Offsite Projects Archive
- Big Screen Commission
- 29 April to 2 July 2016
From: Hannah Black
Sent: 28 April 2016 11:31
To: Ellen Greig
sorry for sending this so late!
when we first talked on the phone you told me about how a lot of people in Southend used to work for Access, the credit card company that was the first of its kind in the UK. i vaguely remembered the ads from the 1980s, “your flexible friend”, animated objects talking to each other, the credit card and a pound sign (representing cash) walking along together, cash always gets worn out first, he seems to struggle with everyday life, when the bill comes he can’t pay and the credit card - smooth, confident, always on the up - has to help him out, generous in a manner that could be taken the wrong way if you’re feeling insecure about being broke - a generosity that despite this edge still resembles that of daydreams, “oh I’ll get that for you, don’t worry, take this, have what I have”. i wanted to turn these two figures into sort-of-characters in a video, two figures (a word that means both character and number),
the debtor and the creditor.
there is the being-in-debt that is the feeling and the structure of not being wealthy, as if you’re always struggling to make up for some kind of original sin - the way that people who have nothing have to work for people who already have something. what’s the reason for that? it’s just how it is, but there’s a long war behind that, you can call it class war but then maybe some people flinch away because that phrase means something ideologically strange to them, it’s just a war, a war made up of factories and pressgangs and fences and borders and so on. rich people are only rich because they set the poor to work for them. so for me the creditor figure is full of a historical & still-unfolding evil. i didn’t know how to represent this so the creditor doesn’t appear as a figure at all, the creditor in the video is the credits.
thinking about the debtor figure - the mask was a collaboration with my friend the designer Ebba Fransen-Waldhor, who also did the images for my book - we came up with a mask based on a medieval shame
masks. these were masks that people, more often than not women, had to wear in medieval europe when they had done something wrong. they were a way to make people ashamed, or show that they should be. these masks made me think about how shame can be thought of as something that you wear on your body, something you carry around the masks made me think about race, which is also a way that things get locked onto your body, a feeling of shame or pride, because race is a social system built up on physical pretexts. race is (in some ways) nothing to do with me, i just carry it like a debt i can’t get rid of. so it’s also everything to do with me, with the histories of violence that deposited so many people on this island. debt and shame are mixed up as concepts, in german they are the same word (famous fact). in a history of early spanish colonialism, i read about how concepts of infamy and race got mixed up there too. i got interested in these ideas because i don’t understand why race has to belong, as an idea, to people who are not white. it’s in a way, an overspill of class struggles
that happened among white people, though they didn’t think of themselves as white back then and now whiteness has become a world-historical demon you can’t call back to walk at heel.
i imagined the debtor escaping to doggerland, a stretch of land that used to connect britain and mainland europe and is now under the sea. the creditor can track them, but they can’t go there, because it isn’t there anymore. the debtor is often fixed in place, or doesn’t have so much choice where she goes, but she can travel to impossible places in her mind, and together with other people maybe sometimes try to build impossible communities that refuse the logic of debt and credit (you see the mask hanging towards the end of the video, not that it has such a fixed beginning middle and end, as if the debtor has escaped from the fate she’s supposed to wear on her face)
doggerland existed above water at a time when people didn’t have to have jobs, banks, landlords. doggerland was 10000 years ago, but it’s interesting and sometimes useful to remember that things have been
different and they will be again. things have been very different in the time since doggerland and now, reversals of fortune, many lives, constant struggle.
this email is already too long, i thought i could express these ideas simply, but they get tangled up in each other when i write them, a little bit like the video also got dense and wild, i tried to untangle it, i’m not sure where i ended up, this is what i made for you
thank you for all your help and patience,
About the artist:
Caspar Heinemann is an artist and writer based in London. Coming from a background in activism and DIY punk culture, their current research revolves around critical mysticism, countercultural mythologies and queer biosemiotics. They have recently performed at AND/OR, the ICA, and Chelsea College of Arts, London, and presented a solo show at Kevin Space, Vienna.
Hannah Black is an artist and writer from the UK. She lives in Berlin. Her work in video and installation has been exhibited at a number of galleries including Arcadia Missa (London), Interstate Projects (New York), Chateau Shatto (LA) and W139 (Amsterdam), and readings/talks/performances have taken place at the New Museum and Cage (New York), the Whitechapel, the Showroom and the Chisenhale (London), School (Vienna), Flutgraben (Berlin), etc. Her writing has been published in The New Inquiry, Texte zur Kunst and Frieze (DE), among other magazines, and her book Dark Pool Party (Dominica/Arcadia Missa) was published earlier this year. She completed her MFA at Goldsmiths in 2013 and was a
studio participant on the Whitney ISP in New York from 2013 to 2014.