Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ghost Dog: A Complex Work Explores the Legacy of Colonialism, Writes Fisun Guner

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ghost Dog: A Complex Work Explores the Legacy of Colonialism, Writes Fisun Guner

Article excerpt

Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Parasol Unit, London N1

A levitating priest bobs serenely through the air, hovering above characters caught in a drama of death, redemption and guilt. Death, ruggedly handsome, sits Bergman-style opposite a poet at her kitchen table in a Helsinki suburb and politely demands the delivery of "some words"; later, the poet's words literally float off the typewritten page, leaving it blank once again. | Two Algerian boys murder their French playmate; one counters the question of motive with the story of the village massacre of 40 countrymen by French soldiers. "Have you ever seen a Frenchman in prison?" the boy asks a member of his psychiatric team. The answer is a quiet shake of the head.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Time shifts and space collapses in the richly (and sometimes exasperatingly) complex multiscreen films of the acclaimed Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila. Where Is Where, the first of three on display at the Parasol Unit gallery, is almost an hour long, and opens with the poet intoning a few lines from a poem by Rimbaud. We follow her, the events and the static images from screen to screen on each of the four walls.

The murder the film depicts was committed over 50 years ago, and was documented by the psychiatrist Frantz Fanon in his 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth. With a controversial foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre, it explored, for the first time, the psychological impact of colonialism. But as our poet tries to make sense of these events, she finds that she is stained by guilt. …

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