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Citizens and Subjects at 52th Venice Biennale

Aernout Mik at the Dutch Pavillion

In Citizens and Subjects, Aernout Mik presents a new, complex ‘multichannel’ video installation consisting of three works (Training Ground, 2007; Convergencies, 2007; Mock Up, 2007) embedded in an architectural intervention in the Dutch Pavilion. A subject is a person who is under the rule or authority of a sovereign, state or a governing power and who owes allegiance and obedience. Citizens, by contrast, are generally those with rights, entitled to the full privileges of belonging to a state or nation.

By means of staging situations or using existing documentary footage, Mik focuses on training exercises, in which police learn and practice methods of enforcing the law against refugees, as well as real circumstances in which these acquired techniques are applied. It becomes clear that this is part of the larger context of how we prepare ourselves to respond to crises and threats to national security in general.

The artist shows a mixture of staged scenarios and documentary footage depicting the police, teams of first responders, refugees and victims in crisis situations. On multiple levels, the work questions the simplified distinction between subjects and citizens today, asking, aren’t we all actually subjected in the same way to this disquieting reality? Through re-enactment, mimicry and the building of irrational excess, Mik undermines the distinction and clear separation between subjection and possible liberation, metaphorically suggesting that perhaps it is from here that new opportunities might emerge.

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