Aslan Gaisumov
People of No Consequence, 2016
HD video, color, sound, 08 min 34 sec
Courtesy of the artist and Zink Gallery
The work was produced with financial and creative support from the M HKA Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp
The events shown in this video have not been staged but took place in reality. On 16 April 2016, in a rural club on the outskirts of Grozny, Aslan Gaisumov assembled the survivors of the national catastrophe: the Chechen and Ingush deportations in February 1944. Organizing this event the artist managed to find some 300 people, but only 119 were actually able or willing to come. They were taken to the meeting place by car from all over Chechnya. We can see how they enter the room one by one.

There are two moments in the video which strike you right away, and which essentially determine the film's poetics and contents. In the first place, it is the people's silence. "Why should I speak here," said one of those present. "Let speak those, who had done it." That was how Gaisumov discovered the phenomenon that Giorgio Agamben called "impossibility of witnessing" in his book Remnants of Auschwitz. "The survivors' presence bore witness to something that was impossible to bear witness to," because no language could describe the indescribable. The very process of witnessing to traumas is traumatic in itself, which makes silence the most eloquent witness. Hence is the second notable characteristic of Gaisumov's work: utter economy of the means of expression employed by the artist. Set on the central diagonal of the room the camera dispassionately registers what is going on. The witnesses keep silent, and so does the artist, who believes that artistic devices would be out of place in this case.

His own vision, which is completely free of subjectivism, conveys his personal evidence. Having removed himself from the picture he creates a lm in which there are no mediators between the viewers and the events presented. The audience also becomes a witness. However, witnessing in this case means a serious responsibility, because you bear witness without evidence. The deportation of 1944 has never been properly investigated and was intentionally silenced. Therefore, the artist decided that the reaction to that silence should be the silence of the surviving victims. Primo Levi who had survived the Holocaust said: "I wanted to see it all, to live through it all, to experience it, and preserve it all within myself. But what was the point if I could never shout to the world that I've been saved? Just because I had no intention of withdrawing, of doing away with the witness which I could have become."

There is one more important feature in Gaisumov's work: the reality presented through naked objectiveness appears as super-reality. This is how we experience recollections of traumatic events: as utterly hallucinatory and documentary. Thus an experience of silent witnessing, which has not yet been relegated to the past, takes the form of memories.
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