Shsshpopp! Psst!
3-channel DV installation
for the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, 2010
Media Facade, duration: 27 min., 27 min., 17 min.
looped (disaster stills)

Phase I : Today’s life has come to a pinnacle of tensions balancing civil rights with the so-called free market neo-liberal economy. It seems that in the ongoing struggle to survive and live well an individual has to compete against or join the ever present corrupt elements in society. The Shsshpopp! Psst! video installation refers to this very tension between an individual and a social system.

The central image of the triptych video installation presents a slide show of contemporary tragic events and catastrophes in which human lives have been subordinated, at times the loss of human life has occurred, and at the same time one individual or a group has profited at the expense of others.

The upper left screen of the triptych shows short video clips of children, adults, and elderly, all Zagreb citizens, blowing soap bubbles into the camera, which float hither and yon, popping into the thin air of nothingness. Dreaming, blowing a bubble, making a the quizzical human capacity for fun reflects the need people of all ages have for stimulation and lightness, no matter how fleeting and temporal these moments might be.

The upper right screen shows short video clips of the same people performing the gesture Ssshhh!, or "Be quiet!". This gesture is most commonly associated with schools, libraries, theaters, churches and museums, and as such might display a form of respect for others. On the other hand, it also makes reference to mobbing, oppression, and it might, in fact, be a threat.

As the two gestures play out simultaneously with the still images of the catastrophic events, which document ultimate consequence, Shsshpopp! Psst! poses the question about human progress in these progressive times, about social responsibility in this fragile balance, constantly in the face of our mortality. Through this artwork I would like to help the audience imagine a public forum of participation and resistance to the current trend of minimal accountability.
Phase II : This was the first work to be produced in the new museum’s recording and editing facilities and was created specifically for the Media Facade. A participatory project in two phases, Phase I consisted of local citizens of all ages who were invited to participate in inaugurating the project. Phase II began at the opening on February 16, 2010 and continued during the next days, filming random museum visitors who spontaneously collaborated and thereby became project actors and immediate participants in the museum’s program, as part of their museum experience. Included in this second group were locals as well as others visiting Zagreb, again, people of all ages. Phase II was filmed in the museum spaces at several different locations.

The audio component of the installation consists of the “shsshing” of all the participants in multiplied layers, creating a concert of overlapping contrapuntal shsshes.

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David Smithson © 2010-2015