Review / Compelling video portraits of creative people

Arts / Angelica Mesiti. At the National Gallery of Australia until March 2018. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

“Rapture (silent anthem)” 2009

IN the Contemporary Galleries on the lower ground floor of the NGA, Australian-born artist Angelica Mesiti is exhibiting five intensely stimulating video portraits of creative human beings.

Artist Angelica Mesiti.

In “The Calling”, the language of whistling is the message. The high-pitched tone of whistling is something birds use to communicate, and humans, too. While over 70 human whistling languages have been identified, only a few have survived today.

Travelling to regions in Turkey, Greece and appropriately, the Canary Islands, Mesiti studied the way people in these communities use whistling and how they adapted to advancing technology. This whistling, known as “bird language” has been used for more than 600 years in an isolated Turkish village.

This three-channel installation set out over large screens shows people going about their daily lives and using this unique method of language to communicate. They have developed this form of whistling to mean actual words. It is so effective that it can clearly tell others what needs to be communicated so they can carry on their business and lives, and from some distance.

“Rapture (silent anthem)”, is a group of women seen dancing, but using their dark hair as the focus for the dance; it is sensual and mesmerising. The ecstasy that the dancers look like they are experiencing will rub off on the viewer.

“The Colour of Saying” and “Nakh Removed” are videos where dancing is the central theme. These are studies of movement and they show how humans have many ways of communicating and creating art. Shot from multiple angles, they tell a poetic story of human emotion and you can view these from both sides of the screen.

“Citizens Band” is composed of portraits of four migrant musicians, who perform in different public places. The water drumming, which takes place in a public swimming pool in Paris, becomes a hypnotic experience through its syncopation and repetition, especially when the camera zooms in on the hands of the drummer slapping the water.

In another, a blind man sings as he plays a broken portable digital keyboard on a train, which he carries in his arms like a child. Most of the passengers do not notice this man, but I am sure his music would be something that sticks in their minds for some time, it did with me.

The quality of these videos and the fascinating insight they offer into human cultures and art-making is something everyone should see.


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