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Ring the bells

Ring the bells

Collaboration with Sam Jones (N. Ireland)

The project ‘ring the bells that still can ring’ is situated in Worpswede in the North of Germany.  We were invited as part of an international project to commemorate the death of the painter Paula Moderson Becker. The organization of this event reflected a self-invested interest in the cultural development of Worpswede.  The reinforcement of cultural narrative uses the contemporary to enforce the mythology of the past. The film questions the mythology of the artist within this context, a village in which cultural tourism dominates the local economy and identity.

The video challenges the relationship between metanarrative and the subjective human experience by combining setup fictional situations and characters with non-fictional interviews.  The historical narrative of PMB forms the structure of the fictional scenes in the film enacted by local participants. Holes were created in the fictional scenes with the intention and hope that the participants would take a constructive role in directing the film. The imaginary roles that the participants invented revealed social structures and the fantasies/illusions of individuals.

On our first arrival in the town, we were instantly taken by the narrative history of “the Worpswede artists” that have been passed down through the generations. We explored what these stories symbolized for contemporary residents. Through the use of recollected narrative and participation from local residents we enacted the story, in present day Worpswede, of Paula Moderson-Becker and Clara Westhoff ringing the church bells. The participants in the re-enactment, which was a process of self-scripted characters and improve took a constructive role in the film’s direction. The project culminated in an event and shoot on the church grounds with the climax of the film, the re-enactment of the towns people gathering in a crowd around the church tower to see there was no fire after all. 

Hold my hand

Hold my hand

In Hold My Hand I placed an ad in local newspapers inviting people to hold my hand in public while sitting on a park bench. I proposed to hold hands with each person for ten minutes and the participants were encouraged to negotiate all the details with me (when, where, how etc) based on our mutual needs. This undocumented ‘performance of self’ highlighted the awkwardness of social contact and physical communication while challenging notions of authentic interaction. There was no obvious spectacle for the public who would assume we were a couple or relatives. In the end, many of the participants held my hand for over a half hour (some for up to 2 hours) and the sites ranged from parks to churches to malls. The piece was documented by various oral histories instead of images.

 MacCormack does not exercise a privileged authority over the performance; it is in all respects a mutual effort.  The role of the artist is thus also called into question.  There is the relationship between the two performers.  Two strangers engaged in an intimate act; an act which works to subvert the status of its agents and itself.  It is a signifier of intimacy without also being an expression of the same sentiment.  As such, it calls into question the status of meaning as an expression of an emotion.  At the same time, however, there is an intimacy involved; one that unfolds between two people who should not be this intimate with each other.  This is a transgression of a code of conduct and it should be received as an intrusion.  But it is not.  A brief relationship begins with the act – one that is at odds with the meaning of being a stranger.” Alan Reed (participant), There Is this