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Asylum - Julian Rosefeldt



Julian Rosefeldt

19th October – 25th October 2003

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.

Rosefeldt 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.
Presented by MW projects and The Henry Moore Foundation Contemporary Projects in collaboration with BALTIC, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, and with additional support from the Goethe Institut and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary. The piece has been kindly loaned by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection. Asylum has been produced with the generous support of the BMW Group and with additional help from the Bavarian Film Fund FFF and ARRI Film &TV.
Asylum will be presented at BALTIC in 2004. It will also be shown at Spike Island, the Festival d’Avignon and the São Paolo Biennale. Asylum was first exhibited in 2002 at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.
Julian Rosefeldt has had solo shows Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Herzliya Museum of Art, Tel Aviv; Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; Goethe Institute, Paris and Salvador de Bahia. Group shows have included Centre National Georges Pompidou, Paris; Kunsthalle, Vienna; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; PS1, New York; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporaneo, Vitoria; his work has been shown in London during the screening of 'Performing Buildings' at Tate Modern in 1998.

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