Zanny Begg & Oliver Ressler


Zanny Begg:
* 1972 in Melbourne, AUS, lives and works in Sydney, AUS
studied at the Griffith University, AUS, and the University of New South Wales, AUS

Oliver Ressler:
* 1970 in Knittelfeld, AUT, lives and works in Vienna, AUT
studied at the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst, Wien, AUT

In Nauruan, Anubumin means »night«—and darkness is what the fourth joint film by Zanny Begg and Oliver Ressler begins with. The small and inconspicuous island of Nauru with close to 10,000 inhabitants lies in the Pacific at a great distance to the mainland. But Nauru is a tragic place steeped in history that has been overwritten by numerous narratives. The film addresses these different narratives, starting with the early exploitation of the island and its calcite and phosphate deposits by the colonial powers in the 19th century. After the golden 1970s, when the »Birdshit island« was flush with money, the phosphate was completely mined and the island state soon became insolvent. Since then, Nauru has turned into a gloomy place: 80% of the area is uninhabitable; the attempt to tap new sources of income led to the wide-scale practice of money laundering. And Nauru is still controlled from the outside, since the island houses an Australian ›offshore‹ detention camp for refugees—for those who according to Australian law come to Australia illegally and thus forfeit the permission to migrate. In the film, four whistleblowers who worked there as doctors and nurses talk about the inhumane conditions in the detention camp which is run by a private Australian organization.
The aesthetic framework is formed by a recited poem by Matthew Hyland and Oliver Ressler that puts into words the gloominess surrounding the island and reveals the corrupt dealings of the Australian government. The poem is accompanied by secretly filmed images of the area—filming is forbidden in the detention camp—that stand in stark contrast to the poetic nature shots with which the documentary images are interspersed. In combination with the spoken word, these vague, collaged images are charged with a powerful meaning: That which is concealed due to the corrupt secrecy that is upheld, reveals itself in the mode of not showing and is intensified in its tragedy by the atmospheric landscape shots. How do images convey conflictual conditions to the viewer? What do we believe—the words, the images, which images? And what effect do these words and images unfold as components of an artwork?

Miriam Klauke

Artist Statement
solitary reef on volcanic remnants,
Lower Manhattan-size ring of calcite and phosphate.
under German, British-Dominion, Japanese
and (again) Australian overseers,
nano-sovereign state since 1968.
Laid fully to waste by the '80s:
nothing grows on a carved-up calcite bonehill
once the ground itself is shipped out,
crushed, fed and conveyed to Australia
to fertilize post-colonial farms.

star of South Pacific land-grab annals:
where else was the land exported wholesale?
A once-in-a-geological-lifetime deal:
Nauru named world's next-wealthiest state
per abstract head. Housing, schooling, hospitals
fleetingly free
Land-export proceeds ploughed back into
Australian land: investment plans
in Plaza-bubble Downtown real estate,
stakes in the soil's fertile final resting place.
Then birdshit runs out, property pyramids fall
but shit-backed securities remain.

Matthew Hyland & Oliver Ressler