Single Channel Video by H.Mur.
Watch the video as part of the Blindside program here.
Textual response by Nithya Nagarajan here and in plane text below
‘The civil must be separated from the political and defined in its own right as the interest
that citizens display in themselves, in others, in their shared forms of coexistence, as well
as in the world that they create and nurture.’
‘What time is it?’ These words repeated in the voice of the Cameroonian philosopher,
Achille Mbembe, ‘what time is it?’ disarms the viewer into a false sense of security at the
very outset of this experimental video work. These four words have seeped into popular
parlance in Australia where the major cities have been navigating ongoing lockdowns and
shifting local, state and international border closures. Collapsing the systems of our
convenient fictions, the work invited me to consider the implications of our immediate
environs: the incarceration of Indigenous peoples, the vilification of bla(c)k youth, the
policy of offshore detention and the human rights breach on Melbourne’s public housing
towers in so called Australia in the context of planetary entanglements.
Encountering Matrix of Rule is an exercise of watching space become occupied with
complexity. H Mur’s three channel installation reveals the violent tethering between power
and exclusionary spaces – ‘in the north, in the south, in the south of the north, in the north
of the south, in the east’s east…everywhere’.
In something of a departure from Mur’s previous works, the artist builds the film’s affect
solely through editing and citation. The architecture of constriction on the outer channels is
a harrowing transmission. The centre channel is complicated by slippages of the flesh and
subjectivity of subaltern bodies. The artist’s use of jump cuts, rapid montages, graphic
matches, subtitles and blackouts embrace the plausibility of range in bodies deemed other
– in intimacy, in play, in wander, in celebration, in liberation, in protest – acts that burst out
of the seams of constriction of their limits.
Walk down a street (alone) in a body that is yours —
— but isn’t yours alone
From the very beginning, the viewer is denied access to the interiority of the material world
of these spaces. The centre frame is deterritorialized and reinvigorated by alternate spatial
and temporal configurations. In the theatre, this is akin to world building.
L ~ i ~ n ~ k arms and push forward with an intentional non-compliance
s | y | n | c step
I’m reminded of black feminist scholar Tina Campt’s call for a methodology of ‘listening to
images’. She posits, ‘how do we conjugate our relationship of being to the future?’. Mur
contends with what it means to attend intensively to the bla(c)k present, and indeed, black
presence. The desperate search for these images in the archives initially turned up
nothing, forcing them to resort to the use of resolutely compromised images, freely
available in open access, compressed and flexible formats. ‘Poor images’, as Germanfilmmaker Hito Steyerl famously references them, images whose sole purpose serve as
backdrops or footnotes to the racist forces ascendent all around us.
In rendering bodies visible and invisible all at once, the marginalised in Matrix of Rule clap
back to carceral machinations of the state. Our point of view is consistently punctured by
Move your head from side to side.
Disappropriating the aesthetics of Debord’s practice, Mur intercepts it with their signature
capacity to bear witness to how subaltern bodies document and represent their own
experiences in relation to the wider ramifications of colonial violence. In arresting
montages, Mur exposes the vulnerability of black bodies walking in broad daylight, the
monotony of extreme isolation and the ability for collective care, not because of, but
despite the state.
Field recordings of birds, direction of winds and children playing haunt the score sonically,
and the drums have been stripped back to singular pulses making for a disconcerting
listening experience, deliberately decontextualized by composer Marco Cher Gibard.
What struck me most is the final interview of the young girl. When asked how long she has
lived here, she responds, ‘All of my life’. These words register moments before we watch
the towers destroyed by explosion.
Adopting the storytelling strategy of false endings, Mur returns to the present day
perimeters of Australia’s detention facilities on Christmas Island. This commitment to
relationality in the work is a bleak reminder of the indefiniteness of offshore detention, and
the casualties of Australian refugee policies. The cyclical echoes of containment
reverberate as we behold the immediacy of Christmas Island’s ring fenced registration
area through the matrices of rule internationally.
On a call to Mur, I remark on their radical agenda to suture the archive with living memory.
I say, ‘I read this work as encryption (citing Legacy Russell’s Glitch Feminism) where you
are inscribing the plaintext of these found images and archival footage with the ciphertext
of their lives and associations’. Mur responds, dryly,
‘This work is propaganda’.