Artist of the week: Margareta Kern

Margareta Kern participates in Counterpoint, an exhibition at the Rochelle School, Shoreditch, as part of Platforma Festival from 29 November – 4 December. She was also part of Contrapuntal Perspectives dialogues, as part of which I was in conversation with TJ Demos and Oreet Ashery.

Counterpoint is a group show and multidiciplinary event dedicated to Edward Said’s idea that, on account of their awareness of different realities with respect to culture, nationhood, language, identity and the law, refugees and migrants can create a uniquely plural vision of society.

The works included in the show span a variety of media, examining ideas around issues of exile, migration, displacement and identity. Margareta Kern is showing a video work in this exhibition called Guestures/Gostikulacije created this year.

Double-screen video-installation GUESTures | GOSTIkulacije

Double-screen video-installation GUESTures | GOSTIkulacije, is part of a series of works that stem from artist’s long-term ethnographic, archival and historical research and interviews with the migrant worker women in Berlin, who were part of an organised mass labour migration, from the socialist Yugoslavia to West-Germany, in the late 1960′s. 

Inspired by the principles of the verbatim theatre and its political potential, the video GUESTures | GOSTIkulacije was filmed with actress Adna Sablyich in artist’s studio in London, basing her performance on audio-recordings of conversations between migrant workers and the artist. The resulting work both follows and subverts the impulse of the verbatim style to achieve a certain ‘ideal’ authenticity of expression through the use of documentary material. On two equally sized rectangular screens we can simultaneously follow two complexly linked contents; on one we see the artist creating the film-set, a kind of ‘fictional’ framework for these women’s stories, intervened occasionally by archival footage from German factories in which these women worked, whilst on the other we are solely focused on the actresses performance. The desired effect of the Brechtian ‘distancing’ of the narrative is additionally achieved through occasional subtle interventions by the artist herself, from significant pauses in the interpretation of the text, to the sudden inclusion of the artist’s voice replicating parts of the interview. Each part of the video, is as much a portrait as it is a space of experimentation with the questions of voice, testimony and narrative; document/ary, performativity and the historical imaginary. 

Margareta Kern’s artistic practice engages with the social and political sphere through multi-layered and inter-disciplinary projects. Kern is interested in the relationship of performance, narrative and participation to documentary and experimental image making, as well as in the relationship of art and activism.

Informed by contemporary ethnography, Kern’s work to date has engaged with intimate spaces and narratives, and with questions around visibility, power and representation. She recently organised a series of events, terms & conditions, with Iniva  ranging from talks and discussions to workshops and walking tours, explore the impact of neoliberal capitalism on migration and labour with a focus on the social and economic injustices, inspired by Iniva’s three year project At the Intersection: Art & Economies. You can watch video clips and listen to auido recordings of several of these talks online.

Also showing alongside Margareta Kern is another artist who has previously worked with Iniva, Oreet Ashery who created a piece for Progress Reports.

The venue for this exhibition is: Club Row, Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, E2 7ES.

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