“Truth Games, The Role and Performances” – 3rd prize, 2009

PN_Biba

Katja Boom Philip (* 1978) & Honey Biba Beckerlee (* 1978)
Denmark
Truth Games, The Role and Performances
Video (HD)
8:25 min.
2008
Collection of the artists

The jury awards 3rd prize to the Danish artists Katja Boom Philip & Honey Biba Beckerlee with the following motivation:

The 2-channel video installation Sandhedslege, Rollen og Forestillinger (Truth Games, the Role and Performances) by Katja Boom Philip and Honey Biba Beckerlee is a portrait of the furrier and fur dealer Karsten Philip, and deals, as the title suggests, with illusions and multiple layers of truth. It also examines the viewer’s own relationship with existence, which is concretised in the confrontation with the work of art.
The video installation is projected on two screens in the same room, so that the sequences are opposite each other. The viewer is, ideally, placed midway between the two projections, and must turn this way and that to follow the two sequences, which in some ways play in concert, and in other ways play against one another, both in terms of image and sound. In this way, the viewer becomes part of the work of art, its expression and the span of time it depicts. The split screen method is familiar from, for instance, the work of the Iranian video artist Sherin Neshat, but whereas she uses the double medium in a confrontation of gender politics, Katja Boom Philip and Honey Biba Beckerlee use the confrontation for a game of life and the dreams through which people meet life.
One projection shows Karsten Philip as a young student appearing in a school revue at the Niels Brock Commercial College, many years ago. The other presents the viewer with the retired Karsten Philip of the present day. In five brief episodes, Karsten Philip enters the same room, meets his younger self and mimes his performance on the stage. Visually and aurally, the result is a ritualised game between memory and present experience, between dream and reality, in which Karsten Philip physically and rhetorically falls into step with his old, staged self, before finally putting aside the mask in an attempt to be who he is. Visually, the design of the theatrical rite has the video switch from colour to black and white, then back to colour again.
This is a kind of seduction, not least of the viewer. At first sight, the audience might be deceived into thinking that this is an elderly actor seeing his younger self and recalling the roles he played. This receives apparent rhetorical confirmation from the words the older Karsten Philip connects with his younger, staged self, and, for instance, from his remarking without regret that he can no longer remember his roles, only the face in front of them. The mask.
But in fact, the pathos-suffused musings about a stage career which Karsten Philip performs in the video sequences – as if he had indeed lived a life as an actor and not as a fur dealer – are quotations, drawn from three volumes of the memoirs of the Swedish actor Erland Josephson: Rollen (The Role, 1989), Sanningslekar (Truth Games, 1990) and Föreställningar (Performances, 1991), in which he reflects on his life and his experiences as an actor. The viewer in Sandhedslege, Rollen og Forestillinger, then, is encountering a man who is still staging himself and living dreams of a different life, no matter what other insights he may have gained on the way.
The video installation thus not only confronts two phases of life and creates a friction between illusion and truth, but also poses relevant existential questions about the choices people make during their lives, and the consequences those choices may bring. Elegantly, yet creating a sense of unease, it draws in the viewer as a witness and party to a process in which Karsten Philip’s choices, dreams and self-presentation come to belong not only to him, but also to the public. The space between the two projections thus becomes a place of revelation, in which enchantment, seduction and deceit fuse with image and sound. By virtue of the artistic process, a portrait of another can become a portrait of oneself.

Henrik Wivel