Rosalind Nashashibi’s films are shot at eye level. The gaze is never above, never below. Each shot is an eyelid that opens and closes. What is filmed becomes a face. Living matter, active surfaces: Nashashibi’s use of 16 mm confirms the impression of blinking, a pulse. Bodies, objects, and gazes share the same respiratory economy in her works. To put it precisely: breathing is the pace (and place) of her filmmaking. Thus the London-based artist Nashashibi, born in Croydon in 1973, also confronts the question of confinement, of “enclosure.” Cities, neighborhoods, facades, houses: spaces and the people who live in them are cramped. It is not easy to enter them, to leave them.
In Nashashibi’s Electrical Gaza (2015), the shift into the use of animation offers a break—a way to take a better look. Suddenly, the slightest movement seems a gift, a fresh start. Confinement is still present, but the image can take a new breath: separation, for a brief moment, from the burden of images. Is animation like an eye wide shut? Another way of breathing: in the soundtrack of Electrical Gaza, we regularly hear somebody breathing: short but constant reprieves punctuating the film.
In 2013, I was in a show in Paris alongside a Swiss Jewish painter, Renée Levi. She responded to my film Carlo’s Vision (2011) with large, brown oval smudges, painted rapidly with a mop. This surprising response brought to mind the possibilities of working with the two mediums; after all, the timed decisions I make on a film are close to the kind of present-time I find in front of paintings.
It can’t be mere coincidence that my new film for documenta 14 features another Jewish, female painter of large-scale abstractions, another redhead, also formerly of Basel, and graduated from the same class just a few years earlier. Vivian Suter and her mother Elisabeth Wild are two artists in self-imposed exile in Panajachel, Guatemala. They are as close as maiden sisters; each is at times mother and daughter to the other, and sometimes they are my mother and my daughter too.
Our new collaborative work Why Are You Angry? (Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer, 2017) revisits Gauguin’s images of women in Tahiti. Taking its title and its poses directly from Gauguin’s paintings, the project looks at the problems and also the potentials of imagining women through his particular gaze. The film moves between choreographed and informal footage of Tahitian women in front of their homes, at work, and in our rented apartment.