Alice on sol

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Sol Archer (by Alice Mendelowitz)

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Sol was looking at eye witness Statements of the Tunaska Events in 1908, when it is thought that an airbust of small asteroid caused an explosion in Russia. These are primary sources, where the statements are very subjective and personal as opposed to being scientific.

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The media that Sol was interested was a conglomerate of footage of a meteor shower in present day Russia. Grainy film shot on a combination of car dashboard cameras, security cameras, and newsreel. Art piece = (

The Act of Killing

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“The Act of Killing” is a stylized documentary about “gangsters” in North Sumatra, who in the wake of a failed coup in the 1960’s went from selling black market movie theater tickets to leading the most notorious death squad. These “gangsters” re-enact some of their killings for the film, doing so in the style of their favourite movie genres.

How does the medium the story is told with add to the tale ? Sol chose historical events in a combination of primary and secondary source material. Looking at the embodiement of stories, and how they can be told both objectively and subjectively.

Sol responds, or adds from discussion

I wanted to present the witness statements and the videos as two very different means of presenting what is in essence a very similar occurrence and as collections of multiple stories surrounding one enormous event. I am interested in the embodiment of the data in the specific actual bodies of the witneses and in their conversion of it into something mundane and focussed in the observations of its effect on their world, their livestock, houses, furniture, furs, and family health. I think there is something odd about the relationship between these embodied/human stories of the event when compared to the steady blinkered view of the dashboard camera in the 2013 event, which shows the fireball crossing the sky, but nothing of the weight of the event, just its video-recorded 'accuracy' and particularly in the footage from security cameras which observed only the shockwave hitting, or the reaction of people in offices without the subjective narrative of the trauma.

the Witness statements from 1908 mostly come from a marginal northern Russian tribal group and so were collected as a partly anthropological exercise. They were recorded a few decades after the event and some are already secondary and recount the stories of the subjects parents experiences.

The meteor was quickly incorporated into the religious story of the people and some of the witness documents are transcriptions of shamanic songs, passed down orally from shaman to trainee, becoming an embodiment of the event or memory in the particular ritual or voice of the shaman performing it. we perform memory to ourselves, at the point of recollection as much as we ever perform it to anyone else and in each performance it becomes more a story, more an epic with ourselves as character. I have a half eye on Walter Benjamin (as we always do) for his essay on the story teller which talks about changes in the technology of telling and the news as a mode, the alienation of death from our daily lives and the dominance of the written word and the form of the newspaper as dividing us from a history of storytelling. The writer, Leskov, who Benjamin presents as the last novelist as storyteller, incidentally, is a right good read.

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There is something extraordinarily weird which happens throughout the act of killing, but particularly with the witnesses being the perpetrators and the re-enactors of the crimes. the Bruegels painting Landscape with the fall of Icarus was raised as both a direct example of life just getting on with going on around the catastrophic event and as a direct visual connection with some of the security camera footage.

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Breugel Landscape with the fall of icarus

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Breugel Cencus at bethlehem

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magnolia, amores perros, Werkmaster Harmonies, satantango, close encounters of a third kind, and independance day all came up as films that are structured as multiple subjective narratives around one central traumatic event in this model