Conversation Piece

A 10-channel video installation of „blind date interviews“ between ten people living and/or working in Prague, Czech Republic. These interviews focused on questions about relationships, borders, foreignness and mobility.

How does foreignness effect our daily life? What influence do you think it can have on the development of one’s identity?

Do you think foreignness can be produced and/or performed? If so, in what ways?

What „invisible borders“ (if any) do you feel you are confronted with? Do you think there are any „invisible borders“ that you create for others?

What do you think it means to be a stranger? Have you ever felt like a stranger or witnessed someone else feeling that way?

Description

Conversation Piece is a collaborative project that was created during a three month residency at the Meetfactory, in Prague, Czech Republic from September to December 2015.

Ten people, living and/or working in Prague, were invited to participate in the interview project. Each interview was recorded (audio and visual) and then presented as part of a video installation. Each participant was asked to be involved in two separate interviews (with two different people), one where they were the interviewer and one where they were the interviewee. As the interviewee, they were in a “blind date” situation where they had no information about the one who would be conducting the interview. As the interviewer, they were given some information about the person they would be interviewing (background, occupation, age, etc). The interviewer was also prepared with some possible questions or topics with which to structure the interview (e.g. Do you think there are any „invisible borders“ that you create for others? What do you think it means to be a stranger? Have you ever felt like a stranger or witnessed someone else feeling that way?). These questions or topics were, in the end, just suggestions or a starting point. The interviewers were free (and encouraged) to move the interview in any direction that interested them.

The recording (video and audio) of the interviews were staged in a room where the interviewer and interviewee would be left alone together to meet, begin and end the interview how they wished. The only requirement that was given was that the interview run anywhere from 40 to 70 minutes (a clock was visible for the interviewer to check the time). Within this time frame the interviewer and interviewee were free to conclude the interview and leave the room together. The camera would always record each interview session for the full 70 minutes.

The video installation of the interviews consisted of ten life-size video projection screens, all facing the center of a circular configuration (e.g. standing in the center of the room, the viewer would be able to see all ten projections facing them as they would turn in a circle). Each screen showed a different interview, all running simultaneously. The positions of each interviewer and interviewee within each screen completed a full circle of interviewee to interviewer – all interviewees were positioned on the left side, and all interviewers were positioned on the right, so from one screen to the next, the one interviewer (on the right) would then be on the left as the interviewee (in the next screen), essentially facing back to back to themselves when viewing two screens next to each other.

The audio of each interview was installed in the room via directional speakers near each corresponding video projection. Upon entering the room in general, the sound (audio from each interview) would blend together creating a “murmuring of voices”. To clearly hear the audio from a specific interview the viewer would have to approach each video screen individually.

Participants (interviewers and interviewees)

Vjera Borozan

From Greek Montenegrin origin, Vjera was born in Prague, but grew up in Montenegro. She has been living in Prague since the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s and currently operates a cultural online television program in Prague.

Ibrahima Diop

Head of the Senegalese community in Prague, Ibrahima has been living in a small town 30km outside of Prague since the early 90s. He is currently working as a banker.

Ivo Janoušek

Ivo was born and grew up in Prague. He was educated as an engineer but currently works as a Czech-German translator and as a city guide. In 1969, he had to decide whether to stay in exile (in Britian) or return to Prague as an exchange student. Ivo is a practicing Christian.

Safiane Kerboua

Safiane’s father is Algerian, his mother is Czech. He works as an Arabian Czech translator. Safiane has been in Iraq with the Czech army. Following a personal crisis, he converted from Christianity to Islam.

Alena Kottová

Alena grew up in the Czech Republic. Her family had a difficult time under the Communist Regime in the Czech Republic. She currently works as a translator for English and is engaged in various altruistic initiatives.

Igor Kovačevič

Igor grew up in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He escaped the war, and emigrated at 17 (after finishing school) to Germany, and then to Prague. He currently works as an architect.

Pavlína Matiová

Was born in a small town north of Prague, in a Romany family. She was educated as a singer at the National Conservatory where she currently teaches. Pavlína is also involved in a theatre group.

Antonio Muana

Born in Prague, his mother is Czech (living now in Austria) and his father comes from Mozambique. Growing up, he traveled between Lisbon and Prague. He has no formal education. He currently earns money as a professional poker player.

Manh Coung Nguyen

Was born in Vietnam and came to study in Prague in the early 1980s. He was involved in the Velvet Revolution and currently runs an NGO, with his fellow former students, for undermining the Communist Regime in Vietnam. He also works as an import-export tradesman.

Fatima Rahimi

Fatima fled the war in Afghanistan with her family when she was nine. Upon fleeing, Fatima and her family intended to travel to Western Europe but were stopped in Czech Republic and restricted from traveling further (due to EU-migration-law-intricacies). After finishing her studies, she currently works as a journalist, specializing in women’s rights.

Constellations/positions of each interviewer to interviewee (the first person is the interviewer)

Ibrahima Diop – Vjera Borozan

Vjera Borozan – Safiane Kerboua

Safiane Kernboua – Ivo Janoušek

Ivo Janoušek – Igor Kovačevič

Igor Kovačevič – Antonio Muana

Antonio Muana – Fatima Rahimi

Fatima Rahimi – Manh Coung Nguyen

Manh Coung Nguyen – Alena Kottová

Alena Kottová – Pavlína Matiová

Pavlína Matiová – Ibrahima Diop

Artists

Conversation Piece was created by Nadja Frank, Jens Heitjohann, Jomar Statkun and Rafael Vogel who met during a three month residency at the Meetfactory in Prague, Czech Republic.

For more information visit:

Nadja Frank and Jomar Statkun: www.thisreddoor.com

Rafael Vogel: www.soundcloud.com/leafarlegov

Jens Heitjohann: www.jensheitjohann.de

Curators

Conversation Piece was curated by Zuzana Jakalová and Christine Rahn.

Production

Conversation Piece was co-produced by Nadja Frank, Jens Heitjohann, Jomar Statkun, Raphael Vogel, the Meetfactory (Prague) and the Goethe Institute (Prague).

Contact

conversationpieceproject@gmail.com