by Shaina Marie
I stepped into the Contemporary Art Gallery and peered through hundreds of ceiling-to-floor silk ribbons that partitioned the gallery space, separating the cinematic and sculptural components of the exhibition. On one half, you are confronted with a feature-length film installation, Only A Free Individual Can Create A Free Society (2014), in which artist Grace Schwindt reflects on her childhood in leftist Germany by interviewing a leftwing activist shaped by 1960s and ’70s politics. Alongside the film installation stands a sculptural piece created from salt crystals, bronze and ceramic, reminiscent of images within the film.
The 80-minute-long film installation looks at the radical leftwing politics in Germany through the 1960s and ’70s, a time in which radical groups such as the Frankfurt School, the Outer Parliamentary Opposition and the Baader Meinhof Group made large impacts. The film revolves around an interview the artist conducted with a former political activist, now taxi driver, whose political involvement made him a witness to political change. The dialogue of the interview is spoken by the performers, often slowly and monotonously, which overlays the theatrical scenes that draw on vibrant costumes, props and performers to question our notions of freedom within society.
The film contains strong symbolic power; every word, prop, costume, colour, action and movement is intentional, with purpose. Schwindt utilizes vivid colours in sets and costumes, and makes use of materials including aluminum, velvet, silk and pieces of plants and trees to reference political ideologies and make political implications. The running dialogue, through which the ideologies and systems that guided these extremist groups are deconstructed, compliments and supports what is happening visually, ultimately causing us to question whether or not we can truly be free.