- Julian Rosefeldt
Asylum is a major film installation that continues the artist’s investigations into classification and typologies by examining and deconstructing the stereotypes associated with immigrant citizens. Reflecting on how we respond to the idea of ‘the other’, Asylum challenges our awareness of our own projections and desires.
On nine large screens Rosefeldt presents nine different ethnic nationalities, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Kosovan-Albanian and Afghan. 120 ‘performers’, many of whom are immigrants living in asylum seekers hostels, were chosen to ‘act out’ their existence as foreigners by repeatedly executing typical, cliché-ridden jobs. The slow motion of the camera emphasises the ritualistic aspect and the senselessness of the tasks performed. Kosovan cleaning ladies hoover stones and polish cactuses; Chinese cooks sit idly destroying fast-food packaging in a monkey cage; sex workers aimlessly drift, occasionally dusting Oriental artifacts; newspaper sellers shift and try to gather bundles of newspapers in a wind tunnel. Far from adopting a documentary approach, Rosefeldt has constructed subjective and tightly controlled compositions, at times reminiscent of traditional fine art, at others pure kitsch. Shot on 16mm and set in eccentric locations with atmospheric lighting and saturated in detail and colour, the scenes resemble tableaux vivants that become cinematic, immersive environments.
Portrayed as homogenous groups we realise how we often perceive immigrants generically. Despite their silence throughout most of the film, at one point all nine screens come together in a chorus crescendo, releasing a single, protracted and disconsonant note, with which the performers acquire ‘voice’. Although Asylum comments on how we consume the ‘other’ the artist refrains from either idealising or presenting the immigrant workers as ‘victims’. Never quite making his position clear, the work retains a sense of ambiguity, open to multiple interpretations.
creates a hermetic, surreal world rooted in reality yet divorced from
it. Asylum focuses on the underside of human experience and confronts
us with our own opinions and preconceptions, whilst at the same time making
us think about daily life and its routine dimension.