Askhim

Mumbai, 2014

3 channel video installation, 33min

“Askhim,” an audiovisual work by Swiss artist Elianna Renner, is based on a six-hour taxi trip through Mumbai. A 3-channel projection conveys the view from inside the car: images in slow motion of the tour of the city. A headset allows viewers to tune into a voiceover telling what went on in the car and at several spots in Mumbai. The trip was meant to be nothing more than a simple search for accommodation yet it turned into a veritable odyssey. After being disillusioned by her first glimpses of the foreign land, Renner set off on a “round-trip of hostels and guesthouses” with her companion, Thuscha (Askhim) and a taxi-driver the latter had recommended. Yet things went wrong from the start. The passengers and the driver launched into increasingly futile discussions rank with misunderstandings and prejudice. Tempers and voices rose until finally the air could be cut with a knife. The taxi came to be a synonym of the situation as a whole, its close confines emblematic of the growing claustrophobia of two passengers at the mercy of a situation from which there was no escape.

The soundtrack switches back and forth between this modern-day incident and historical events, between tragedy and comedy. The candid depiction of a culture clash that arises among other things because of the three protagonists’ vastly different mindsets makes the dilemma appear increasingly ludicrous. The trio’s interest in one another is revealed to lie not in fulfillment of a service contract, nor in curiosity about otherness, but in superficiality and voyeurism.

Askhim lives from cultural difference as well as from the impossibility of ever overcoming it. Elianna Renner draws concentric circles around situations of encounter and precisely this approach allows her to aim for the bull’s-eye at their center, that point at which the recipient falls into the revolving spirals in which lived experience becomes stories and stories become lived experience.

Stefanie Böttcher, curator, Berlin Text first published in the catalogue of Kunstfrühling 8 (Art Spring 8) in Bremen in 2014