GALERIE TANJA WAGNER
In Šejla Kamerić’s film Glück (Happiness), 2010, a city of the past mingles with a city of the present. The city is Berlin. Its streets are empty, its shutters closed: One might think of East Berlin in the days of the Wall, or soon after. A young woman enters the scene, towing a shopping cart behind her. She has gone out to the pump for water and is wheeling it home in jerricans. It would be a peculiar sight in the city today: a well-dressed woman, out fetching water. And it gives no clue as to why the film should be called Glück. Galerie Tanja Wagner screened Kamerić’s film in the ballroom of the nineteenth-century Villa Elisabeth, an ingenious space. The very act of walking into the space was an engagement with the theme of the film: the interaction of memory and imagination, the way a memory can stand in the way of awareness but can also set things in motion and forge a connection to the present. Along with remnants of the past, for instance, the camera also captures recent graffiti. Glück moves back and forth between two main characters: the young woman and an older one who sits indoors at the typewriter, preparing to write. One can imagine that the two women are the same person at different ages (they wear the same red, fingerless wool gloves) and that the older woman is remembering earlier experiences. She hesitates before beginning to write; the descent into the past is difficult. But at some point she makes a connection and lost time comes to life. Music emphasizes the moment, as a piano is heard after a long silence. There is no single, clear historical time in which the events of the of the film take place, although all the footage was shot in 2009–10, and this is one of its strengths. Even the seasons are unstable. One moment autumn leaves are blowing across the ground; a breath later, the same street is filled with snow. The artist took inspiration for the film from passages in Nebeski Zaručnici (The Fiances of Heaven), a 1987 collection of short stories–imaginary autobiographies–by Mirko Kovač. She first read the book as a sixteen–year–old in the besieged city of Sarajevo, and she has said it helped her to understand her position in life. Glück is not the first work in which Kamerić makes overt reference to her origins, in a tone both ironic and wistful. But the new film deals with memory in a more abstract sense than did earlier works such as homeSick, 2001, and Bosnian Girl, 2003. It reveals Berlin to be a city that, by virtue of its own tumultuous history, can accommodate memories from Sarajevo and elsewhere. The essential thing is not geography, but a city’s mode of consciousness and spiritual climate. The film evokes a hushed atmosphere. Not a word is spoken, and everything seems to take place in a world of possibilities rather than certainties. Its power to raise the spirits, despite its melancholy undertone, stems from a slow surrender to time in the course of its approximately eighteen minutes. The burden of the past gradually seems to lighten, bringing the present into sharper focus. It is here that we seem to find the happiness referred to in the title. It is the happiness of an imagination that voyages freely through space and time, and the happiness of experiencing time as cinematic.
Translated from Dutch by David McKay.
(ARTFORUM, vol. 50, NO. 2, October 2011; p. 327)