28 October till 9 December 2011


Review by Yasmijn Jarram

translation: Pieter de Bruyn Kops

With a shock the jammed front door of SYB springs open, a mad laughter echoes through the darkened space. The voice turns out to be that of a woman with an apple green face, the leader of the Apocalyptic Community that currently live in the building. The beginning of 2012 means the end of times, and to ward off this catastrophe, work has been done on the ultimate art work – perhaps the last ever. The witch, seen on 4 video screens throughout the Kunsthuis, is repeatedly replaced by performers painted green, and papier-maché dolls. They are all personifications of the protagonist. Scared, and antagonistic at once, the green woman murmurs about the future of her lover, an unseen personality, that symbolizes death. “There’s no more time”, she says. “This recording is our liberation. Or my last work.”

The video-installation, ‘The Apocalypse Community” is made by Joaquin Cociña (1980) and Cristóbal León (1980). They both graduated as artist and film maker in their homeland, Chile, and work together since 2007. Momentarily, they live in Amsterdam, where Cristóbal recently finished a 2-year period at De Ateliers. The artists experiment with the mixing of film genres, like documentary, soap, and comedy. This leads to roller coasters of images and allusions, structured in a story with mythical characteristics. Within one work the dial turns from poetic to explicit, and from humoristic to downright evil. Their vocabulary is archetypal (a green woman is a witch), and contains strong metaphors, that are often given form through a power struggle between man and woman, as is the case here, and most of the time it is the woman who wins.

While the artists originally worked with a lot of precision and patience on animation, they have broadened their techniques with improvisation, homemade dolls and human performers. To analyze this method further, with their first feature film ‘La Casa Lobo’ (‘The House of the Wolf’) coming out soon, they came to Beetsterzwaag. For ‘The Apocalypse Community’ Cristóbal and Joaquín bundled their power with performer Ana Maria, choreographer Leonie Kuiper, and musician Jessica Sligter. Though talking, the specifics of the project
gained gestalt. Partially through the participation of Jessica, the normal working method of the Chileans – first image, then sound – flipped. Through improvisation, part of the spoken text emerged, added upon with internet-quotes about death, wherein the loaded word is constantly replaced with words like ‘lover.’

Although initially the idea was to make 1 long film, finally 4 parts that can stand alone, create a whole. Their endings are edited so that the films become like puzzle pieces that all fit one other. On one of the screens the witch loses herself in the forgotten forest, madly chewing on a piece of bark, while fat rain drops audibly hit the bed of leaves. The witch, now portrayed as a finger puppet, is warned from a cardboard house by her other ‘I’ about the due arrival of her love. The small witch climbs in through the window to hide. Another film shows the witch in this hiding place, where she sings to, and keeps distance from her lover.

In the part titled ‘Aquelarre'(‘witches sabbath’), projected largely in the middle of SYB, the witch is at her most scary. Her inner world finds a way out: she laughs, and performs primitive looking rituals. Loudly exclaiming, she heaves out a stream of glitter spit, after which she starts having spasms, as if possessed. Is she getting ready to fight for her life? Or is she fighting with her lover who has now arrived? The fever-pitched barrage of associative and intuitive images is not followed easily. Although, as a viewer, you are pulled in by your hair, the work doesn’t expose itself: it escapes, like a grinning demon, time after time, every logic and ratio. The result is a chaotic collection of scary and simultaneously funny scenes, wherein antipodes challenge one another or simply become the other: doll and being, death and life, dream and reality, good and bad, fable and nightmare. On top, or down and out.

A small television screen, the closest to the exit, shows the video ‘Confession.’ Herein, the witch confesses that she didn’t initially understand the situation and her own role in it. No matter, she chose to follow her “doubtful heart.” After all, why shy away from something you can’t pass? Are you ever certain of anything? The words of this performer fit into the story of the film, but form at the same time a reflection of her feelings as participant in this art project. Subconsciously she helps put into words the confusion that the raw work evokes in the viewer. What should you do with this anyhow? The answer to these questions hides subtly in the work: let it wash over you in all of its fury. “I fearfully accepted his embrace / I fearfully accepted his consuming kiss,’ sings the witch in a high-pitched voice, while she climbs out of her house and disappears into the darkness of the forest at night.