Interview with Markus Ohrn | Bergman in Uganda
aprile 19, 2015
Xing presents the fourth edition of Live Arts Week that will be held in Bologna from 21st to 26th april 2015, based at Ex Ospedale dei Bastardini, together with a week-long special project at MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna.
With Bergman in Uganda, Swedish artist Markus Öhrn introduces us to a new kind of folk storyteller that has emerged in recent years: veejays. These are people who work in makeshift cinema halls in slums and remote villages. Their art consists of directly translating movies – usually Hollywood blockbusters – for the local audience. Markus Öhrn came up with the idea of showing the films of Ingmar Bergman in this particular cultural context. With his back to the big screen, Öhrn filmed the narrators issuing words and explanations of the complex introspections on European culture and lifestyle that are so emblematic of Bergman’s work. How does one watch Persona (1966) in the shantytowns of Kampala today? Not without irony, Öhrn allows the European spectator to see how the African viewer looks at him. A confusing reversal that induces us to reflect on our own perspective.
ATP: So why Bergman, why Persona?
Markus Ohrn: Persona was the first of Bergmans movies that I saw when I was 18 years old. It was for me a strange experience, I had never seen anything like it and even though I didn´t really understand it, it was stuck in my mind especially the intro part and the dream scenes. So in a way it was the film Persona that led me to Bergman, before that I didn´t know anything about him. When I went to Uganda to do this project I wanted to translate Persona since it had such a big impact in my life when I first saw it. And I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen to the film when it was interpretated in a Ugandan slum.
ATP: This project opens a breach in the interpretation of art, tell me the most interesting issues that this brought you.
MO: This project had a lot of unexpected results that I could not foresee. There is so many things that we (Europeans) take for granted that someone living in the slum in Kampala doesn’t have any relation to, and this becomes very visible when watching the installation.
ATP: In your opinion, is there a common message in a work of art or are we forced to submit to certain cultural rules? in this case can they be bypassed?
MO: I think my project Bergman In Uganda answers that question quite clearly, what’s considered art is defined by a white Eurocentric perspective. I am sure that we can bypass this but then there has to be some radical changes in the art world. And with the on-going process of privatisation of museums, theatres and institutions that are mainly driven by the interest of strengthening a brand and in the end profit and happy stock owners, the future doesn’t look that bright in this case. I would be very happy if my project could awareness around this questions.
Interview by Eugenio Luciano
thursday 23 april – 7 pm
Ex Ospedale dei Bastardini (sala bianca)
Markus Öhrn, born in Sweden in 1972 and currently based in Berlin, is a visual artist who works with video and performance. In his video installations, he often works with existing material, such as in the 49-hour long film Magic Bullet that is a chronological montage of all the archived film scenes cut by Swedish film censors from 1911 to 2011. In his performances with the theatre groups Nya Rampen and Institutet, Markus Öhrn starkly explores the mechanisms of repression in a middle-class family. He was invited to Avignon in 2012 with his first production Conte d’Amour, an exploration of the dark side of love based on the Fritzl case in Austria, which later won the award for the best fringe theatre production in Berlin. That was the first part of a trilogy, followed by the performances We Love Africa and Africa Loves Us (2012) about post-colonial fantasies of omnipotence and European family structures, and Bis zum Tod (2014), a ‘black metal opera’. Following Öhrn’s reflections on the new colonialism in Africa of the video installation White Ants, Black Ants (2010), Live Arts Week presents Bergman in Uganda (2014) filmed in the slums of Uganda’s capital. His new work Azdora will premiere in Santarcangelo dei Teatri festival 2015. The works of Markus Öhrn has been presented both in Sweden and internationally in places like Museum of Modern Art Stockholm, Volksbühne and Arsenal in Berlin, and festivals like Kunstenfestivaldesarts Brussels, Theater Treffen Berlin, Wiener Festwochen, Festival d’Avignon, Festival Transamerique, Montreal and Theater Der Welt, Mannheim.