Artur Żmijewski, Them, 2007, 27 min
During the exhibition Strange and Close in Play Van Abbe, the work of Artur Żmijewski called Them is shown. The video is a report of a day in which the artist conducted a seemingly easy social psychological experiment with four groups of people, each representing a different socio-political position within contemporary Polish society.
Żmijewski brings these groups together in an abandoned building to start this visual and strategic plan that steers towards a deliberate social conflict. What starts with the expressing of all the participants’ views, quickly leads to firm defence of values and opinions that eventually leads to a subtle retreat. The whole experience is rhetorical though, as the artist, together with the participants, have already anticipated what will happen. For us as the viewers however, it makes apparent that forming a univocal message between a disparate ‘them’ and ‘us’ is hardly simple, nor desirable, when actually applied in reality.
Them also shows how much Żmijewski believes in the power of visual language and how this is effected by a certain context. The video, as visual language of Żmijewski itself, stands firmly as an authorative medium, circumscribing the opinions of the diverse groups participating. By providing a framework of conditions and the registration of the following events a barrier is created that brings about a regulated conflict. A conflict that still maintains some room for reason, even at the peak of frustration. Perhaps we can see Them even as a report that claims to provide the conditions for true communal mediation, a situation that needs to be used and protected in every way possible, a role that has always been under the attack of constant relativism.
The most important moment in the film is not at the end, but in the beginning, where each member commits to taking part in this experiment, giving every viewer all the necessary conditions to discover how ‘we’ relate ourselves to 'them’.
Maximum number of visitors: 20