Images Festival Blog 1 



Witness Palestine (Fri. Apr. 5 - Jackman Hall)



Although the On Screen component of the 2013 Images festival does not begin until Thurs. Apr.11, Live Images kicked almost a week earlier with Witness Palestine: a cinematic performance by Barbara Hammer timed to mesh with her retrospective survey at TIFF’s Free Screen. Hammer’s performance utilized twelve volunteers from the audience (as in twelve disciples?) as three-dimensional screens consenting to have images projected onto T-shirts which the artist had supplied. These images accompanied testimonies or testimonial texts Hammer had accumulated during a LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay bi Trans Queer) Solidarity Tour (yes tour, but….) of Palestine in winter 2012. The volunteers embody the speakers without “becoming” them ¾ they are neither actors nor talking heads.


Hammer’s performance followed a lengthy film by Pier Paolo Pasolini, made in 1963, in preparation for his later feature The Gospels According to St. Matthew. Pasolini, present in the Holy Land with a film crew and not an LGBTQ contingent, finds himself frustrated by the fact that the Holy Lands are no longer at all akin to the landscapes he had projected from the Bible and from earlier representations of the locations. This film became weirdly comical in its naēve ethnographic fantasizing, its disappointment that Israel as well as so many crucial Arab world locations is now so “modern” and therefore unusable. Here the filmmaker encounters problems inherent in re-enactment and re-visionism and all forms of re-creation. How can one replicate the original when the original didn’t even replicate the original? And how can one revise or re-enact if one is not at least making some attempt at imitation or illusory simulation? Or…why proceed with what is actually impossible? Serious food for thought here.


Pasolini’s pre-production here is akin to Cecil B. De Mille’s or David Lean’s (Lawrence of Arabia) or Hollywood. The renowned queer Italian director is particularly concerned about proper locations and appropriate extras for those massive crowd scenes. Hammer’s practice here has documentary roots, but she resists ethnographic tensions as well as acknowledging the performativity of testifying witnesses. Her performance projects onto bodies and not faces ¾ the volunteers from the audience do not correspond to or represent particular testimonies from those who remain unseen. Would those who remain unseen have been better served by a conventional talking-heads documentary? Do such documentaries “give voice”? Or are they fundamentally subjective so why pretend differently?


Note too good to resist ¾ my spell-check did not recognize the name/word “Pasolini”. One of its suggestions was “gasoline”. Tres explosive, n’est ce pas?