Johanna Billing More Films About Songs, Cities and Circles

Johanna Billing
More Films About Songs, Cities and Circles
9 February–26 March 2006

Marabouparken Art Space is pleased to announce an exhibition with Swedish artist Johanna Billing, featuring four films shot in four different European cities. In the exhibition More Films About Songs, Cities and Circles, Marabouparken Art Space presents four films from Oslo (Where She is At, 2001), London (Look Out!, 2003), Amsterdam (Magic And Loss, 2005) and Zagreb (Magical World, 2005) and each city adding its own layer of meaning. Included in the exhibition is also the extensive documentation of the musical tour You Don’t Love Me Yet.

A feeling of melancholy and loss permeates Johanna Billing’s films and her representations of changing societies and the feelings that people suppress and loose touch with. The films portray people in staged, concentrated situations. Their emotional charge is derived from the tensions we keep within and from shifts of focus between the individuals portrayed and the societal backdrop against which their actions take place. The participants in Johanna Billing’s films all play themselves but also take part in a multilayered interpretation of a place and a situation that oscillates between documentary and fiction. Johanna Billing’s films alternate, in a unique way, between charged silence and a narrative borne by pop songs. There are many things that we are unable to speak about without ending up in commonplaces and clichés. The protagonists of Johanna Billing’s films remain silent – unless they sing.

Where She Is At was filmed at the Ingierstrand baths outside Oslo in 2001. In the film a woman’s quiet struggle with herself on the diving tower is brought together with the fate of a recreational facility threatened with closure. Will she dare to jump? Will the baths be closed? Will today’s Norway take the step and leave the old ideas of fresh air and recreation for all behind? The film is looped and we are forced to follow her painful hesitance over and over again.

Look Out, which was filmed in Shoreditch in East London in 2003, records the contrast between a run-down and poor neighbourhood and the housing development then taking place at old Gainsborough Film Studios. The camera follows a group of youths from the area on a tour of one of the luxury flats for prospective buyers. A strange atmosphere develops as they examine and test the sober furnishings and gaze out over their run-down and crime-riddled neighbourhood in this cross between a field trip and house-show.

In Magic and Loss, recorded in Amsterdam 2005, a group of people silently pack up what seems to be a pleasantly furnished single household. A slow methodical choreography develops in their filling cartons and hoisting down furniture into the street. In these strangers’ mechanical handling of someone’s personal belongings, a number of questions and associations about the absent occupier of the flat present themselves.

Magical World, recorded in Zagreb in 2005, shows a children’s orchestra rehearsing Rotary Connection’s Magical World from 1968. The camera moves between the music room and the worn surroundings of the culture centre outside Zagreb, in a Croatia whose hurry to adapt to the rest of “normal” European threatens its own culture. In forced and newly learned English, a young Croatian boy sings the enigmatic and defiant first lines; “Why do you want to wake me from such a beautiful dream?…Can’t you see that I am sleeping?… We live in a Magical World…”.

You Don’t Love Me Yet was both a film recorded in Stockholm in 2003 and a tour that was organised by Johanna Billing and Index (The Swedish Foundation for Contemporary Art) in Stockholm 2002–2005. Twenty artists were invited to perform a cover of Roky Erickson’s You Don’t Love Me Yet from 1984 during an evening at Index. Performing a cover means paying a tribute to another artists by creating your own interpretation of a song – a test of the artists ability to maintain his or her identity while performing somebody’s else song. The concert was repeated in 15 different cities with a resulting 150 versions of the song that will be available at Marabouparken annex for screening. The film You Don’t Love Me Yet depicts a group of artists performing the song together in a recording studio in Stockholm.

About Johanna Billing
Since graduating from the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, in Stockholm in 1999, Johanna Billing has been one of Sweden’s most prolific and renowned artists. Besides the Make it Happen record label, which she runs with her brother Anders Billing since 1998, Johanna Billing has been the initiator of a number of music-clubs and tours and participated in numerous exhibitions including: Le Mois de la Photo Montréal 2001, Motstånd Moderna Muséet 2001, the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2003, and the Moscow and Istanbul Biennials in 2005.