A prototype of this project was shown at Galerie Deschler, Berlin in February 22nd of 2013. A view of the installation: vimeo.com/61767235
„The Kindness of Strangers“ is a new video installation by Stefan Roloff. In it, he portrays the Sudanese Twin Sister (Napuli Paul Langa) and the Iranian Friend of Khayyam. Both participated in the occupation of Berlin’s touristic center in front of the Brandenburg gate, to provoke awareness about the inhuman treatment of political and religious refugees in their German “camps”.
Their double portrait shows the circumstances that forced them to leave their countries. It is a timeless view into the abyss, in which seemingly secure existences can suddenly be threatened.
The Berliner Stefan Roloff, who emigrated to New York in 1982, narrowly escaped the prisons of Spain’s dictator Franco as a young man. In a previous filmic portrait he dealt with his father’s detention by the Gestapo.
In „The Kindness of Strangers“ the viewers enter a tent, patched together from old, slightly off-white rags. In its windows, the two portraits appear in front of an animated background, an unstoppably turning wheel drawn with a lead pencil on arches paper.
The refugees were interviewed as silhouettes to protect them from persecution. Meanwhile, the installation’s artistic concept doesn’t aim to connect its content to a specific person. The silhouettes offer a view into the past of others and, simultaneously, into a future where such fate could hit anybody. It aims to provoke society’s Sleeping Beauty- slumber.
The videos run simultaneously. The persons portrayed in them speak in their respective languages – Persian and Arabic. The subtitles are superimposed on to their silhouettes in white letters. The resulting acoustically perceivable Babylonian confusion remains abstract to most, like music. It questions how far we’re capable of processing the information that’s provided to us and how far we can gain access to worlds that aren’t our own. The installation offers the possibility to assimilate spoken words in a musically intuitive fashion, or analytically by reading them.
The second part of the installation consists of a large- format photograph, staged by Stefan Roloff and the two protagonists on the square in front of the Brandenburg gate. The plaza is lit festively for tourists in the approaching evening twilight. The refugees stand with their faces covered in black cloth as though they were waiting for their executioners, while ghostly pedestrians pass them, uninvolved.
Source photograph by Stefan Roloff and Christian Jungeblodt