With Images [and Talking Back to Them] the artist and filmmaker Sara Eliassen presents a film installation in the lower exhibition hall and a program at Kunstnernes Hus Cinema. The project deals with image politics and the media's role as active agent in the production of collective memories, and is based on many years of research and dialogue with artists and thinkers between Norway and Mexico.
About the exhibition
In working towards Images [and Talking Back to Them] Sara Eliassen has engaged diverse artists, activists, journalists and thinkers in Mexico over the question: As the brutal effects of global market deregulation rip societies apart, and violence spreads, the media play along by picturing atrocity as normality. How can this intimate tie of violence to images be addressed and countered?
Realised as a multiscreen installation, Images [and Talking Back to Them] now brings together films of dialogues recorded over several years, on the road to, or location of sites inscribed with the history of systemic violence, and its distorted representations: Guided by journalist Sergio Ocampo, Eliassen visits stations on the journey taken by 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal school before their fatal disappearance in 2014, an incident shrouded in government cover-up propaganda. She talks with women from Disidencias y Mujeres Organizadas FFyL at the UNAM university in Mexico City where feminist activists protest femicide, sexist abuse, and its normalisation in the media. Together with journalist Heriberto Paredes Eliassen travels to rural towns in Michoacán and speaks with locals who form armed groups to fight cartel domination, and land grabs by global mining corporations. Driving through Tijuana, she converses with philosopher Sayak Valencia on how the city by the US border wall, in Valencia's words "is the crystallisation of an episteme of violence that makes the latter into a fantasy shared by the entire country."
At the project's conclusion, Eliassen invited its contributors for a discussion at the Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco. (The center faces the square where the Ayotzinapa students were headed to join a commemoration of students massacred by government forces in 1968.) Together with the practitioners named above she is here also joint by image makers, thinkers and activists Laura Furlan of Teatro Ojo, Colectivo Los Ingrávidos, Julio García Murillo, Beatriz Paz, Camila Pizaña and Lorena Wolffer. The film of this assembly is the keystone around which the individual interview-travelogues are displayed in Eliassen's multiscreen installation which, like an audiovisual essay unfolding in the exhibition space, offers many points of access to the shared project of undoing the fatal tie between systemic violence and image production.
The exhibition for Kunstnernes Hus is curated by Silja Espolin Johnson who also hosts two film nights with conversations programmed by Eliassen. Night one of the program focuses on the Ayotzinapa case and interventions challenging official propaganda. Night two opens the focus around Eliassen's longstanding commitment to questioning national romanticism by showcasing films which analyse and attack how media — to cover up the real social destruction wreaked by global market forces today — propagate fake myths of earthy belonging and cultural supremacy.
Images [and Talking Back to Them] is made with support by Fritt Ord, Fond for lyd og bilde and KHiO, and is the final instalment of Mediating Uncertainties, Eliassen’s PhD project in artistic research at Oslo National Academy of the Arts – Academy of Fine Art: mediatinguncertainties.com.
The exhibition is part of an expanded focus on presenting moving image-based works bridging the cinema and exhibition spaces at Kunstnernes Hus, funded by Fritt Ord and Sparebankstiftelsen DNB.
About the artist
Sara Eliassen (b. 1977) is an artist and filmmaker based in Oslo. She is currently a PhD candidate in artistic research at Oslo National Academy of Arts— Academy of Fine Art, with the ongoing artistic research project Mediating Uncertainties. Current investigations explore propaganda histories, and how ideologies are normalized through contemporary images, technologies and moving image culture.
Eliassen’s projects move between exhibition spaces, cinemas and sites in the public sphere, and she also programs films, lectures and conversations; inviting and commissioning other artists in relation to her own research and projects. Her work has exhibited both locally and internationally, and films have played extensively at film festivals, such as Venice Film Festival, Int. Film Festival Rotterdam and Sundance. Site-specific projects include Not Worth It (2007), Under The Park (2021) and The Feedback Loop (2018) with The Munch Museum in Oslo. Eliassen participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program as a studio fellow after completing her MFA in the film department at San Francisco Art Institute (2008-2010).