2017, HD video, color, sound, 17'40''
To remember, sometimes you need other archaeological tools says the voice over in Hiwa K’s Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue). The video depicts the artist walking across fields, wastelands, estates, going from Turkey to Athens and then to Rome, a path that mirrors his own journey as a child, when he fled Iraqi Kurdistan and reached Europe by foot. His “Pre-images” are fragments of a path whose final destination is uncertain.
It is strange to introduce a film by Hiwa K. The whole point seems to be an experience one is not primed for—one of disorientation (bodily, geographic, mnemonic)—and that sense of a very precarious balance between rather contradictory stimuli. However, maybe it makes sense to call the attention to what only cinema can offer, which is a non-linear experience of time. You may be thinking: but the long filmstrip is the ultimate base and metaphor for linear time. There is a beginning and there is ‘the end’, as so many films used to emphasize. But maybe they insisted too much on this, which should make us suspicious and make us see things from another angle; maybe from a few different angles at once, refracted from rearview mirrors, precariously but gracefully balanced on the head, that western locus of thinking. For this is an image, a tale in motion. Emotion and thought are not as clearly demarcated as the logic on offer splits the mind (always embodied), turns it into a crystal.
Somehow, when watching the artist, who walked from the Kurdish territories of unstable Iraq into Europe via Kavala (near the Turkish-Greek border) some unspecific but considerable time ago—and you will see part of this journey retraced in Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue)—I get the sense that his body and the extension of mirrors he has fashioned for it are meant to stretch and bend every word of his seemingly simple narration.
– Where are you based?
– On my feet.
– Then where are your feet based?
– Feet are never based.
And as with the feet, as with the body, so with the mind. If our mind is set, settled or otherwise static, I’m not sure we can really see or grasp this film. If, however, it is in motion—like the motion pictures—then there is much more to be gained from Hiwa K’s work.
While I don’t want to romanticize a migrant’s need to keep moving, it is crucial to consider how Hiwa K’s film repeats and revalues a journey of necessity, somehow turning it into a journey of determination. The cinema—kinetic [after the Greek word for movement] images—becomes the ally of a kinetic life. Time is out of joint and at times ‘the stomach is the only clock’. In the darkness, in the hold of a truck inside of a ship headed to an unknown port, blindness turns a person into ‘all ears’. So it is impossible to say where this film is going or to provide a good map for viewing it. Blindness is perhaps a paradoxical subject or condition for a film, but the blindness that Hiwa K holds in balance, which is likened to the Mother Tongue, is generative (as the paradox, the conundrum). The pre-image is not pre-linguistic. Its language is not learned logically. Call it a cinema of insight.
Written and narrated by Hiwa K
Camera: Constantine Nissidis, Constantinos Hadzinikolaou
Editor and Sound Design: Steffen Martin
Additional Editor: Ben Brix
Voice Over Editor and Additional Sound Design: Alois Späth
Thanks to: Tommaso Sagramola
Commissioned by documenta 14
Produced by Openvizor, Abbas Nokhesteh
Courtesy of the artist and KOW, Berlin