This text was first published in the catalog of Ogut's solo show 'Softly But Firmly' at Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic, Zagreb, HR, 2007

Lit up by Short Circuit

Jasna Jaksic & Antonia Majaca

Soderbergh's film epopee Traffic ends up in a poor neighbourhood of Tijuana where a playground gets streetlights as a pledge for better future. This light is symbolic indication of safety, regulated society and prosperous community. The improvised playground from Ahmet Ogut's new video Short Circuit appears in the outline of a dark shot and belongs to the time before the light which precedes that regulation, like Tijuana before victory of the Good in Hollywood hit.

Absence of light is an atavistic sign of insecurity. All preconditions for uneasiness and anticipation of an accident are fulfilled with the sound of children s voices and the falling ball coming from the dark. The darkness, which spreads over the suggested run-down of the surroundings, brings in threat in the scene of children playing in the street that is lit up only by the faint streetlight and the headlights of cars passing by sporadically in both directions. Suddenly, the squeaking of the brakes and then the blow are heard: the play stops and the video ends with the black shot. Those parallel double actions (passing by of cars and children's play), which meet at the certain dramatic point, lead us to the short circuit from the title of the work.  

The dark mizanscene which we observe evokes the region on the edge of so called safety public area. It can be in any suburb or any rural area that has recently met the benefit of the asphalt. In the interview with Vasif Kortun, Ahmet Ogut talks about enthusiasm of modernisation in the 60's that used the asphalt as the medium to confirm the area of the state, institutional system and the public space. The paved area meant safe and secure ground defined by the state. In his video Short Circuit the asphalt road represents the improvised playground and the scene of tragedy at the same time. Here, the asphalt is a symbol of civilisation and progress, but that same asphalt is forced into this space and, unused to its implicit patterns, indirectly causes the unfortunate outcome. When the efficacy of the state is measured by square kilometres of asphalt then this asphalt functions as a government's prosthesis that needs to ensure the illusion of order in unregulated, neglected space. In that artificially made regularity, it seems that it is impossible to avoid the consequences... (1)

A car is a very frequent motif in Ogut's works. In different media it is materialised as fetish object, abstract symbol or as an object used for reconstruction of segment of national political and social history. But in the video Short Circuit it stops being a means of construction of absurd slapstic gag, it becomes 'proactive', receiving a double function - at first benevolent  lighter of the improvised playground, but then the threat.(2)

Moreover, we have no information about how this car looks like, contrary to the manifestations of the cars in other Ahmet's works. Here we do not know its form, colour or outline - it is invisible deadly force from darkness. Finally, the end will not raise a weak smile out because the turning-point does not consist of final absurd culmination. Due to its emphasised atmosphere, built on tension and optical uncertainty, suspense, in an almost film-like expression, Ogut's video can remind us of well known Anri Sala's video Time after Time.  

What is common to those two videos is 'documentary', fixed camera. In both cases our view is not identified with the subjective view of the author, but with the anonymous view of the camera that observes. But the analogy between the two works is only in general atmosphere, formal similarity and suggestive creating of moving images by means of headlights of the cars passing by: both scenes appear at first as darkened staging that is revealed to the view only from time to time. In Sala's video there is a melancholic, surrealistic scene of unprotected horse standing in the highway, lit up only by headlights. Every passing of a car is a dramatic miniature inside of the unity whose linearity is missing. However, in Ogut's work a spectator is a witness whose view, like through the crevice, falls on weakly lit street scene which ends with an incident - expected dramatic turning point. In anticipation of the ending specified by dramatic technique, Suspense is built by uncertainty of things seen. A sequence of uncertainties is wound around the assumed incident - we do not know where it is, how many people participate, and the assumed ending is perceived only as the element of sound. Emotional perception, not factual or intellectual, results directly from the fact that only the suggestion of an incident is given. Since it is impossible to perceive it  more precisely, we are left to our subjective construction. But, regarding the fact that the participants and the scene itself are drowned in the darkness of anonymity, the questions arises: What have we really witnessed? Is this accident unintentionally recorded, is it a manipulated documentary recording or is it a scene with real actors?
Due to insufficient perception there is a lack of context, and because of absence of the concrete place, the scene can be interpreted only as a part of some general third world (if we understand this term as a metaphor for forgotten, peripheral zone). Putting the spectator into perceptional and factual uncertainty, Ogut reproduces a part of universal weakness and fatalism of symbolism of the asphalt from anonymous periphery where everyone is a not - known, dumb witness - the author, participants and spectators.
Precisely this political breakthrough of the author, completely in accordance with the classic unity of form and content, but this time without safety zone of irony, emphasises and gives the new dimension to Ogut's interfusion of artistic and political.

(1) In ex Yugoslavia, the time after the World War II was marked by the famous electrification. The asphalt enthusiasm was characteristic in Croatia during and after the war in the 90's. It was an improvised strategy of recovering of the state area but also the favourite medium of transitional populism. A few recollections are enough - roads for army in craggy ground of Dinara mountain, or the road from Zagreb to Marija Bistrica built for the visit of the late Pope John Paul II which was closed soon after because of life danger.
(2) If we think of biblical imaginariness, it brings, as a Lucipher, both light and evil