NoHomeVideos ©


Last year, at the beginning of September, we had just finalised the programme of the 5th edition of City of Women, when one of our crew slipped us a videocassette. It came from a Slovene author currently living and working in Norway. It featured a frontally shot blindfolded woman, and – in the same frame – a second woman shot in profile. The American woman in profile interrogates the non-American. "Spell …", "Give me a definition of…", "Put … in a sentence". While we witness this speech torture, our mind swings back and forth, from empathizing with the blind woman ("Stop it!"), to "helping" her (answering and spelling with her) and identifying with her (thinking about familiar situations we've found ourselves in), to co-torturing her ("Wrong!", as in some TV quiz where, cynically and feeling superior, we laugh at the wrong answers).

After a while we are made aware that the image of the one who controls the speech, and the one who is being controlled are actually two images that were electronically joined. Realising that there was a champs and a contre-champs at the time this situation was recorded, indicates a second level of manipulation. Suddenly we become aware that we have been manipulated (victimized) as well, but at the same time we know we were accomplices (we simply assumed and accepted that the inquisitor spoke straight into the ear of the questioned, giving the situation more dramatic impact). The title of this compelling 60 minute video is Questioning, Answering. Its author Duba Sambolec.

When we wrote to tell Duba that we did not want to include the tape hastily in the 5th City of Women festival, because we couldn't "properly place it", she expressed her disappointment. "I think the tape is ACTUAL, / war, refugees,… / and in this case I do not care about my promotion and "proper" placement. I find the tape very political, therefore it is of great importance that it be seen now, due to the articulation of the western cultural agenda which is resulting in concrete decision-making and biased opinions (…)" And right she was: Questioning, Answering is very relevant to our time. Yet, one year later it has lost none of its pertinence.

On the 31st of December 1999, in the late afternoon, we met with Duba for the first time in the City of Women office to discuss the presentation of her work at the upcoming festival. Duba said she planned to shoot a series of videos --perhaps four— that all somehow dealt with control, the cutting of vision, manipulation, and dislocation. Roughly speaking the principle was: define a number of rules, set up a situation with at least two persons, and let the camera witness it. The point being: to give the audience a sense of the issues at stake, rather than confronting them with the issue. She proposed to install these videos rather in public spaces, than in musems or galleries.
While talking, the major part of humanity had already entered the year 2000. The West and its global media were building up a circus-like tension for the climactic moment when their Big Ben would strike midnight. Where is the centre?

Six months later, Duba returned to Ljubljana with a bag containing fourteen tapes. Some of them lasting around an hour, some of them a mere couple of minutes. However different the situations, rules, or even aesthetics, these tapes all seemed to be strongly interconnected.
Like in the first Questioning, Answering watching her tapes was like sitting on a swing, rocking from one position to its opposite. One moment you feel like 'playing the game', amused and submissely saying "Yes Mam". The next instant you disobediently resist with a:"Cut it out!".
Seeing one tape after another you realise that most of the time it happens in the hors-champs, in the interzones.

The 14 tapes--appropriately labelled under the series-title NoHomeVideos ©-- are installed on different, walking distance locations in the Ljubljana center, a flower-shop, a post-office, the UNHCR gallery, … all places with distinct functions and meanings. Just as each of the videos interact and comment on each other, Duba's work enters into a dialogue with these spaces. None of them shouts for your attention. They are just there… waiting for you to fill in the gaps, and discover the interzones.

Production: Art Academy, Trondheim
City of Women published an exhibition catalogue.
The Ljubljana exhibition was organised by City of Women




There Is No Beauty, or The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even

If "beauty is truth", what happens when we get "a truth" which is ugliness, poverty, lie, murder, torture, treason, betrayal, corruption, nepotism and all the socially declared ills or "wrong doings" of groups and individuals in "civilized" Western culture?

Recently we have witnessed trends in Europe, which are spreading gray zones of judgment, and blurring the division between "good" and "bad". In neighboring countries, extreme right wing oriented people are growing louder and organizing an international meeting of neo-nazis & fascists in Trieste. South Austria looks from the train, with its neat hard edge painted houses/homes like a beautiful patisserie in the display windows of a bakery. We really do not have the problem in Europe of becoming Disneyfied, because even before this "giant creator" of American taste-aesthetics, we were celebrating the very same canons of visual pleasure. And so, traveling up north, looking through the window of a train, my thoughts were running from the images of the Lars von Trier film Europa to my childhood memories, when I enjoyed more the wrapper of the chewing gum brought to me from Trieste, than the gum itself, observing carefully the printed images of cartoons, which I had never seen before.

Also, I was contemplating our sense of beauty and taste, the hedonism and perversity of Europe's tiresome social repertoire, which obviously does not afford enough imagination to switch it to other tunes in contemporary life. Insistence on and persistence with the text of culture known by heart from numerous repetitions is reminiscent of psychiatric patients who reject the cure, paranoically enjoying their state of being because it is their home and they are afraid of moving to another. The concept of civility has its shadow, which is the corpse. Believe me, when traveling through Europe, you feel this everywhere. Once you turn your head to face it, it is gone. The shadow remains the shadow. Who is shadow-less?

To me, the earth is more and more round, and I have lost the vision of flat geographical images representing places. Plasticity of vision is my experience, which means that it takes time and place to check and see it from all angles.

These are the parameters of my video performances in 1999/2000, where I mainly expose myself as a woman who, by definition, does not fit into the text of her own culture. The question is, therefore: what am I doing here, anyway? States of things in life are in opposition to the anachronistic text of culture; therefore the need to correct and re-write it is an urgent necessity, meaning that, even if I choose to live the sentimental clichéd way of life promoted for women in our culture, I simply might be able to not afford this game.

These tapes are meant to communicate with people in public places as disturbing, and not decorative inserts, with the objective of recording the impossibility of escape into private domains of life due to our "script", which has the goal of directing our behavior in the way it is supposed to be. The locations were carefully chosen so that the performances mark 2 and expose the function of the sites, as well as interact among themselves, constituting in the memory of passers-by and visitors a story of our hi-story. When I met with understanding of my intentions from the City of Women people (Koen Van Daele and Sabina Potočki), I was pleasantly surprised and glad that somebody understood my art, even though I was having some doubts about the profile of the festival, which presents only women artists. Long ago I stopped participating in these kinds of shows, hoping that we had overcome such segregated forms of presentation. Nevertheless, I did take the "risk" of participating in the Festival and even being "labeled" a feminist artist. Well, I ask you, whoever you might be, making this kind of judgment: would you insist on a utopian vision of "happy equality" if everyday life provided you with different facts? Also, I may say that at this point in my life, I do truly support and defend any oppressed and neglected groups in society, which seems to include women. To return to the beginning: who is being stripped bare by whom? Perhaps the right title would be: Strip tease of our pathetic bodies in order to claim lost joys and the frivolity of impulsive living without discipline and the neurotic repetition of mistakes in joke telling.

Cindy Sherman made her travesty works out of horror and fear of going out on the street when she moved to New York. She even changed her appearance to look more male, to trick the "bachelor" even. "Bad images", photographs, were the response to overwhelming male dominance in the art world in the `eighties, so she acted out her outrage and anger towards the dangerous trend threatening her existence as an artist. To survive, she managed to balance her paranoia with art and by watching horror movies. We might also conclude that my video performances are made out of frustration and desperation, because I acknowledge that things are not getting any "better", meaning that we can not expect any protection from violence, therefore we should question the concept of civility itself.

"Even dead I am watching you", God, Father, and the Law are saying.

…nothing she - … what? … who? … no! … she!
(Samuel Beckett, Not I)

And so let us hope that Ljubljana, which by the way, is not really a very good city for women, will, with the help of the City of Women Festival of Contemporary Arts, become more friendly and amiable to the female part of humanity.

Duba Sambolec
Trondheim (september 2000)

Date and time of event: 
Oct 06th 18:30
Place of event: 
Different locations in the city centre