Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Interview | Hyperallergic | Mar 2015

Conjuring the Anxiety of Domestic Spaces During War by Susan Silas on March 18, 2015

I was introduced to the work of Helene Kazan when I walked into Momenta Art during a discussion for the exhibition Frames of War — titled after the book by Judith Butler and curated by Natasha Marie Llorens — and saw seated in front of me three women panelists. (I should point out that the exhibition has both female and male artists in it, and there was a later panel of all men.) I was immediately conscious of how unusual this was and reminded yet again of how little women’s voices are heard in discussions of war, how little impact they have had on the recorded history of war. In my own experience, having read extensively on the Holocaust in Europe, I have found that the history of it as both historical and personal recording is primarily written by Western white men. There are, of course, notable exceptions, but the elision of the female voice is so extreme that the history seems to me faulty and inaccurate even as it has been accepted for over half a century as the truth.

What made me curious about Kazan, who was part of the panel discussion, was that she uses a strategy to present her work that is somewhat academic, yet she is situating it an art context. I also found it interesting that she had worked previously on large-scale sculptures and films but that this work had led her to a strange hybrid between performance art and lecture.

We have all seen the many permutations of the arguments for and against political art over the years. There was a wonderful moment during the panel when Llorens was asked by someone in the audience how this kind of work could be effective when it was isolated in such a specific context, and without skipping a beat she pointed out that the art world is also part of the world. It was also clear to me that Kazan, whose projects are now “research driven” in some way, still believes that it is the visual, the image, that will convey the information she wants to get across. I was struck by the faith she has in the power of the image when we live in such an image-saturated culture; many claim the image no longer has a serious impact. Her work focuses in part on the tension between the image of a possible and perhaps desirable future contrasted with and living alongside an image of experienced past destruction and anticipated future catastrophe.

Susan Silas: In 1989, as the Berlin Wall was coming down and the shape of Europe was undergoing a dramatic transition, Lebanon was in a state of civil war. Can you talk a little bit about your early piece “Masking Tape Intervention: Lebanon 1989” and the still image that was the seed for the short film it inspired?

Helene Kazan: The still image, which reveals the everyday interior of a beige and brown tiled kitchen……

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