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30th October

The tiniest of dents

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at the dossiers of the candidates for our video artist awards and commissions. The more I look through the applications, the more the images of these videos flash through my mind while I go about my daily routine.


A couple of days ago, when buying figs at the market here in Barcelona, I suddenly found myself among Indonesian fishermen who are learning Korean in order to work in that country. A bright-eyed young man carefully pronounced Korean words that have to do with his future job: beokis, kal, eomang, bucket, knife, fishnet.


Yesterday, while taking a shower I saw the haggard face of an overworked Japanese advertising executive staring at his reflection in the window late at night. The lights of other Tokyo office buildings glinted in the background, and it took a while before he recognized his own face. In the video, his recognition of himself grew increasingly fainter, until it disappeared completely.


Now, I see a grainy black and white image of a young Vietnamese woman dressed in loose black pants and a far too big white t-shirt carrying an infant on her arm, looking through a barbed wire fence. She has an expression of sad resignation. That scene, taken in a camp for Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong in the early eighties, lasted only a couple of seconds and was one among many in that video.


The strong impact that these images have on me makes me wonder if my brain can actually tell the difference between what I see on a screen and what I experience in person.


If there were no difference, does that mean that seeing the young woman in the refugee camp thirty odd years ago would make the tiniest of dents in my brain, just as real-life experiences do?  Do these hundreds of tiny dents from the videos I saw these last weeks change who I am, albeit only a little bit? I do hope this is the case, that part of me has become closer to others, not as an artificial exercise but naturally, by itself.


Interconnectedness is the very grist of our lives and art is the perfect way to show that nothing is separate, nothing stands alone. For a moment I entered the world of the young Indonesian fisher, the overworked Japanese advertising executive, and the Vietnamese mother behind the fence in Hong Kong. I realized how we are all linked.

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