Saturday, 26 September 2009

DJ Spooky - Rebirth of a Nation @ St. George's Hall

Ah, Abandon Normal Devices. Possibly the first arts festival that I've got into the swing of without having to violently guzzle every free glass of wine going. (Though I did partake of a can or two of imported Chinese lager.) Perhaps it works because it doesn't take itself seriously - The opening film being HumpDay, a hilarious and every so slightly titillating movie about two straight best boy buds contemplating bum sex with each other. That cinematic experience was greatly improved by the small, saried, cackling Indian woman sitting next to me.

However, despite being a unspoken movie buff, this isn't a film blog. I will not be inflicting a rambling critical discussion of the visual mind fuck which was a midnight showing of the narrative mash-up Mock Up On Mu.

I am going to allow myself a little study of DJ Spooky's representation and remixing of that Ku Klux Klassic The Birth of a Nation. I got quite excited about this event - It was free and in a big shiny, arrogant Georgian monstrosity. Additionally, after many years of closely held animosity, I'm changing my opinion on video art.

Rebirth of a Nation manages to overcome my crumbling defences, sweeping away my issues with video and chronological art that demands attention for an extended period of time. Although, the word 'demand' is not applicable when you are held utterly transfixed.

For almost two hours I was held in mesmeric awe. Suspended, torn between that dangerously sexy racist rhetoric, which inspires both revulsion and compulsive viewing, and the soothing and troubling rhythmic remixing of those familiar images. Although I have never watched the original 1915 blockbuster, the style and imagery are utterly unavoidable in popular culture.

Although presented in a building which was probably built with the proceeds of slavery to an audience of mostly white people, the film was not presented in an overly political context. A few gentle words about context from the soft spoken and handsome DJ Spooky and that was it. Thank fuck. The unspoken context added a delicious air of the uncanny in the regal surroundings of the Hall, with faux-renaissance statues watching on as the light from the projector glints off the gold gilt surroundings.

This made it all the more troubling and beautiful. It would probably be easier to create a violent opposition to the politics of the original, but what we have is something which is all the more delicate and powerful for that delicacy.

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