Are we really living in a democracy, or a cold war ideology re-imagined?
Georgiou & Tolley’s (Darryl Georgiou & Rebekah Tolley-Georgiou) multi-layered, multi-textured and multi-framed moving image work, Twin Stranger: Entangled State, is currently showing as part of The Twin, at the 2019 Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. The work has been situated in The Row, a disused NHS building, and as it turns out, an apt site; a building that had previously been a place where only the most vulnerable of society visited, their secrets laid bare in order to receive the care they needed; consent and control? In keeping with the theme of The Twin and also the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the work is also being exhibited in the former GDR, in what is a ‘false original’ of the former Hotel Berolina; now a doppelgänger government building, responsible for issuing fines and parking tickets. Surveillance and control in a different guise?
The Hotel Berolina, which features throughout the film, was built in the German Democratic Republic, long before the wall came down. A symbol of opulence and power; a place for sleeping, eating, meeting, playing but with an added punch of surveillance thrown in for free. Was the status of being seen there, worth the price of really being seen?
‘ Who is watching who?’ …
… in the foyer, in the rooms of this Stasi controlled building … opposites and parallels, connections and diversions, play out across the screen as the viewer is pulled into the lobby, suddenly alert to a woman with red hair, a tall man at the elevator, meeting their gaze. A disturbed voice (actor Jack Klaff), asks questions, makes observations and reacts … layered over soundscapes, interviews, conversations, protests. As a viewer the tension becomes palpable, the tempo and the urgency of the dialogue builds, a feeling that you have entered into something very dark and most probably dangerous.
As you start to engage with the work, the many layers begin to make themselves known. Each word, phrase, image and sound is wrapped around double meanings, subliminal messages, hidden text, semiotics, dualities within dualities, juxtaposed against one another. It is an allegorical work that doesn’t take you on a gentle meander but spins you headlong down a fast flowing rapid, heading straight to the open mouth of a monster, that has travelled through time, shape shifting, mercurial and ever present.
Twin Stranger: Entangled State explores the wider themes of Georgiou & Tolley’s previous works: Magician Walks Into The Laboratory, Resistance ’68, and Magician: Walking Back The Cat; regarding mass surveillance, data gathering, paranoia, consent, control, through the lens of both still and moving images, to re-present the past and situate it within the present. In parallel, an associated Twin Stranger Radio Film, to be broadcast on Saturday 16 November, 6-7pm (MixCloud), along with the siting of the work in Berlin, offers a celebration of resistance and revolution against both historical and contemporary Cold War ideologies that lead to the eventual demolition of the Wall. The experimental soundscape: a layering of the moving image, dialogue and location sound recordings, synthesising with the archive material and music of the 1980s.
In addition to Twin Stranger: Entangled State, a ‘sound walk’ entitled, From A to B: Anhalter Bahnof to Berolina, will take place in Berlin on 16 November 2019; passing the site of the former Berolina statue (the female personification of Berolina), that once stood in Alexanderplatz. This sister project and off-site event, will form part of a subsequent limited edition audio work, to accompany the site-specific works in Coventry and Berlin.
‘How the hell did we get here and why?’
Spend enough time with this work and the parallels with contemporary society become stark and frightening. There’s no need for a Hotel Berolina anymore, there’s no need for a Berlin style wall. Every discovery, every crack in the capitalist right wing armour, is sealed with false originals, wormholes and rabbit holes, and deceptive connections. An invisible panopticon structure that sees all, but remains unseen and untouchable, to all but a few … our digital footprints analysed each time we enter the Hotel Internet, regardless of which room we inhabit.
Review by Helen-Kilby Nelson