From the very start of the film Blind Understanding by Swedish artist Saskia Holmkvist, our view is directed forward along the path of a river. As we succumb to the serene beauty of the surrounding nature we seemingly float along listening to a narrative about the surrounding wildlife. It isn’t long before we understand that the complexity of the story is not only about the evolution of animals, but a metaphor for the misunderstandings that exist between people and cultures. As we continue to float along, the narrator describes stories about the complexity of nationalism, hierarchies, integration and assimilation.

Blind Understanding was previously shown during Momentum 2009 and in the course of time, the relevancy of the stories has faded. Saskia Holmkvist has chosen to readapt some aspects of the film to reflect today, yet even in its newest version, Blind Understanding remains a significant commentary on ignorance.


Photo: Still from video | Photo above: Vegard KIeven © Punkt Ø

Saskia Holmkvist was born in 1971 in Sweden. In her work, questions of agency and professionalized language are explored through fractured narrative, employing performance, orality, film and improvisation. A hybrid form of realism, Holmkvist appropriates typical interview scenarios to serve as allegory and example. The works address consequences of power structures in communication such as translatability of subject positions as well as historical trajectories and post-colonial presence by interacting with methods of communication borrowed from fields such as interpretation, psychology, journalism, and improvisational theatre.

The work retools the aesthetic strategies of documentary with performative interaction to focus on verbal speculation by the subjects invited directly from their professional fields. In the process the negotiation of undertaking roles is explored, and many works use the interview as storytelling. The interview has been a central area of Holmkvist’s investigation that touches the politics of interview techniques, developing critical and ethical approaches to questions of institutional agency. By creating mostly performative encounters between protagonists invited directly from their professional fields to interact through improvisation and in relation to site specificity, each of the projects can be seen as a platform to perform, narrate, and share strategies, discourses or resistance.

Artist web page