JASON E. BOWMAN's installation at Tramway may be inspired by The Diary Of Anne Frank but there is more to it than meets the eye.
Words: Susanna Beaumont
‘You become the player, you move between darkness and light. The sheer physical blackness — as if it’s a train to a death camp — you become implicated. under the spotlight.’
Artist Jason E. Bowman is talking about his installation Untitled (The Diary Of Anne Frank). He talks intensely — he can’t remember exactly what age he first read the diary but it made an impact.
Anne Frank’s diary is one of the world’s most widely-read books and a new edition is currently one of Britain’s top ten bestsellers. In turn it is probably one of the 20th century’s most familiar narratives — it illuminates the war years of Nazi terror. and the adolescent anxieties of a young girl growing up while in hiding from the Nazis with her family in Amsterdam for more than two years.
For Bowman that‘s where the interest lies. Set in an imaginable domestic setting, albeit secret and cramped. this is the story of a young girl who argues with her mother and tries to fathom her sexual desires. Yet it reverberates with not just Anne’s death -— she died of typhus at ﬁfteen at Bergen-Belsen — but the fact that millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis. ‘We can deal with these [Frank‘s] circumstances: the scale is easier to deal with. people can engage with that. not the six million who were exterminated.’ says Bowman.
Bowman’s installation is in the Project Room at Glasgow’s Tramway. The walls are black and in the space sits a theatre lighting rig. It is programmed to throw out light. then become dim and darken to a soundtrack of silence. Viennese waltzes. a barking dog. a telephone ringing and other everyday sounds.
In effect the space resembles a theatre. Sound and light are all on hand yet the stage is vacant of props and performers — except when visitors wander in. Unwittingly they are integrated into the scene. flooded in light or left in darkness. Their role is not just spectator but also performer. In many ways Bowman is setting a stage. offering an atmosphere to lubricate thoughts. jolt memories and stir the conscious.
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Work in progress: the early stages of Untitled (The Diary Of Anne Frank)
'We can deal with Anne Frank's circumstances: the scale is easier to deal with, people can engage with that, not the six million who were exterminated.’ Jason E Bowman
‘People can project a narrative. a psycho- analytical knowledge.‘ says Bowman. ‘Everyone has some idea about the Holocaust. a stock of information either from the diaries or films like .S'op/ziv's Choice or Schindler '3‘ List. This piece is trying to find the way to implicate that.‘
Bowman realises the issues involved are hugely sensitive but believes they are not off-limits to an artist. The 30-year-old who has been based in Glasgow for nearly ten years. describes himself a political artist. Issues of xenophobia and neo-fascism. along with notions of Western civilisation. are implicit if not explicit in this work.
To an extent Bowman
A line Frank) a s a culmination of the millennium -— not so much to do with guilt or responsibility btit the way we view history. As Bowman points out. it was recently. in the 80s. that some revisionist historians doubted the diaries’ authenticity -- perhaps a metaphor for a collective wish to erase the past and ease the present. In his work Bowman wants to erase pretension. He has used theatrical mechanisms and left the stage free of performers who pretend. The only players are the viewers.
Jason E. Bowman's Untitled (The Diary Of Anne Frank) is at Tramway, Glasgow, Sat 20 Sep—Sat 25 Oct.
sees Until/ml (The Diary Of
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