13 XII - 27 I 2008
The White Balance. On Subjective Perception
‘Verbatim’ denotes a mode of replicating speech. ‘Verbatim’ also refers to a type of experimental theatre, based directly on the tradition of oral recounting. The story telling in the works of Loulou Cherinet has a significant place. The narrative in her films can function either as a direct report, or - as in a folk tale - a story; a fictitious account with a moral. In spite of leaning towards the journalistic, Cherinet does not abandon aesthetic considerations; on the contrary, she carefully choreographs situations, subjugating them to the strict demands of the cinematic need.
On the linguistic level, Cherinet employs colloquial speech, suggestive of belonging to particular social groups; translation, which transports the text into a new cultural context; and, finally, dubbing – which constitutes an integral part of the work and which, at the same time, adds another level of interpretation. Thus, language in Cherinet’s work is the tool of an anthropologist.
Verbatim is also a method of operating via the image. In Minor Field Study (2006), the juxtapositions of analogous ‘microspaces’ in the Congo and in Sweden act as symmetrical copies; citations from reality. They demonstrate the existence of the two parallel (but how different) worlds, the perception of which, however, ventures well beyond the mere comparative.
Loulou Cherinet takes head on such culturally established notions as gender, race or moral values. In her works. the ‘white versus black’ and the ‘here versus there’ does not correlate directly to a ‘positive’ and a ‘negative’; instead, it does no more than reveal the immense tension which results from the existence of the many individual points of view. The white man, photographed on location ‘somewhere in Africa’ (White Man Series, 2001) is no longer the ruler and the coloniser; on the contrary, he appears to shrink under the curious stares of the indigenes. In White Women, black men reveal in front of one another the brutal truth about their relations with white women. Their denaturalised accounts provide an insight into the ‘better’ world, which tantalises with opportunities, created by the policies for migrant workers, with the tacit complicity of the government. A system, in which the exploited and the exploit keep swapping places, reveals the nuances of multicultural coexistence.
The Allegory of the Cock (2006) deals with subjective and misleading perception. The film is constructed around an almost luddite story, the analogy of which can be traced back to Plato’s The Cave. The artist ventures beyond the documentary material, in search not of facts, but of a universal message, unencumbered by cultural ballast. Hence, a blind man and a cock. With the help of such a frame of reference, the artist targets the limitations of human perception, which makes it impossible to be simultaneously both here and there, or to see that white can be black and black – white.
Taking into account Loulou Cherinet’s biography, it is difficult to conclude other than that her striking ability to perceive the ambivalence of the postcolonial world stems directly from her own background and experience. However, in the artist’s own words:
“‘Black and white’ is not an obvious cliché that belongs to history and minstrel shows, it is today a political, social and economical reality. And this is a reality we all share. The confusion [of the observer] might come from the fact that I see these images as complex and made the choice not to be involved in production of information or propaganda. Still I think that my work probably says more about the observer than about me. You won’t necessarily find the same confusion in me. My work is simply not biographical in that way and for the record, I never felt that I was “balancing between two worlds” as an individual. My world actually comes together, and seems extremely natural to me.”