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Ankerrui 5-7, Antwerp
Exhibition with works by Peggy Ahwesh
The exhibition establishes how horror tropes seep in to our real and sometimes everyday lives without us always being aware of it. Peggy Ahwesh invites us not to look away, but to zoom in radically. Even when things are too much, too painful and too violent to understand. In 73 Suspect Words, this move is done by isolating keywords from the Unabomber Manifest from their original context. In this book, titled Industrial Society and its Future Theodore Kaczynski argues that his bombings were extreme, but necessary to draw attention to the erosion of human freedom caused by modern technologies. By recontextualising the meaning of the words and the violence they represent and presenting them to the viewer in a direct way, the video delves into the anger and fear of the American neo-Luddite socially critical extremist in an almost ironic way.
Ahwesh’s most recent works anchor themselves in the radical digital communication revolution of the twenty-first century. The films The Blackest Sea, Smart Phone and The Falling Sky use animated reenactments of the most sensational moments from current events in recent years created by a Taiwanese news channel. Ahwesh recycles the images of, amongst others, exploding telephones, wiretapping by large-scale intercom companies, climate changes and the migration crisis into poetic and captivating video works. The sound of these works bleeds silently into the screams of the two young actresses from The Scary Movie (1993). The girls, cloaked in vampire capes and werewolf costumes, stage familiar scenes from horror movies. The innocent improvisation game is funny, but at the same time seems to be a foreshadow of all the stereotypical gender normative boxes they will be pushed into, it seems to be an announcement of all the unwanted touching they will have to endure and a sign of all the restrictions that be will imposed on them.
The films that have been brought together simultaneously inform, outrage and entertain, leaving the viewer with a ceaseless uncanny feeling.
Verily! The Blackest Sea, The Falling Sky (2017, 9’)
Refashioning the intent of footage lifted from an online animated news outlet, this cautionary tale is about the inexplicable sea and the tumultuous sky– a poetic tour through the dense landscape of human foibles and crises increasingly out of alignment with the forces of nature.
The Scary Movie (1993, 8’)
Ahwesh's two young actresses, Martina and Sonja, cross-dress in vampire capes and werewolf claws, re-enacting familiar horror tropes. A roughly corresponding soundtrack of stock screams and "scary" music suggests that the girls' toying with gender roles and power dynamics may have dire consequences.
73 Suspect words (2000, 4’)
73 Suspect Words is a deceptively simple and ultimately chilling meditation on the power of text. Ahwesh succinctly delves into one person's obsessive irrationality, and his expressions of fear and anger. Based on a spell-check of the Unabomber's manifesto, the work evokes the violence underlying the key words presented.
Smart Phone (2014, 1’)
We have become a phone culture with this-both portable and personal device- that holds a computer, gossip with friends, life line in an emergency, the stock market, travel directions, games, etc....
The installation talks about the flaws and vulnerabilities of the phone - how it can get hacked, caught on fire, used for surveillance, spreading misinformation, etc.
Hopefully we are not completely dependent on this little individualized box for survival.