In the space Circuit and currents, we had the pleasure to attend the performance made by the Argentinian artist Sol Prado, who is an independent researcher and performer who focuses her work on the neoliberal paradigm. The performance she proposed is named “endless waiting game” and it is a work which is divided in four different parts and is therefore a mix between video-art, performance and lecture.
Sol Prado, Endless Waiting Game, Photo Credit © Open Form The artist in fact takes us to the island of Leros, she invites us to close our eyes and take a mental journey to the eastern part of Greece (near Turkey), where this island is located. Once we open our eyes we see a screen, where shootings of the island are projected. While looking at these images (landscape of Leros, taken from up, using a drone) the artist tells the spectator the story of this island, which is a turbulent one. Located in a strategic position, this island had always been used for military sake: during World War II, Mussolini occupied it and built there a military fortress; after the war ended, during the Greek civil war, this Island belonged to Greece again and the Italian fortress was used as a mental asylum; nowadays the fortress is abandoned and in front of it there is a refugee camp, where hundreds of refugee arrive every day.
While the artist Sol Prado tells the information to the spectator, she keeps interrupting the lecture with some redundant lines, which she repeats and which make the spectator wonder about the veracity of information which he is told.
The fact that we are only allowed to see the island from above and never actually enter its streets or spaces makes us feel external to the narration and never able to touch the topic. The artist seems to be willing to suggest and to remind us that the truth can be always deformed and adapted and she wants to show us how everything can be questioned.
After this first introduction, the spectator is shown another video with which the second part of the artwork starts. In this video, the artist uses a special narrative where two different videos are overlapped: in the main, bigger video the camera films the abandoned spaces of the ex-asylum on the island of Leros, while in a smaller video, on the left side of the screen, we can see the artist herself, kissing the camera and smiling to the viewer.
This contrast between the abandon and run-down space of the asylum and the fresh and appealing face of the artist is very strong and raises not a few doubts in the one who is watching. The video can be read as a metaphor of mental illness itself, since it is an illness that destroys the affected inside and pulls him in a condition which could be compared to the abandoned place of the main video; psychiatric illnesses do not show visible symptoms and art has the power to represent what the rational eye is unable to see, and Sol Prado seems to show us how the head of a psychiatric looks like: a ruined, messy, destroyed, unstable, precarious prison, from which it is difficult to exit.
And if our natural reaction to the vision of such a place is that of getting out, at the same time we are permanently seeing a good-looking, big-eyed, smiling girl who stares at us and send us reassuring kisses on the upper left side. This small video goes together with the bigger one and probably represents the charm of the mental illness’ condition: if on one hand the fool is inner destroyed and devastated, on the other hand his condition is like an enchanting mermaid, who accustoms the person to his condition and make him unable to fix it.
This paradox is at best visible at the end of the video, as we see the camera trying to look out of the window, but finding bars in front of it and later going downstairs to the exit door and finding it opened: the camera stays here on a fixed-plan and does not go further, it does not exit the asylum and this is how the second video ends. The final scene perfectly shows the dichotomy of the psychotic, who cannot feel safe in his condition, but –at the same time- is scared of a free new and different condition.
Sol Prado, Endless Waiting Game, Photo Credit © Open Form In the third part, the artist continues with her performance, where she dances in the centre of the room with headphones on her ears. The viewer can listen to the song only through her, humming to herself, which means that he hasn’t got direct access to the song. The song is easy to recognize though and it is “I am free” by the Rolling Stones.
This part plays on the narrative of inclusion/ exclusion, just like the previous part did, even though now we are not talking about the space of the asylum anymore, but that of the refugee camp; but in the end, isn’t it the same?
Not having direct access to it makes us identify with those who do not have the “privilege” to belong to the West and therefore can only get an idea to this world through other channels, be it music, films, video-games, books, fashion, …
The image of the West this people get is always a carefree and optimistic one: an image of freedom, which really looks like the image of a girl happily dancing with her eyes closed, on the notes of a song which says “I am free to do what I want any old time”.
But we all know very well, that it is hardly like these, especially for those coming from other parts of the world, wishing to find this reality. Being “free to do what I want any old time” is something that only a few people can say (and even less can do), and this is what the artist wants to show us by not letting us listen to the song, but only giving us a far echo of it, which sounds like an unattainable dream.
Sol Prado, Endless Waiting Game, Photo Credit © Open Form To close the performance, the fourth and final part shows us again the island of Leros, but this time we see its blue calm waters and some tourists relaxing on colorful air mattress, sunbathing. The image, with its bright colors, has some pop nuances and it stresses on the extremes of the western society, just like the paintings of Warhol for example did.
Once again, the spectator sees these shoots from above, i.e. from a distant perspective and he is given the possibility to recognize himself in the tourists who are floating on the crystal water of Leros, just some meters away from the refugee camp. As a soundtrack of the video, the spectator hears the song by the Rolling Stones, this time on high-sound and not just sung by somebody. Through the final video, the viewer will identify with the tourists on vacation on Leros and will reflect upon the condition of the western citizen, who is aware of the what is happening outside Europe (and inside) but at the same time also decides not to think about it, because at the end, he still has the privilege to go on vacation and to sunbathe under the Greek sun.
Sol Prado, Endless Waiting Game, Photo Credit © Open Form
With her artwork, Sol Prado is able to dismantle the mechanism, on which the neo-liberal society works. To do it she chooses those disturbing spaces that society creates, in order not to have to face the problems and the monsters that are created by those mechanisms: the island of Leros, together with its history, is a space where the “outcasts” are sent. Among the placid waters of Leros, we recognize a scenario which reminds us that of the one in the “Isle of the Death” by the Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin, which –in fact- should be the symbol of the subconscious, of the dark identity of the individual. Like Böcklin’s painting, Prado’s artwork yokes us and whispers us a truth, which cannot be said too loudly.
The isle of Leros is a space where the individual sinks in the alienation and anonymity, where space and time seem not to exist and where reality seems an “endless waiting game”. Text by Carmen Frigerio
Photos by Open Form open form #2 | Endless Waiting Game
curated by Capacete Athens, Open Form
Circuits and Currents
13,Notara & Tositsa Str., 10683 Athens