The film Against Death was created as part of the project The Fourth Wall (2008-2010), whose title refers to the concept of 'fourth wall': a virtual wall between the audience and the stage or, more broadly, between the spectator and the fictional dimension of theatre, cinema or video.
When shown in conjunction with the other elements in this project, Against Death comes at the end of the exhibition, acting as an epilogue, although it can also work as an independent installation. Perhaps as a result, it represents a significant moment of synthesis and sublimation in a long process of investigation of the anthropological paradigm of ‘cultural contamination’, associated with the contact between indigenous communities and western civilisation.
For the presentation of Against Death in the Multipurpose Room at MNAC – Museu do Chiado, Clemens von Wedemeyer has included another two elements, which provide additional context for the The Fourth Wall project commissioned by London’s Barbican Centre: the interview with Geoffrey Frand – How to Deal With The Uncontacted? (2009) and the First Contact newspaper. On encountering these interpretative clues, the spectator tends to invert the standard dichotomy “civilised/savage”, in response to the apparent breaking down of the antagonism between cultures of the past and contemporaneity.
The film presents a circular narrative, based on a dialogue between an anthropologist and an explorer, who attempts to demonstrate that he has become immortal after taking part in a strange indigenous ritual. However, if the theatricality of the suicide that is shown at the end appears to dispel the ambiguous relationship between documentary and fiction, doubt is quickly reintroduced when the narrative begins again at exactly the same point it ended, and the conversation restarts ...
Clemens von Wedemeyer thus confirms one of the most consistent features of his filmmaking: the appropriation of intrinsically cinematic resources – such as the loop – in order to create a discourse that explores the invisible barrier between the fiction of the cinema and the physical and cultural reality of the viewer.
Helena Barranha and Joachim Bernauer
Within this exhibition at MNAC-Museu do Chiado, the artist will give a conference on June 11, at 19.00, at Goethe Institute in Lisbon, where the film Against Death will be put in context in The Fourth Wall Project, and the approach to issues as Anthropology, Theater and Cinema explained. The films "Found Footage" (2008-2009), 30 minutes, "The Gentle Ones" (2009), 28 min, will be presented.