Them: Artur Zmijewski
The Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 22 Mar
VIDEO AND INSTALLATION
Polish filmmaker Artur Zmijewski has established an international reputation and this film, ‘Them’, was originally shown at Documenta 12. The film is a documentary ‘social experiment’ by Zmijewski which brings together members from conflicting social groups in Poland including left wing socialists, the nationalist Polish youth and devout Catholics, all of whom he refers to as, ‘real people, absolutely real – but members of an invisible majority’.
Zmijewski refers to ‘Them’ as a ‘movie about political desires’, where each group is initially asked to make a proud banner promoting allegiance to their cause. But then the teams are gathered together in an enormous abandoned warehouse space and asked to ‘amend’ the opposing groups’ banners. As expected, a gradual breakdown occurs, and the film seems to finish just before physical fights ensue.
‘Them’ draws attention to the important role visual language and symbols play in creating causal allegiances, where each group uses symbols, logos and collective sayings as a means of asserting opinion or expression, the banners at times almost resembling expressionist paintings. But the destructive power of these symbols also effectively highlights the reactionary responses from the opposing groups, and the film is a fierce reminder of the force of visual language in political debate.