Judy Radul – 8th Berlin Biennale, MAY 29–AUGUST 3, 2014

Judy Radul
May 29–August 3, 2014

8th Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany

The Ethnological Museum in Dahlem Berlin was the primary site for the 8th Berlin Biennale. Look. Look Away. Look Back. was shot at the Ethnological Museum but shown at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in central Berlin; “transposing” one museum onto the other. In the South Seas area of the Ethnological Museum the objects are in brightly coloured and expressively angled cases that (wittingly or not) put themselves on display. The many angles of the colourful display cases create a phantasmagoria where one case always reflects in the next, and it was this cacophony of reflections that the cameras focus on. 

This attempt to consider the act of display (rather than just the objects on display) as a culturally specific act in its own right seemed like one approach to the museum. Like so many objects collected from indigenous communities and dispersed around the world the Dahlem South Seas collection, although important and affecting, is framed by colonial aspirations and cultural misunderstandings. Many of the objects are made with temporary materials for a performative (sometimes secret) function. They were not therefore created “to be looked at” but primarily for use. As the video systems I work with are systems of display in their own right, I wanted to use them to look at the Dahlem displays, as perhaps a counter ethnography of a culture of display. I tried to make a fairly nervous system of looking, to look without turning my look (which is through the camera) into a showing. A system of display seems to indicate a correlated system of looking. I wanted to focus on the acts of looking, the functions of the display, but not to give any sense that the viewer was more knowledgeable about the “contents” of the displays by seeing my work. Perhaps one can look with out “showing”? The live element seems to function at the level of a distanciation, also perhaps working to challenge some of the authority of representation of the recorded material.