Metahaven on Turnarounds

September 27, 2019 00:35:49

Brian Kuan Wood talks to Daniel van der Velden of Metahaven (Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden) on the occasion of their exhibition at e-flux titled TurnaroundsTurnarounds consists of the film installation Hometown (2018), a new series of textile pieces, and an essay in e-flux journal.

Hometown focuses its ultra-wide, hypnotic gaze on two cities—Beirut and Kyiv—that merge into a fictional home for the film’s protagonists, Ghina Abboud and Lera Luchenko. Fluorescent, lava-like animations alternate between images of industrial estates and overgrown gardens as Ghina and Lera lyrically describe the town. A caterpillar gets killed, but while mourning the loss, both evade responsibility for the crime. With their monologue in Russian and Arabic colorfully subtitled in English and Ukrainian, they eat ice cream. Their laughter solves puzzles, and there is a sunken city inhabited by adults who forgot what children taught them.

The script of Hometown draws on a genre of Russian children poems called perevortyshi (“turnarounds,” or “twisters”). In perevortyshi, positive statements are provisionally joined with their opposites to the great joy of both narrator and listener. These poems are, in their playfulness, also fundamentally questioning our reliance on verbal statements in order to approach reality. In “Sleep walks the street,” an essay for e-flux journal no. 102 that will go live when the exhibition opens, Metahaven interrogate our current tendency to aestheticize politics by relying on the cognitive guidance of metaphorical and allegorical construction. Examining figures of speech that normalize not just words but also entire semantic contexts and cognitive patterns, they reference the work of the German-Polish linguist Victor Klemperer (1881–1960) who studied the language of the Nazis. In searching for potential antidotes, Metahaven focus on the work of the Russian poets Alexander Vvedensky (1904–1941) and Daniil Kharms (1905–1942), as well as the contemporary poets Eugene Ostashevsky, Jackie Wang, and Galina Rymbu.

In addition to the film installation and the essay, a new series of digitally created textile pieces is installed throughout the public and private spaces at e-flux. Bearing titles like Mise-en-AnthroposceneSkyrofoam, and Now You Know You Now, Metahaven’s recent textile works draw on the thematic and affective tropes they have embraced since their documentary The Sprawl: Propaganda About Propaganda from 2015.

The work of Metahaven consists of filmmaking, writing, and design.

Hometown will be on view at e-flux through November 2, 2019.

Language & Linguistics, Ideology, Podcast
Poetry, Propaganda
Metahaven, Brian Kuan Wood

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