The Song by Bani Abidi screens at Babylon in Berlin as part of Videoart at Midnight.
Videoart at Midnight is an artists’ cinema project initially founded in 2008 by Olaf Stüber and the collector Ivo Wessel. Monthly since, and always on a Friday at midnight, predominantly Berlin based artists are invited to show their work on the big screen of the legendary BABYLON Film Theater in the Berlin Mitte district.
Every night is dedicated to one artist who is present. It is their night. The artists often take the chance to celebrate premieres or to present works rarely shown before. They also stage live acts from time to time, including performances, concerts or lectures, which accompany the film and video presentations. The goal of the screening series is to lend insight into contemporary video art production in Berlin’s unique international art scene and to provide artists working with film and video with their own bright platform.
Alongside The Song, Abidi will screen her works Mangoes (1999), Anthems (2000), Shan Pipe Band Learns the Star Spangled Banner (2004), Reserved (2006), The Distance From Here (2010) and An Unforeseen Situation (2015).
In The Song, an elderly man of middle Eastern appearance arrives at what seems to be his officially designated new abode. He sets down his solitary suitcase, opens a welcome pack of German food (which he will later replace with items he likes rather more) and unlocks the door to his balcony. Air and street noise come rushing in – as do recollections of equivalent moments in the world he has left behind. We watch as he plays with the lid of a whistling kettle, as if tuning this unfamiliar contraption, and look on as he experimentally opens and closes windows, adjusting the acoustics of airflow, as if pressing or releasing the valves of a building-sized musical instrument. Days pass, with repeated trips to the world outside, and repeated climbs back up the stairs to the apartment, with sundry purchases (an electric toothbrush, plastic bottles, a whisk) that he fashions into makeshift kinetic objects, whose low-key, repetitive sounds echo those from other rooms he has known (the whirr of an overhead fan, perhaps, or the hum of a generator). Symbols of comfort and consolation, this growing family of objects surround him like the resonant appendages of a one-man-band and cheerfully offer the back-up rhythm and accompaniment that allow him to give voice to his own unique, highly personal song.
The Song (2022) by Bani Abidi was commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, Contemporary Art Society, John Hansard Gallery and Salzburger Kunstverein. Supported by Arts Council England. Presented by Contemporary Art Society to Gallery Oldham.