‘Tell me the story Of all these things’, Rehana Zaman’s new film currently presented at Tenderpixel, explores different – and perhaps conflicting – forces occurring in the articulation and representation of subjectivity.
Developing across a multiplicity of visual and conceptual strands, this work revolves around a conversation involving the artist and her two sisters during the preparation of a meal. While one sister dominates both the dialogue and the eye of the camera by appearing at the fore of the sequence and delving into a wide range of personal experiences, the other remains silent. Revealing herself only through rapid glimpses, fleeting reflections and images of her hands systematically handling and treating different ingredients, Zaman places the focus of her visual narration on a series of marginal details.
In line with some of her previous works, Zaman seems to give up a global perspective on the subject to centre the articulation and representation of identity around a constellation of peripheral narratives and gestures. Here, by appropriating the fragmentary and multi-stranded structure characterising Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s polymorphic literary work ‘Dictee’, Zaman investigates the production of subjectivity through forms of deconstruction and dislocation.
Apparently transcending any principle of causality or chronological order, the dialogue evolves through the scattered re-configuration of blunt thoughts, a discontinuous trajectory of memories and anecdotes, questions and reflections. Often abstracted from any instigating question or fixed subject, such intermittent discourse is largely paced by the actions of the two women peeling and cutting, stirring and kneading. As her close-ups swing between moving hands and accessories, between the cooking and the subtle transformation of facial expressions, the artist leads the viewer into an extremely intimate territory.
However, the other narrative trajectories that intersect the core dialogue and feed into the artist’s multi-faceted journey somehow disrupt this intimacy by instead emphasising movements of depersonalisation, abstraction and the fictionalisation of the self. Two hands gesticulating and moving different objects against a monochrome backdrop appear to artificialise the representation of work that is at the centre of the artist’s proposition. The digital animation of a feminine figure appears suspended in a surrealist scenario, completely camouflaged into an arid landscape. Like a Junoesque character, she emerges as a projection, a mythological figure defined through the embodiment and radicalisation of few human traits.
These fragments, then, converge within sequences documenting the artist while browsing through Prevent, an e-learning program designed to raise awareness around the emergence of extremist movements within what are considered ‘vulnerable’ segments of the population. Paced by music recalling the tedious experience of a waiting room, the applicability of such informative programs underlies the praxis of categorisation. Subjective nuances are thereby blended into objective and impersonal categories negating an intimate understanding of the subject.
Constituted as a heterogeneous narrative corpus, Zaman’s many-folded work reverberates with the plurality of truths and realities that occur in delineating identity within a highly complex contemporary context.