Kirschner & Panos
Drawing on references from archaeology, philosophy, mathematics and ritual, Ultimate Substance, 2012, departs from the hypothesis that the introduction of coinage in the ancient Greek world effected a profound cognitive shift towards abstraction and was key to the emergence of western philosophic, scientific and dramatic traditions. The work was made during a year in Greece and filmed in and around the Numismatic Museum, Athens and Lavreotiki, a nearby mining district, which provided the silver that constituted the material base on which the edifice of the classical Athenian city-state was founded. In contradistinction to the popular image of the acropolis, the vast mining galleries propose an inverse image of antiquity. Abandoned in Roman times, the mines were re-discovered in the 19th century making Lavrio the first factory town of the modern Greek state. In the 1970s the local mining industry was again dismantled. Today, the factory ruins house an educational museum on mining history.The film’s fragmented structure explores how these different temporal strands have become compounded in time, and the impact of this subterranean history on our present understanding of the division between sensual and abstract forms of knowledge and experience.
living truthfully under imaginary circumstances, 2011, is a multi-channel video installation which considers the acting techniques developed by Sanford Meisner, a highly influential figure of American cinema and drama. Based on a set of persuasive assumptions about the ‘true’ nature of human behaviour, the Meisner technique paradoxically combines an unnatural training routine of intense repetition and observational feedback with the prospect of authentic experience and emotion in performance. The installation combines footage of young actors working with Meisner’s exercises and material from the history of theatre and cinema. Kirschner & Panos aim to interrogate the assumptions of postmodern naturalism and its blurring of the distinction between dramatic artifice and seemingly ‘primal’, ‘human’ impulses.
Part documentary, part historical reconstruction and part melodrama, The Empty Plan, 2010, interrogates the relationship between theory and practice in the theatre of Bertolt Brecht. The film contrasts scenes from Brecht’s exile in Los Angeles (1941–1947) with productions of his 1931 play The Mother in the late Weimar Republic, New Deal America and post-war East Germany, exploring different modes of performance and their relation to changing historical and political circumstances. The title of the film is taken from Brecht’s Messingkauf Dialogues, an unfinished theoretical work written during his exile, which considers the possibilities of committed art and its practical, theoretical and formal limits at a time when revolutionary mass movements had been defeated and theatre was supplanted by Hollywood cinema as the dominant form of popular entertainment. Through the figures of Brecht, his collaborator Ruth Berlau and his wife, the actress Helene Weigel, the film reflects on conflicting personal, artistic and political ambitions, raising questions about the nature of art and the unrealised dream of its supersession through revolutionary practice.
The Last Days of Jack Sheppard, 2009, is based on the inferred prison encounters between the 18th century criminal Jack Sheppard and Daniel Defoe, ghostwriter of Sheppard’s ‘autobiography’. Set in the wake of the South Sea Bubble of 1720, Britain’s first financial crisis, the film is a critical costume drama constructed from a patchwork of historical, literary, and popular sources. It explores the connections between representation, speculation and the discourses of high and low culture that emerged in the early 18th century and remain relevant to the present day.
Set in the not-so-distant future Polly II: Plan for a Revolution in Docklands, 2006, is part satirical sci-fi, part soap opera and Brechtian ‘Lehrstueck’. The film portrays the lives of pirates and outcasts surviving in the flooded ruins of East London, a lawless zone set to become the latest in luxury waterside living according to government plans and venturing developers. The film imagines a future insurrection coloured by the legacy of dispossessed peasants, political radicals, whores, sailors, pirates, and former slaves who once inhabited East London and fought a daily battle against their subjection to poverty, displacement and judicial terror.
Trail of the Spider, 2008, is an unsettling trans-historical vision of the Wild West that collides with the suppressed history of the multi-racial American West and the conflicts breaking up contemporary East London. In a vanishing frontier, swarming with calculating surveyors, corrupt lawmen and hired thugs, a lone gunfighter must avenge the dispossessed, or remain trapped in a state of limbo, haunted by the past and pitted against a future which offers no retreat and no alternatives.
Looking the part – “The Empty Plan” by Anja Kirschner and David Panos
By Maija Timonen, May Review online
After Effects: The Art of Anja Kirschner and David Panos
By Martin Herbert, Artforum, May 2012
Anja Kirschner & David Panos: The Empty Plan
By John Douglas Millar, Art Monthly, February 2011
By William Fowler, Vertigo, number 4, winter 2007
Lights, Camera, Now-Time! – Polly II: Plan For a Revolution in Docklands
By Marina Vishmidt, Untitled, number 39, Autumn 2006
On the Ground / London
By Melanie Gilligan, Artforum, December 2006
Made in collaboration from 2006-2013, Anja Kirschner and David Panos’ long-form films and installations collide popular culture references, historical research and literary tropes. They often involve amateurs, actors and specialists from other disciplines in the creation of speculative histories and spectacular fantasies and interrogate social reality and the relation of art to class power.
Kirschner and Panos were the winners of the Jarman Award 2011 and their works have been widely exhibited and screened internationally, including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, ICA, Chisenhale Gallery, Vienna Secession, Palais de Tokyo, Artists Space, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Kunsthall Oslo, CCA, Glasgow as well as the British Art Show 7, the 2012 Liverpool Biennial and the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.