ALEXANDER HAHN

electronic media artist

 

 

 

Secret Sanctions

(1986, 10:30', SD, stereo)

 

A sci-fi flick, forensic and prescient, with a story of persecution set on New York City's roofscape. The reason for the hunt, whether criminal, political or religious remains unclear. Both, the persecutors and the persecuted are caught in a lofty architectural maze seemingly without egress. Composed of tableaux vivants (C.D. Friedrich, M.C. Escher, or René Magritte as art-historic references), the piece was clandestinely shot on various rooftops, accessed without permit.

 

This video is a description of the dilapidated condition of the Bronx area in New York. The facades are crumbling, windows broken. The negligence, solitude, distressing filth of these images is relayed by a voice off-screen speaking about the end of urban civilization, the collapse of the Judeo-Christian world and the erosion of the Aristotelian concept of authority as a pyramid. New York rooftops seen from above give a vision of futile architecture (broken pipes, busted fans) and this landscape can be compared to De Chirico's metaphysical spaces. Later on in the film, the lower part of the screen is filled with scenes of dilapidated corridors and lift shafts. Gangs of people recognizable from their clothes (black or silver) haunt these Kafka-like places. There is no real confrontation, the people, face to face, stop just before a fight breaks out, by means of a montage effect which systematically plays on the ellipse. Occasional panoramas of snow-capped mountains interrupt the flow of the narrative, offering themselves up as paradisiac visions. Taken as a whole, it forms a somewhat disconcerting work, with the essential part being the tension between images and off-screen speech; Alexander Hahn is still using these two aspects of video, image and sound, not as an illustration of one by the other, but more as a struggle between them. The off-screen voices tell a sort of philosophical tale, the intrigue of which remains vague, but which occasions numerous aphorisms, sometimes repeated in words overlaid onto the images, adding an additional layer to the construction of the meaning. Playing on the paradoxes and metaphors drawn from the technical universe, Alexander Hahn's tales are fascinating due to their freedom of invention. He is one of the rare artists to have never abandoned the narrative, constructing stories and a completely original visual universe.

 

(Lysianne Léchaut-Hirt, in New Media Encyclopedia)