Talking lizards, Australian misery and black cowboys

Image from the very successful ‘2 Lizards’ by Meriem Bennani and Orian Barki.Statue of Hans Wilschut

Of all the corona works of art that we have been poured over us over the last two years, 2 lizards (2020) to the minority that will still exist ten years from now. In eight short, animated films, we see two talking lizards during the first lockdown in New York. They walk the deserted avenues and dance to the music of a street jazz band with a sheep on the bass. They recall that celebrities actually live in quarantine all the time and watch on television how Black Lives Matter protesters in the form of an ostrich and a giraffe condemn institutional racism.

In fact, it is a rather factual diary report from the corona period. But because of the two lizards in the lead role and the mixture of banalities and serious topics, the creators – Meriem Bennani and Orian Barki – reach exactly the level of alienation and absurdism that suits a period that we can hardly imagine .

Three solos

Meriem Bennani was the winner of the Eye Art & Film Prize in 2019. Next 2 lizards Eye is now also showing his film about Moroccan youth at a French-speaking school, starring for a photographing donkey and singing office buildings. Bennani shares the exhibition space with the winners of 2020 and 2021. However, as the award recipients are extremely different, this exhibition can best be seen as three separate solos.

The work that visitors first encounter is from the Karrabing Film Collective. This artist collective consists mainly of indigenous people in Australia who started telling their stories through films about fifteen years ago. It is reminiscent of the development of ‘dot paintings’, which had been painted in sand and rock walls for thousands of years, but first became an art form in the Western sense of the word since 1971, when Aborigines discovered paint and canvas.


The members of the collective use simple video cameras and apply edits to those reminiscent of early 1970s video art. Images are slower or distorted. In terms of content, the films deal with the loss of ancestral land, the Australian government’s theft of children and the mining companies’ pollution of the living environment. Day in life (2020) is one of the more successful works in which a voice from the archive glorifies the colonial ideal of a white Australia, combined with images of dust, everyday life and a catchy hip-hop number.

Many other movies feel a little woody and clumsy. And then they are also shown on old screens, with car tires and wreckage as a base. It’s an extension of the misery on screen. The form adds a bit, rather weakens the films – an unspoken realization that they do not convince on their own.

Room for grief

Also for presentation of wild cat (2016) by Kahlil Joseph, something special has emerged. This ingenious film about black cowboys participating in a rodeo in Oklahoma is projected on three semi-transparent screens, which together form a triangle. In the middle is the same kind of sand as in the arena. The projections flow dreamily into each other and give a feeling of seeing through time, and it amplifies the sawn cello in the soundtrack. But unfortunately, there is little left of the night shots in this black and white film. If you want to know what he is missing, you can find fragments on YouTube.

How effective a traditional single screen projection can be is proof Alice (2016). Joseph often collaborates with musicians – his short film ‘mAAd’ by hip-hop superstar Kendrick Lamar brought him worldwide fame. For this work he visited Alice Smith. The singer had just lost her beloved grandmother while the filmmaker mourned his brother who was dying. However, it is not discussed. The jerky camera just tries to stay close to all the action in the music studio and endlessly repeats a melody so there is no need to think about anything else. But because sound and image are not synchronized, a small space is created between the viewer and the screen, through which sadness sings softly.

Meriem Bennani, Kahlil Joseph, Karrabing Film Collective – Eye Art & Film Prize: until September 18 at the Eye Film Museum

Eye Art & Film Prize 2022

This year’s Eye Art & Film Prize has been awarded to Saodat Ismailova. The artist from Uzbekistan works at the intersection of film and visual art. The prize is accompanied by a cash prize of £ 25,000, which is intended to be used to experience new work.

Saodat Ismailova (1981) was born in Tashkent in the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan. She studied at the State Institute of the Arts in Tashkent and then in Italy, Lille and the Sundance Institute in the United States. Her feature film debut 40 days of silence was nominated for Best Debut Film at the Berlin Film Festival in 2014 and won many international awards. A year earlier, she attracted international attention with the installation Zukhrawhich was displayed in the Central Asian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Also this year, Ismailova participates in the Venice Biennale, as part of the main exhibition ‘Milk of Dreams’. She has also been selected for ‘Documenta 15’ in Kassel, Germany. The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Center Pompidou in Paris have works by Ismailova in their collection.

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