Struggle In Jerash
As the first Jordanian audio-visual works begin to fall into the public domain, a constellation of interests are translating, drafting and revising copyrights laws, trade agreements and licences to control the flow of culture and build new markets.
Against the backdrop of these emerging intellectual property markets, in 2008 artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White embarked on a period of research in Amman, Jordan – speaking to lawyers, copyright activists, software developers, artists, musicians, journalists, curators, filmmakers and critics – in an attempt to seek out the common cultural resources of Jordan’s public domain.
The result is Struggle in Jerash – a project convened around a lost 1957 Jordanian feature film of the same name, which fell out of copyright the year of the artists’ residency, and is used as a catalyst to explore value and meaning in archival material.
Artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White re-animate Struggle in Jerash by appropriating the tactic of the commercial DVD director’s commentary, subverting its standard authorial voice and placing the audience at the centre of a copyright-expired film.
In 2008, whilst on residency at Makan House in Amman, Jordan, the artists gained access to the last surviving copy of Struggle in Jerash, a VHS transfer of the original 35mm film. Part 1950s gangster flick and part tourist documentary, the 1957 film is set in historical Jordan and Jerusalem and was produced by a self-organised group of aspiring filmmakers.
The artists watched the film with Amman-based artists, curators, filmmakers and critics, inviting them to both translate and provide live commentary. Each session was recorded and edited to assemble a new multi-voiced soundtrack, creating a new film. A multiplicity of parallel commentaries emerge, anchored to the real-time of this remarkable footage of 1950s Jordan. As we are guided through the film, exclamations and reactions echo from one voice to another while laughter erupts and resonates across the composite group. Remarks on shifting borders, liberty, politics, everyday life, national identity, religion and cinema collide, forming an intricate discussion that reveals the discursive potential of the material.
Although notorious as the country’s first feature, the original film has not until now been in general circulation. In deciding to redistribute the film, the artists make a reciprocal gesture, ensuring that they return the original film – and offer their new work – to the public sphere.
Transcript edited from a series of conversations between film critic and historian Adnan Madanat and artists Eileen Simpson & Ben White in Amman Jordan, May 2008
Struggle in Jerash was shown as part of Moving Image Contours: Points for a Surrounding Movement, the inaugural exhibition of Tabakalera, San San Sebastián.
11th September 2015 - 3rd January 2016
Paseo del Duque de Mandas 32
20012 San Sebastián
curated by: Anna Manubens and Soledad Gutiérrez
Struggle in Jerash was part of:
I Want to See / Struggle in Jerash
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige / Eileen Simpson and Ben White
155 Vauxhall Street
London SE11 5RH
16th April 2010 - 30th May 2010
Moving Image Contours: Points for a Surrounding Movement Tabakalera, San San Sebastián 2015/2016
The River Has Two Banks Ramallah Palestine 2012
Top Kino Vienna 2012
Swiss Architecture Musuem Basel 2011
Makan Amman 2011
Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, New York 2011
Tempo Documentary Festival, Stockholm 2011
17th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney 2010
Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF), Alexandria 2010
Berlin Documentary Forum # 1, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin 2010
LOOP Barcelona, Barcelona 2010
Ambulante Documentary Film Festival, Mexico, 2010
Essays and Texts
Erika Balsom, Copyright and the Commons: Eileen Simpson and Ben White's Struggle in Jerash, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, 2015
Erika Balsom, Distribution dossier 5: “No Need to Fear or Hope”: Hito Steyerl and the Poor Image, Lux Blog, 2013
Anna Colin, Struggle In Jerash, 2009, Catalogue Magazine, 2010
The project was initiated during an Arts Council International Fellowship organised by Gasworks, London and Makan House, Amman.
Thanks to: Ola Khalidi, Diala Khasawnih, Adnan Madanat, Ziad Maraqa, Donatella Della Ratta, Alessio Antoniolli, Anna Colin, Mia Jankowicz, Catalina Lozano, Jamie Stevens, Nick Alexander, Espen Haslene, Neil Cummings, Oraib Toukan, Abdullah Khasawnih, Eduardo Thomas, Nina Höchtl, Elizabeth Baines, Marysia Lewandowska, Rifqi Assaf, Samah Hijawi, Saba Innab, Alma Khasawnih, Karma Hijawi, Anees Maani, Rafique Nasereddin, Ruba Saqr, Hanan Toukan, Ala Younis