Article: Christopher George
Working in mixed media and conceptual art, David Brognon and Stephanie Rollin are commenting on a world of conflict; Where territories in the land can be found mapped out as if scars and lacerations on human flesh.
Making extended video projects; they are as far away from Jeff Koons as imaginable. In film format, they are also harder to digest unlike a picture you would hang on a wall as decorative art.
Video works ‘The Agreement’ and ‘Cosmographia’ (Goree Island).
Brognon and Rollin have excavated the reality in unbalanced military actions and man’s brutal incarceration of fellow human.
The Agreement, a piece filmed at a football field in Jerusalem, where the goals are not face to face as one would normally imagine. The central point of the pitch is on the axis of one goal. The balance of the game is not respected, showing the irony of Israel’s position against Palestine, where the question of territories and habitation are unbalanced.
This video shows the youths counting distance with their feet, a negotiation to find a central point between the two goals allowing them to then make a new, more equal game.
“Remaining neutral can be part of the challenge, but it is not our position to take sides. Asking poetically political questions is what we are conscious of doing. It is always difficult when you start to plan a project and you have external questions in a very sensitive environment about what you are working on, and what is the outcome of the work.
So it is important to do a project on your own, with your own names, and not the name of the museum or institution. Otherwise you can receive outside aggravation from people presuming you will create an item that’s negative or critical of them”.
Having the ability to project their work from a neutral position leaves a void where you can then be distant as the viewer.
Referencing another work ‘Sabra Subbar’, which is the word for cactus in Israel and Palestine, and also a shared symbol of both countries.
In this film, the thorns are taken out of one cactus as a performance by the artists and placed back into another cactus.
This split screen film draws on the repetitive battle between both sides of the conflict. The geological mapping of the Palestinian land, by the cactus that originally formed the fences and borders between villages never dies. When the Israelis destroyed these villages, they didn’t realise the cactus would grow back after many years, preserving a record on the land of the previous borders.
In a culture becoming so restrictive and contradictory, it has become difficult to make sense of the oppression and the reasons behind rules imposed on the region. David Brognon and Stephanie Rollin are merely observing and reflecting what is documented in the land by repressive and religious dictatorships.
On asking how it is working together;
“It’s a living dream!! We know each other very well and want to do the best work we can. That’s the aim, not a question about more of Stephanie’s or David’s work, we don’t care about that. We want to focus on what will stay after our deaths. The universality and quality of the art works is what is important.”
With David coming from graffiti background and Stephanie from an academic one, this allows them to think from their own culture. Arriving at the same junction in their art from different paths proves to be a complementary union. Both artists share the rule that they have to be sure about the work they are producing. If one is not sure, that work will stop and be changed.
The fundamental basic message and the importance in Brognon and Rollin’s works is the social undercurrent. When tracing ‘Goree Island’ ‘House of Slaves’ or ‘Cosmographia’, it wasn’t simply mapping any island; it was tracing a prison island. An Island where slaves were held before being transported to the Americas.
With the overflow of art from artist with no substance, it is clear the important message is in their work. The protocol of social engagement is evident. Creating a debate, conversation, anger, questions and knowledge in the art industry, which has become so vacuous in its content.
“The label ‘An Artist’ can be very empty. We want to talk about art and open a debate. We do our works for a reason that’s not to be flattered.
These videos aren’t entertainment; they are correct and true. In our works we are talking about negotiations that have been going on between Israel and Palestine for years! Someone once had the criticism that the video was too long at 10 minutes. How ironic is that.”
David Brognon & Stephanie Rollin
Reporting on culture travel, creative events and social issues.
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