Strays are images of kittens that are photographed in such a way that denies the viewer the opportunity to see their faces. The heads are turned so far to the background so as to totally disengage the subject from the viewer. In many cases, the head is turned far enough so as to appear as though there is no face to the kitten as if it had slipped off, to be replaced by the blankness of fur.
”The project was born out of Güreş´s occasional visits to her father`s hometown, a Kurdish and Alevi (an ethno-religious minority in Turkey) village in East Anatolia. The village is severely lacking in infrastructure: there is no school or hospital, water shortage and power cuts are part of daily life, and there is still no telephone network in the village. Eight other Alevi villages in the region suffer from similar problems.
At first Güreş was unsure about how to approach the situation, she witnessed the living conditions of her relatives, and shared the everyday reality with them. Güreş could not decide how to cope with her desire to make this picture public, all the while sensing the social gap between her position and the villagers’ and questioning how to help them on a practical level. Rather than a socially engaged art project or social responsibility campaign, she has taken a critical approach and decided to focus her work on the creative and practical solutions that the villagers devised on their own over time.
One of the most drastic changes in their lives has been the advent of communication technologies. A telephone network was introduced during the 1970`s but villagers had to go to the village headman’s office to make a phone call. Though a phone network was promised and the villagers paid the required fees, the village still remains without a telephone network. In 2005, villagers began to benefit from new communication technologies, and most use mobile phones. Though connectivity has been limited in the valley, they are finally able to connect with the rest of the world.
Güreş’ work focuses on the gap between the current picture, controlled by the state, and the direction of global changes. The mobile phone industry as a global force introduced mobility in access to communication. The three screen video installation “Open Phone Booth” (2010-2011) is about this tragicomic reality. It shows the villagers climbing up the hills in order to make phone calls, and their attempts to catch phone reception. The villagers, at different ages and in different groups, are filmed during different seasons of the year. Sometimes in snowstorms or sunny blue skies, sometimes alone or with company. One who wants to contact the rest of the world from this village has to struggle for access to communicate. The seasons, the light, and the landscape change in the film; some conversations take longer, and sometimes the connection is desperately lost, but up in the hills the villagers are always free to call.”
The nine images which make up the series, Arsenal, were shot on location in the old Arsenal movie theatre in Berlin, in the last weeks before it closed. When we began working on location, we recalled the female ticket taker waiting outside the movie theatre, in Edward Hopper’s painting, New York Movie.
In Arsenal, the movie theatre is portrayed as a vacated space, one in which the female character operates all of the mechanisms of the house herself and whose solitary presence from room to room slips between proprietor, janitor, projectionist, movie actress, concession worker and audience.
"The movie, its history, media characteristics and experimental possibilities form the core of Teresa Hubbard’s and Alexander Birchler’s artistic work. It is mainly the illusionistic moment, the ambivalent relationship of reality and fiction, which inspired several of their works. With Filmstills, they turn to the actual place at which reality and fiction merge – the reality of the place and its visitors and the fiction of the movie. The digital processing of the photographs as well as their sizes make the viewers perceive the cinemas as film-stills or clips from a movie… The artists’ subject is not the movie-theater as an architecture, but rather the auratic impact of the movie which transforms a place.”