As a brilliant start into the year 2016, FRAGMENTA presented a film screening of “Blind Ambition”, followed by Q&A with artist Hassan Khan.
“Blind Ambition” (2012, 46 min.) is a film shot with a cell phone with 27 actors in nine different episodes that take place at different times of the day in public places across the city. Shot in stark black and white and completely silent, except for the voices of the actors, it is an attempt to crystallize and suspend an emotional condition that seethes under the surface of a collective, to produce a portrait of selves held together by a fragile intent.
It is a film made of contrasts: the contrast between the fast talk of the protagonists (too fast to grasp all of it) and the long, slow shots; between shouting voices and absolute silence; between the language of the bodies and the voices of the actors … these contrasts help create a fascinating concoction of something uncannily real and very artificial, a sensation that is brought to the foreground by the conversations in the individual episodes. Form and content merge flawlessly.
Separating each of the film’s nine episodes is the passage through some sort of public transport, edited with flickering blink cuts in order to free the viewers’ mind for the next episode.
During a long and engaging Q&A, Hassan Khan talked about his examination of cultural phenomena: it is not realism Khan is searching for, but a representation of a “real” emotional logic, which manifests itself in Blind Ambition through chatter and colloquial talk. Even though the portrayed conversations and habits of people are not taken from real life, they represent life in a pure, abstracted form. Khan suggests that his work is “detecting a social reality, using it as a material, and transforming it into a suspended state.”
Khan had been working on the film-idea for 4-5 years prior to getting funding and commission through dOCUMENTA 13, which enabled him to shoot and edit the film. (The film was co-produced by d13, Galerie Crousel and the Young Arab Theater Fund). At its premiere in 2012, Blind Ambition was presented alongside a sculpture made of frosted glass in the form of a rope tied into a figure eight. “I wanted these two pieces together because they speak completely different languages,” says Khan. “They are separate works. I wanted to put them in a relationship with one another. Blind Ambition is about the conditions of material culture, the world around us. The Knot is seemingly quite distant from these conditions and is about an abstracted form. In my work I’m always interested in these two poles and how they relate to one another.”
Khan also explained that certain formal decisions led to the compelling film: 1) a handheld Samsung phone served as camera, 2) the shooting of the film took place exclusively in public space, 3) the actors dubbed their voices later, thus creating an almost-synch of their bodies and voices. This two-fold performance constitutes the two elements of collective communication and existence. The camera is not only a device to capture images, but becomes a point of view – our point of view?
The day after the screening, Hassan Khan reports: “Watching the film again with a new audience was a surprisingly intense experience, a reminder of the search for accuracy (rather than ‘realism’) that can carry the weight of lived content (emotional, cultural, social and political) and produce its own formal reality with it. That night my dreams were as loud, hysterical, demanding, insistent, driven, paranoid and uncomfortable as that weight is.”
The screening took place at the Royal British Legion in Valletta on January 5th, 2016.
Thanks to Hassan Khan, to Bassam El Baroni, to Valletta 2018 Foundation, to the British Legion and to Kinemastik.
Hassan Khan is an artist, musician and writer. Recent exhibitions include Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, (2015); Kodak Passageway, D-CAF, Cairo (2014); Secession, Vienna (2013); SALT, Istanbul (2012); dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012); Paris Triennial (2012) and the 2012 New Museum Triennial, New York (2012). He also regularly performs his own music live, recent appearances include Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015), SVNMASH Music Festival, Milan (2015), Portikus, Frankfurt (2015); Forget Amnesia Festival, Stromboli (2014); The Toulouse International Art Festival, Toulouse (2014), Klangzeit New Music Festival, Munster (2014), Maerz Musik Festival, Berlin (2013), Ghetto, Istanbul, (2013), Auditorium du Louvre, Paris (2012); and Teatro Fondamenta Nuove, Venice, (2012). Khan’s publications include The Agreement (2011) and Nine Lessons Learned from Sherif El Azma (2009).