Visiting galleries in East London (if it’s not a first Thursday on Hackney’s Vyner Street) feels always a bit like looking for Saddam Hussein’s secret hideout. Heavily fortified and often not even recognizable by their doorbell, it takes some good information. In this case thanks go to Sonja Lau, who recommended the show that ended today at Maureen Paley as ‘quite something’.
Still from Shut Up Child, This Ain’t Bingo, Lars Laumann / Maureen Paley
When Norwegian artist Kjersti Andvig initiated a collaboration with someone called Carlton A. Turner who at the time was on death row in Texas, she aimed to expose a system which she perceived as a unjust mix-up of right wing politics, strange religious beliefs and cruelty. When she finally got to meet Carlton after their artistic work had ended, they fell in love and over a period of three months she stayed in Texas until he was finally executed.
Berlin-based Lars Laumann has followed this process closely and turned it into a strangely striking video piece called Shut Up Child, This Ain’t Bingo. Laumann, who at the last Berlin Biennale was showing a film about a woman who is in love with the Berlin wall, used his own photographic and video material and found footage to tell the story of a very unlikely situation (Turner was already meant to be dead when they met for the first time) and lets Andvig explain in many interviews how she was drawn into the world that was surrounding her Turner at that time. His supporters were deeply immersed in the belief that he would be resurrected and visit them after the execution.
Kjersti Andvig talks about her experience, Lars Laumann / Maureen Paley
Part of the fascination of the documentary comes from the cognitive dissonance of watching Andvig immersing herself in a world of bungalows, barbecues and beer cans while very lucidly talking about the reasons for her adoption of the quasi-religious views that allowed them to cope with the looming killing of a lover she’s never been in the same room with. There’s almost bizarre sequences where she shows photos that were taken around the execution with a strange normality in them, and there’s lots of talk about God and the mystic reassurance in the supernatural that Europeans often find unsettling about religious America.
Shut Up Child, This Ain’t Bingo speaks lots about obsession, projection, maybe even the way that we more and more interact between our personas on social media. But most of all, it’s a very personal, 58-minute long insight into the idiosyncrasies of an unstoppable system that every person in the space obviously felt compelled to watch in full, which is quite something as such.
Also see the interview with Carlton A. Turner.