Leon Kahane

19-1-2014, 2014
One-channel Full HD video, silent, loop, 30’
Courtesy of the artist

 

Camera, from the series FRONTEX, Warsaw, 2009

Self adhesive print on pressboard, 200 x 160 cm

Courtesy of the artist

 

Flipchart, from the series FRONTEX, Warsaw, 2009

Self adhesive print on pressboard, 200 x 160 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Flags left, from the series FRONTEX, Warsaw, 2009

Self adhesive print on pressboard, 200 x 250 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Office left, from the series FRONTEX, Warsaw, 2009

Self adhesive print on pressboard, 200 x 250 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Jacket, from the series FRONTEX, Warsaw, 2009
Self adhesive print on pressboard, 200 x 250 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The 30-minute one-shot video 19-1-2014 (2014) by the Berlin-based artist Leon Kahane documents a demonstration by several thousand female domestic workers in trade metropolis Hong Kong. They wear headbands, hold up banners and wave enthusiastically at the camera. Many of the women hold mobile phones in their hands, photographing themselves and the artist, who in turn is filming them with a camcorder.

 
An estimated 300,000 domestic workers, mostly women from Indonesia and the Philippines, live in profit- and efficiency-driven Hong Kong. The female workers, who have left behind their own families in their home country, describe themselves as the backbone of Hong Kong’s society and say that without their support the neo-liberal capitalist economy would collapse. In the video, which shows the demonstration in its full length, they demand a status that would give them the chance to participate in society. At the same time the video work underlines the current relevance of the digital image as a means of free expression in the midst of democratization processes. This tendency is opposed by iconic images that develop historic potency through the degree of fame they achieve. 19-1-2014 shows that not just one but countless images of this demonstration will be circulated and in doing so poses the question whether their fluid presence can also develop political clout.

 
Additionally, Kahane exhibits five large-format photographs from the series FRONTEX (2009). They depict offices devoid of any human presence in the headquarters of Frontex in Warsaw showing a security camera, sketches on a flip chart, a row of flags of the EU member states and a conference room. The photographs, mounted on huge wooden boards, lean against pillars in the exhibition space and allow visitors to experience the represented offices in physical terms, too. Frontex itself is involved in providing security on European frontiers, acting in the role of an external administration agency. Everything comes together in the ‘Situation Room’ at the headquarters: a state-of-the-art communication centre. Here Frontex conducts risk analyses in real time, decides which resources will be provided for the various operations, recruits border protection officials from EU member states and draws up evaluation reports.

 
The rational visual aesthetics of the FRONTEX series compete with the medially propagated images of flows of refugees, used as a political tool to highlight a dysfunctional immigration system. In their distanced approach they become a projection surface for the individual stories concealed behind the terms migration, flight and emigration; at the same time they give an insight into the cool atmosphere of the place in which decisions affecting the fates of refugees are made. These pictures form an empty space that arises between the epicentre of rational decision-making and the place of the occurrence.

 

 

Leon Kahane (1985, Berlin, Germany) lives and works in Berlin. Since 2010 Kahane has studied at the University of Arts in Berlin. Group exhibitions include “Glaube Liebe Hoffnung”, Palais of c/o Berlin, 2010; Exit Strategies, Kunstverein Artitude, Berlin, “Melanchotopia” , Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2011; The History of Now”, F-Stop Festival for Photographie, Leipzig and Glaube Liebe Hoffnung, c/o Berlin, “Desertmed”, NGBK, Berlin, 2012; “The World Is Stable Now”, Gallery Alexander Levy, Berlin, “Seen By”, Museum für Photographie, Berlin, 2013.

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