That night, in a clearing in a walnut forest, lit by the city lights, the carnival changed, in order to tell a new story. (There is no translation) (2015)
Single screen video
10 mins 17 seconds
Walnut branches, cable ties,
travel guides and maps
Having previously worked in collaboration with a small group of Kurdish asylum seekers with Cell-a (2002), and, for example, Romanian migrant workers in The Pickers (2009), Chodzko wanted to return to those works’ themes of a small community of ‘outsiders’ becoming the sole mediators of particular aspects of cultural knowledge usually seen to be the preserve of ‘insiders’.
Here, working with a group of young asylum seekers from Kent Refugee Action Network Chodzko continued to explore the historically subversive and democratising potential of the carnivalesque in the form of a game. Siting their new displacement to a very specific imaginary place (a clearing in a walnut forest at night on the edge of the city) and using this imaginary space as a gap in which a fragmentary global story-telling could be performed in order to create a collective and surreal fable across different languages, Eritrean, Romanian, Iranian etc. Their words were improvised and are not translated in order to allow their tone to articulate their possible content and to maintain their cultural identity beyond one of assimilation into the ‘host’ country. Like a game of consequences their ‘story’ becomes accumulative and cyclical yet interrupted each time by the rest of the group ringing a bell to announce the time limit on the speaker. It was really important to encourage a kind of wit and play in their performances so that the participants would lead the content, not treated soley as victims on the one hand, nor, on the other, potential candidates for moulding into a kind of UKIP fantasy of Englishness. In order to protect their anonymity but allow their individual agency to speak and face the viewer the group made their own masks from pages cut from a series of tourist travel guides which were then piled on the floor beneath the screen. The video monitor screen was mounted on another kind of screen (a shelter, or partition), made by the group from walnut branches, a “clearing” in the forest, but also a form of filter to the high street outside which at sunset would cast a web of shadows into the exhibition space at Sidney Cooper Gallery (as part of Chodzko’s solo exhibition, Design for a Fold).