Drawing from experience living and working in the Australian Embassy in Berlin, the Dissident Domesticity project grew from visits to the Ecuadorian Embassy when Julian Assange had taken political asylum inside it. At the beginning of this seven year period of diplomatic asylum there was a hope that through art projects that drew attention to the effects on the incarcerated’s subjectivity and mental health, something to be done to better their situation.
SAVVY Contemporary Berlin, 2014
Investigated is a video installation on six channels that explores the idea of information and the uncertainty of its interpretation. With the method of Ethnographic Conceptualism the psychological and temporal effects of confinement, surveillance and uncertainty – both political and personal – are investigated through performance.
The documentary fiction set in Julian Assange’s Ecuadorian Embassy in London entitled Dissident Domesticity, was recently shortlisted for the Artangel commission in London and is a sequel to Embassy Embassy. Investigated is made in collaboration with Jesse Weaver Shipley.
Investigations are driven by the idea that the search itself has an object. The concept of the investigated typically underlies how politics, entertainment, religion, art, and science are conducted. The core of the process of investigation is often a narrative of progress, the search for truth, or hope for redemption, whether it be from moral, spiritual, or national beliefs.
These investigations are conducted as tales of conflict and resolution with key figures at their center who embody complex histories, transforming them into struggles that appear to be simple dichotomies. The video sketches in this installation take a post-documentary approach to investigated evidence, degrading the formulaic structure of resolved narratives into a history-telling through fragments.
Investigated centers around the story of an information gatherer chasing data thieves who have disappeared. It parodies the idea of an omniscient narrator. The detective story is one genre of tale, particularly compelling in popular culture, which stands in for so many other forms of investigating. The investigator discovers videos which appear to be evidence of transgression, but they mix genres in ways that he cannot classify.
Investigated is a forensic report on disappeared persons and the codes through which their ideas permeate seemingly disparate stories. The videos, taken together, create unexpected juxtapositions. They explore surveillance, information circulation, and how objects of inquiry emerge in acts classification. In particular, fear of subversion and border crossings of all sorts creates the notion of the enemy outside and the enemy within. Investigation is both the process that produces moral and spiritual insecurity and claims to be able to resolve it.
Featuring contributions by Gustav Duesing, Michal Murawski, Mensa of the Fokn Bois, Claire Loussouarn, Wietske Maas, Alex Flynn, Melanie Wigg, Alex McLean, and Toby Matthiesen.
SCENE 1: INFORMATIONISTS
The Investigated walking through the empty landscape on the Borders: Berwick.
I have to uncover their plans. What is the nature of virtual borders and strategies for determining truth from fiction in a world of digital circulation and information overload? It is unclear who the investigated are, what they are doing, what they are planning, and who they work for.
They are artists, spies, scholars, journalists, colonizers, rebels; they traffic in information and media. How to understand the media trail of these fugitives, while they work hard to confound interpretation and obscure the meaning of their actions. There is a confusion between research, politics, art, and corporate information gathering.
SCENE 2: COLLECTING
Boxing the vitrines in the museum
In Cambridge at Pembroke College, the investigated met where Sir Richard Dearlove the former head of MI6, the British secret service, now has his quarters. They must be gathering information on the status of their compatriots’ detentions, on ways of negotiating with the British establishment to get the dissidents released. In conversations over High Table dinners they were gauging their interests, gossiping with the fixers and politicians. No cameras were allowed in the dining hall, but I got surveillance footage from the museum. They spent hours in the ethnographic museum, using the cover of researching the history of collecting data and objects. They move and talk in code, each gesture, each object glanced at or pointed towards refers to a potential connection.
SCENE 3: GET RICH
Religious Strategy Meeting
In a North London apartment a small group convene to discuss details on how to organize a church as a money-making venture. Religious groups have recently been at the forefront of radicalism and change around the world. Their conversations are about how to get a congregation to follow the word of the Pastor. The tale links money and belief, oratory and style.
SCENE 4: BASTILLE DAYS
On 14 July 2012, Bastille Day, in a Paris stairwell, performers re-enact the beginning of the French Revolution.
The storming of the Bastille symbolizes revolt. A woman in a red dress is called Liberty. Count de Solange plays piano with a defeated decadent manner. He was the last of the seven prisoners in the Bastille when it was stormed. There are seven in the re-enactment of this everyday response to 14 July 1789. They use codes and signs that reveal potentials and histories of struggle. How do you know who wins a conflict or when it is over?
SCENE 5: WITTGENSTEIN IN EXILE
Philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell walk to Granchester near Cambridge discussing the perversions of language, frustrations with normality, and death in the trenches. Re-enacting neo-pagan moments of nudity in nature, wigs and kites provide a poetics that shows language to be just a game, and difference as a play.
SCENE 6: JULIAN ASSANGE AND THE EX-KING OF ASANTE
In 1900 the British colonial rulers of Gold Coast Colony exiled Prempeh, King of the Asante Empire, to the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. Thousands of miles from his people, he stayed there for 24 years. Julian Assange remains in diplomatic asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The uncanny parallels of the two cases, and their differences, reveal much about how empire, political power, and diplomacy work to create and maintain sovereignty.