‘Fences Make Senses’ by George Barber at Waterside Contemporary

“Imagine swimming to a place where you’re not wanted.”

Fences Make Senses (2014) George Barber

Fences Make Senses (2014) George Barber

Fences Make Senses (2014) George Barber

Fences Make Senses (2014) George Barber

Fences Make Senses (2014) George Barber

Fences Make Senses (2014) George Barber

  • really interesting text/script/voice over that combines various strains of narrative: migrant experience, global trade and luxury travel. Playful use of language. The imaginary, the real, the personal, political, documentary, poetry – layered.
  • Barber films English actors imagining scenes from migration experiences – buying a boat, arguing with an official at a border or office. The use of these actors, who don’t have costumes or sets and are just filmed in back gardens or parks, reveals the absurdity of these situations. Sometimes silly, almost funny. Highlights the bureaucracy of global movement and how slight and arbitrary political borders are, but what huge impact they have on people’s lives.
  • At the other end of the spectrum Barber reveals the sad and morally dubious responses to migration, in a scene where the actors play a crew from a ship who didn’t help a group of people in a dinghy. They discuss the incident and whether to file a report, and try to rationalise their response to the situation “Maybe they didn’t need our help”, “maybe they were waving hello.”, “I’ll file a report, I’ll say it was dolphins, I’ll say it was a dot on the horizon.” The actors deliver these lines in an expressionless way, as if just regurgitating lines – the lack of emotion reveals the inhumanity of the situation.
  • “biscuit packets are designed so that no biscuit is ever harmed during transit.” More care given to the import/export of goods than people. Money. Value.
  • Found clips of adverts for luxury air travel – exposes the uneasy distinctions between ‘travel’ and ‘migration’.

From an interview with George Barber on his film about drones:

“So, partly, I’m adding to this debate using poetry as a way… or avant garde filmmaking in which to reinterpret and discuss it. I’m not claiming to bring any new knowledge in the sense that I’m an expert on war, or a politician, but what I can do is appropriate the subject and put an artist’s sensibility on it, which, you know, is just as valid as opening it up for discussion in a different way.” George Barber http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/15600/1/a-drone-goes-native

a-n interview:

Barber G. (2015) ‘A Q&A With…George Barber, Video Artist’ Interviewed by Chris Sharratt for a-n, 20th October. Available at: https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/a-qa-with-george-barber-video-artist (accessed: 20/10/15).

“The work responded to a moment in 2014 when I’d been to a lot of film festivals and I kept seeing the same work; these appalling interviews with refugees talking about their terrible experience and losing everything. Art can’t really take on events of such immensity – in that sense it’s very difficult to make a work about, say, 9/11, which is still cascading on and its influence is still there. So I knew I couldn’t offer any solution but I wanted to bring it home. The idea was that I would get my friends or people I knew to actually rehearse some of the scenarios that these people faced, like buying a boat or having all your money taken off you or dealing with bureaucracy. There’s a lot of absurdity in these situations and the rehearsals point out the absurdity, but they’re also tragic as well. The trouble is that when people are in dire straits they’ll believe anything.”

“An artistic response is just as valid as a journalistic response, but let’s get it straight – art probably doesn’t affect anything. If you took Guernica, for example, we remember it because of that Picasso painting; if we hadn’t had the painting we probably wouldn’t know it so well. And there are various events historically that live on because of an art piece. But I don’t think any piece of art has ever changed a politician’s view point. So I don’t think that artists have that much power to change the world or affect politics, but obviously they’re part of a stream and as viewpoints change they’re part of that. And secondly, as an artist one just has to follow one’s heart if you get an idea.”

– interesting ideas on the role of the artist/art in political situations


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