In his new film ‘the destructors’, Imran Perretta uses narrative and visual storytelling to articulate his personal experiences with physical and structural violence. The result is a sensitive and poignant indictment of the British governmental policies, Austerity and the War on Terror, which have served to exacerbate the marginalisation and oppression of Muslim communities living in the UK.
‘the destructors’ begins with a gradual crescendo of hands slapping legs, a rhythmic rallying call that emanates from the exhibition’s immersive surround sound. The film is split across two screens, showing four young men sitting in what looks like a school hall. On the left screen, one man slowly slips off his trainers, feet nervously squirming under the gaze of the camera. On the right, the other three slap their legs in unison. The beat cuts out, the screen goes dark, the title appears: ‘the destructors’.
The ensuing film is divided into three poetic monologues spoken by three of the young men from the first scene. Camera angles jolt around and over their bodies, depicting cropped perspectives of the sides of their faces, torsos, legs and hands. You see snippets of their identity, without the full picture. As they speak, suspenseful ominous music encloses the exhibition space. A sonic language of fear creates a visceral sensation of anxiety. The individuals are also visibly uneasy, their hands and feet subtly fidgeting under the surveillance of the cameras. In verse, they each give voice to prejudices and injustices experienced through inhabiting a brown male body in today’s political climate: “I must bear the weight / of responsibility / for the actions of others / no them without me / all of us held / in contempt / accused / of this / pre-crime / this / brown anomie”.
They testify to being under constant scrutiny while simultaneously disregarded by the state: “under protected / and / over exposed”. Not only do their words bespeak this neglect, so too does the building in which they are filmed. Set in the Shadwell Centre in East London, the speakers sit in drab rooms with peeling walls, amongst toppled chairs and piled books. Their testimonies are interspersed with eerie scenes showing the hallway slowly filling with water, and noxious fumes pervading the air, like premonitory nightmares of death and decay.
Perretta’s skilful synthesis of sound, spoken word and moving image creates an intense and unsettling viewing experience. ‘the destructors’ represents pain and trauma so evocatively, yet without depicting it literally. The work’s power lies in its capacity to communicate feelings of alienation and dislocation intelligibly, sensitively and emotively. Rather than dealing brash blows of political sentiment or esoteric discourse, ‘the destructors’ deftly conveys the complex interrelated effects of today’s socio-political situation on young Muslim men growing up in the UK.
‘the destructors’ will tour to Chisenhale Gallery, London in January 2020; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead in March 2020; and The Whitworth, Manchester in May 2020.