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Border Crossings: Two Installations by Chantal Akerman

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Bruce Jenkins' essay examines the critical and theoretical grounds for artist and filmmaker Chantal Akerman's interventions both within the cinema and within the space of the gallery. The curatorial perspective posed by Documenta 11 and its focus on "diasporic consciousness" forms the basis for examining Akerman's work through the lens of her experience as the daughter of Holocaust survivors—displaced Polish Jews who ended up in Belgium. Part of what she has called the generation for which the repressed returns, Akerman began to focus on this past in her 1989 feature film Histoires d'Amérique, a loose adaptation of the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Central to the analysis is her 1995 installation Bordering on Fiction, a work noted for its distinctive mode of interdisciplinary practice bridging film and video, projection and monitor display, the darkened hall of the cinema and the white cube of the gallery. Akerman's concerns with finding "other strategies" for dealing with the Holocaust are examined, as is the lucid analysis of her work by the artist Christian Boltanski.

The essay lastly examines Akerman's recent film and installation From the Other Side (shown at Documenta 11), which represents a significant shift in perspective and tense. While Bordering on Fiction was a retrospective work searching for a lost past that could be captured only through absences and silence, From the Other Side, by contrast, focuses on the present and unfolds in a manner bordering on reportage.


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