Who: Jasmine Johnson
What: A Perfect Instrument (Kristina)
Where: Genesis Cinema, Whitechapel
When: Tue 25 October 2016, 7pm
Beginning with drone footage of a derelict, stone building, an automated voice tells us of its history; built in 1691, this stone monolith soon housed 19th Century wealth. The voice continues, talking about the local tech park. The drone glides effortlessly over and above, and eventually through, this building as if acting out the arch of history itself. Then everything shifts – the camera work, tone and atmosphere.
We meet Kristina, and through a series of still or slow moving camera shots we see her workshops with a group of adults, and later, a group of mothers with their babies. The participants hug, they say each other’s names and experience brief, nonthreatening moments of physical contact; everything which has steadily faded the more society has become increasingly industrialised. These oddly calming and utterly captivating moments are punctuated by short snippets of an interview, and the instances of miscommunication where the interviewer must explain what certain words mean in English – the video was shot in Lithuania – bring forth more clearly the connection between the initial history lesson, and the connection with this locality upon which our gaze has been intensely focused, to the wider contemporary process of globalisation.
At times, especially during the interviews where Kristina expounds upon the importance of education and the value of community which the workshops appear to be concerned with, one could question the implied politics at hand. Anyone familiar with any of the mega-tech corporations which roam the contemporary moment, disrupting and innovating at will with a promised utopia around the corner, could argue that these exact kinds of workshops are no stranger to workplace campuses worldwide. Yet, this initial critique feels in hindsight to be a fundamental misinterpretation of what is at hand.
The video is not fundamentally a critique of the techno-utopia face of globalisation, or the alienation of capitalism itself, although that is not to say it is not political. But really, it is somewhere between a documentation of a performance and a portrait. A Perfect Instrument (Kristina) is an articulation of a person, of a locality, and a wider historical moment – just as all good portraiture truly is.
-Chris is an artist and art critic, who lives and works in London.