the filmed rats’ spontaneous interaction. The fact that it’s impossible to see any difference concearning sex between the rat marked Queen Gertrud and the one marked Prince Hamlet, creates a different gaze concearning gender. I consequently use a camera of surveillance in the video, which also makes at least the camera gaze neutral to the female and the male. The humoristic aspect in using rats creates a distance which gives an extra feministic layer to the Hamlet drama, which already is quite feministic in its content.
For me, experiencing an interesting working process is fundamental. I choose to develop ideas which will mean many unpredictable choices and multiple possibilities of interpretations during the process and also an unpredictable process of interpretation of the final work, where society and the esthetic aspects are ultimately intertwined. I also find it interesting to allow someone else’s influence at some point in the working process (for example living rats or a teacher and her students as well as an actor expriencing a new form of acting situation). I am interested in working with the different possibilities of the medium of video, where the sound is as important as the moving image. I also take interest in acting as a phenomenon and the environment where the acting takes place.
Ilona Huss Walin, january 2013
English translation: Karin Ciambella Berggren