John Hurrell – 6 January, 2021
The show is remarkably rich, with varied sonic textures from many juxtaposed cultures, sudden pregnant silences, nuanced editing, inventive cinematography and haunting night-time vistas. We notice the shrewd mixing of sound recorded on separate sites so that all spatial incongruity dissolves. With the musical ‘couples' Mesiti shows cultural absorption without the obliteration of difference—a celebration of harmonious diversity.
Curated by Ane Tonga
19 December 2020 - 7 February 2021
On the end wall, we see two large butted-together screens, tilted at an angle as if an open book, presenting a seventeen minute two-channel video on diverse musical communities in the Danish city of Aarhus. It is made by the Australian artist Angelica Mesiti, one of the stars of the Fifth Triennial of Auckland curated by Hou Hanru in 2013. She came and gave a lecture in Artspace.
This stunning work has been gifted to the institution by the gallery Friends, and its two linked ‘landscape’ screens exploit a back-and-forth narrative in the image sequencing, sometimes introducing music aurally long before the clarifying photographic image arrives.
Two sets of Danish musicians are often recorded in different locations, depicted simultaneously but with the sound seamlessly blended.
Usually it is traditional European music mixed with the aural, acrobatic or dancing contributions of recently arrived migrants, although the Somali music at the work’s end, by singer Maryam Mursal, is particularly stirring.
The show is remarkably rich, with varied sonic textures from many juxtaposed cultures, sudden pregnant silences, nuanced editing, inventive cinematography and haunting night-time vistas. We notice the shrewd mixing of sound recorded on separate sites so that all spatial incongruity dissolves. With the musical couplings Mesiti shows cultural absorption without the obliteration of difference—a celebration of harmonious diversity.
Dominant throughout the film—as home for many of these performers—is the sprawling urban development ‘ghetto,’ Gellerupparken, huge housing blocks usually photographed at night when the glowing appartment lights imbue them with a bluish fairytale glamour. The music makes them seem magical. At day they become oppressive.
The gradual pairing of different communities in important: the harmonising children (with piano) from Rosenvangskolen in nearby Viby pave the way for the intricate percussion (drumsticks on tables) of the Ramallah troupe of Palestinian and Lebanese Boy Scouts; a woman playing a light snare drum with her fingers accompanies an acrobat from the Gellerup Circus School doing handstands in what seems to be the council chambers; the employees of Aarhus Kommune sing a traditional song alongside (on the other screen) a group of four high-stepping Jaffra Dancers; in her cosy Gellerup apartment Maryam Mursal sings a blues with a wonderful catchy backing from two musicians on guitar and harmonium.
Like the musical works that Mesiti presented in 2013, this is a fabulous video. Truly a New Year’s holiday treat for summer.
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