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Home quarantine home video diary

Text by Marija Nujic ​ We met at the Prater park in vienna, and walked to the popular spot of Jesuitenwiese. It was the first lockdown week in Austria, starting March 16, 2020, and there was hardly anyone on the streets. Olivier and I sat down in the warm spring sunshine, there were only a few kids playing because the playground was closed. At some point, the police drove by and broke up smaller groups by using their megaphones. It was anextremely bizarre situation. After a quick small talk about feeling well, we discussed the post-apocalyptic atmos-phere. We talked about the current situation: indeed, the pandemic began to affect private and social life. We philosophized about existential and banal things, or how ba-nal things suddenly became existential: Small gestures and touches denied by the safe distance referred to by the Austrian government as a „baby elephant“. The con-versation evolved from this non-ordinary subject to the performative potential of art inextraordinary times.  Olivier told me that he wanted to produce a new series with a focus on video. How-ever, the content should be limited to his own four walls, which represent the lock-down situation. Only items from the limited space of the household would be used. At the same time, Olivier would make use of media such as news clippings, which would characterize the „new everyday life.“ During those days one press conference fol-lowed another, meaning there would be plenty of material. We agreed, it was a crazy, surreal world. In mid-March, no one could have guessed how the pandemic would develop. Neither could we. Capturing this time of psychological turmoil, fear and, above all, lack of in-formation was a worthwhile task for art: an artist is an observer and art is his/her means of expression. Thus, by adopting the artist‘s perspective as an observer, one obtains a comparative component to one‘s own reality. The distance to one‘s own real-ity or „truth“ creates a space of difference that holds the possibility of change. A tool to create the contextual break (with one‘s own reality) is often humor, which, like an unexpected guest or stranger, relaxes a situation. Irony, on the other hand, can be seen as a minor breach of the norm: In a light, carefree way, a serious message is con-veyed „non-seriously.“ Reality becomes absurd comedy, or the videos reveal an ab-surd reality in an uncomfortably funny way. The art virtually forces the viewers to leave their comfort zone and expand their own horizons. What potential would his videos have? He asked me to write a text that briefly and succinctly explains the videos. Shortly after our meeting, Olivier sent me the first video titled „strange days at home quarantine DAY6“, it was published on his Face-book page on March 21, 2020: To cope with the global crisis one’s personal space is reduced to a minimum called home quarantine. The video diary is based on the objects of that limitedspace which is a surrealistic answer to a surrealistic state. New words that suddenly appeared are being used and the data found on the computer will be put in a contemporary safe! I liked Olivier‘s idea of keeping a diary every day or as often as possible, i.e. producinga video almost every day. Maybe this was his way of dealing with a world gone crazy.  The first video mentioned above is an audiovisual mix of collage-like arrangement of many photographs depicting a movement: A spoon wanders in the noodle soup and draws its circles, while an extremely annoying sound reflects the emotionally agitated inside. At the same time, words and political calls are faded in: „Stay calm“, „1 meter distance“, „don‘t kiss“ or „don‘t hug“ now seem to dominate „strange days“.  His diary was followed up by such videos as „Wash your hands“ (Day 8) or „Don‘t touch your face“ (Day 10) . However, Olivier now picked up on media materials with Day 10. It shows clips of two politicians touching their faces in a loop-like rhythm. In the process, the voice of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and another woman can be heard prea-ching the same. Only during credits the full sentence can be heared: „We‘re always saying the common sense of washing your hands ‚and not touching your face.“ This audiovisual contrast - as an important stylistic device in Olivier‘s oeuvre - creates the necessary discrepancy that demonstrates the absurdity of our times: These politicians , who are in the public eye, do not comply with their own political message.  A further stylistic development based on the example of reduction can be seen in the video „Ethnicity does not cause the virus“ (Day 17). Here, Olivier uses a few auditory scraps or excerpts from a press conference with then-President Trump, who answers the question of whether the designation of the coronavirus as a „Chinese virus“ is racist with a geographical simplification: he says it is not, because it comes from China. Trump doesn‘t seem to understand that there is a connection between his words and the violent incidends against chinese Americans. Finally, Olivier dramati-cally establishes this connection through the visual sequence of what is being said. Ona black background, red (reporter) and white (Trump) writing overlap, with the color red symbolically indicating danger. The moral punchline being in the video‘s title(„Ethnicity does not cause the virus“). That this exact video was shown in New York at the 2021 Light Years Festival, about a year after the first lockdown began, was a par-ticular surprise. this was shortly after Trump had been replaced by Biden. „ Trump is gone and they‘re showing it,“ Olivier said. In all, five videos were shown - we wouldn‘t have guessed it when we first talked about the Quarantine Diaries.  It‘s very exciting to follow Olivier‘s oeuvre and beeing sometimes allowed to leave a little mark on it. In the summer, as part of a collaboration with Aa Collections, led by Georgij Melnikov, he sprayed a wall with the song lyrics „Fuck you.I won‘t do what you tell me“ from the song „Killing in the name of“ by Rage Against the Machine. At a time when everyone talked about the the protests, triggered by the murder of George Floyd. The song is an icon from his youth.Olivier has cut a video to go with the entire song but has not published it to this day. I hope that he will release it soon. During ourfurther collaboration, in September 2020 he was part of my exhibition „No Sports. Just Art“, which had taken place in the gym of the Creative Cluster in Vienna. We pre-sented a video wall with six works created in China in 2019. The exhibition lasted only three days and we spent more time planning and setting up than the actual exhibition duration.  The second Lockdown began six weeks later. At the same time the American presiden-tial election took place . Some videos were made during this as well. When asked how long he wanted to continue this, he had no answer at the time. In December 2020, Olivier had edited his Quarantene Diaries for a funding applica-tion. (I remember calling them „strung together“ at the time...). The result was a 45-minute documentary that ends with the video „Bill Gates is part of the forces of dark-ness.“ Changing collages of superimposed syringes are shownto uplifting and quite funny electronic music, which reminds me a bit of video games from the 90s in combi-nation with the Venga Boys,. Titles in classic Times New Roman font are super impo-sed in between,matching the same audio statement .The track was produced by Olivier. It is a hodgepodge of various sound databases, where people around the worldprovide their samples and beats for free, which Olivier has combined into a musical composition. The video addresses the vaccination issue - a topic that should dominate 2021.

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