The Chto Delat short entitled, “Museum Songspiel: The Netherlands 20XX,” reminded me of a few things we did this semester, specifically the “Transborder Immigrant Tool,” as well as the Coco Fusco & Guillermo Gómez –Peña piece, “The Couple in the Cage.”
To provide some background, the premise of the short film is that there is a group of illegal immigrants that take refuge in an art museum. Of course, this isn’t just any museum, rather the museum seems to be known for its rather…well, provocative exhibits. So, when the immigrants appear in the space, the director of the museum is faced with a problem, a problem that is complicated by the moral compass of the artist in residence, the director and like.
There seems to be a recurring theme in this class of art as a refuge, well, the short embodies this in two ways: first, the museum is physically a place of refuge for the immigrant family, and second, and second their performance acts as refuge, at least for some time. What struck me as different about the film was the equivocation—in all of the other works we’ve seen this semester, the artists are vehement about their ideals, their goals, etc. In “Museum Songspiel,” we as an audience at least seem some hesitation. Comments such as “what are you crazy?” The woman reminding the director that she has kids at home suggests a worry about future employment. All of these things are suppressed in the works that we’ve discussed, but it is not as if they weren’t there. What artist, what extremist, what revolutionary doesn’t have second thoughts about what it is they’re doing and its effect on those around them?
What’s more is that was even more interesting in terms of equivocation was the viewers featured in the film. Having just seen or heard about the immigrant performance, the couple at the end is intrigued, and outraged by the fact that the immigrants were arrested. They resolve to do something about it—to protest, or to make a stand against it. Upon realizing that who arrested them, they begin to shrink back from the idea. They begin to have doubts, and feel it is not their duty to go against the grain. It’s funny, earlier in the film the following line is sung:
“It’s not allowed but it happens…”
Is it? Does it—I mean, can it happen if there is doubt—if there is too much doubt, too much equivocation, too many second thoughts? Can it still happen then? Not always?
“Any regime needs art.” But how strong does the artist need to be, to push back against the regime—in pushing against the regime for this sort of revolutionary, avant-garde art to come (back) into existence?