THE UPPER HAND presents a selection of videos that directly or indirectly address the exercise of domination: over the self, otherness, resources, nature, representation, etc.

Domination as a social practice is not limited to authoritarianism or the overt use of force. It may well involve the creation and observation of a system in which submission is legitimised by the involved parties. Whilst the actions of the dominators are formally free, the hidden mechanisms that are in operation guarantee asymmetrical relations at various levels and sub-structures as well as interdependence. Beyond anti- or semi-democratic nations, domination is nurtured at homes and societal institutions alike across the so-called developed world: much of this development owing to the very anatomy of domination. (Necessary? Justified? Wished for?) At its foundation, it was the ‘that’s how it is/was’, ‘boys will be boys’, ‘God’s will’ and other principles that naturalise individual and collective conduct.

From toxic masculinity and the legacies of a colonial past to a seeming symbiosis between nature and technology, THE UPPER HAND depicts the systemic presence of domination in our society.
Curated by Daniella Géo, the project occupies the IKOB’s black box this summer with works by Helen Anna Flanagan, Aziz Hazara, Che-Yu Hsu, Diego Lama and Paulius Šliaupa & Elia Claessen.

List of Works & Synopses (in order of appearance during the screening)

Aziz Hazara
Eyes in the sky (2020)
Digital HD video
Produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation
(format: 16:9)

With Eyes in the Sky (2020), Aziz Hazara stages a dialogue between a memento mori and the performative dimension of living. He engages in an agonistic match with dichotomies: proximity and distance, life and death, reality and fiction, innocence and malice, war and peace, bio-politics and inorganic landscape. (...) The artist unmasks the triviality of war where the garbage it leaves behind discloses its meaninglessness. In doing so, however, he invites a meditation on the transience of living where, even though we know life is a time-bound game, we nonetheless play it with all our might.
Excerpt from "The Whispers of Politics. I. See. You." by Francesca Recchia.

Helen Anna Flanagan
Blood Sweat Tears (2019)
HD video
(format: 4:3)

Sports are a spectacle serving the primary social function that theatre performed in antiquity, collecting a city or nation within a shared experience. Accounts of heroism and sacrifice tell a story of the founding of the state, a narrative of glorious origin that often obscures trauma. The film Blood Sweat Tears focuses on this trauma (emotional, physical, historical) of the individual/collective body and on the modern therapeutical processes (self-help group, massage, exercise) that have been used to help overcome such trauma. The work focuses specifically on what is exorcised from the body and mind, seeing the main character as someone who emits emotional (confessional and biographical) as well as physical (sweat and saliva) discharge.

Che-Yu Hsu
Perfect Suspect (2012/2020)
(format: 4:3)

Perfect Suspect proceeds from four stories collected from newspapers: A police officer who committed suicide, conflicts between gangs, burglary in a department store, a group fighting in a karaoke bar. It all took place in the artist’s neighbourhood. Che-Yu Hsu followed descriptions from the newspapers and found all actual scenes of these stories. The work reconstructs scenes of the events through animation, focusing on the acts of violence.

Diego Lama
Threshold (2017/2020)
4k digital video
(format: 2.4:1 - anamorphic)

Threshold was filmed at the Lima Art Museum (MALI); its central focus is on the painting The Funerals of the Inca Atahualpa by Luis Montero Rosas. The painting depicts the corpse of the last Inca emperor surrounded by mourners, priests and conquistadors, recounting a romanticised version of an event that cemented the Spanish colonisation of South America. Although this painting is of great importance in Peruvian art history, its curatorial context in the collection is of major significance, inasmuch as it is the only depiction of a native Peruvian, and is surrounded by portraits of European descendants. The film documents and questions these articulations between transaction, representation and narrative, while creating a parallel with the current problems of the Peruvian art system, particularly after the establishment and subsequent first participation of the Peruvian Pavilion in the Venice Biennial, which caused a discussion concerning the role of art as social representation.

Paulius Šliaupa & Elia Claessen
Year of the Sun (2020)
Digital video
Music by Suzan Peeters
(format: 16:9)

Nature and technology intertwine in the Year of the Sun. The digital world is virtual and nothing in it can be touched. Strangely, in order to interact with it, a gentle and precise human touch is necessary. Video displays, growing from the soil, become parts of this landscape as exhibits of interaction. As the distance between the natural and the virtual worlds dissolves, a symbiosis develops. Nature, interconnected with technology, begins to exchange substances and begins cyclical transformations. Meanwhile, flies buzzing around create connections between the elements and ideas, sometimes bearing contagion.

AZIZ HAZARA (*1992, Wardak, Afghanistan) works in various media including photography, video, sound, language programming, text and multimedia installations, exploring questions of identity, memory, archive, conflict, surveillance and migration in the context of power relations, geopolitics and the panopticon. He is a recipient of the Han Nefkens Foundation Mentorship Grant. Hazara is based in Kabul and Ghent, where he is taking part in the HISK post-graduate programme 2020 & 2021.

HELEN ANNA FLANAGAN (*1988, Birmingham) combines real events with fictitious narratives to produce video, installation and performance. By constructing and imagining scenarios – often making use of the category of the absurd – she looks to investigate social structures and the political subtext of the everyday, focusing on affects and emotions, labour and the body.
A selection of exhibitions include La Mediatine (BE), Plagiarama Gallery (BE), CAMPO Victoria (BE), IKOB (BE), MHKA (BE), Salonul de Proiecte (RO), MOMA (UA), WORM (NL), A-Dash Project Space (GR), V2_ (NL), Izolyatsia (UA), Spit & Sawdust (UK), Art Rotterdam (NL), Atelierhaus Salzamt (AT), Forum Stadtpark (AT), Peninsular Arts (UK), bb15 (AU), Castrum Perregrini (NL), Showroom MAMA (NL), Dortmund U (DE), TENT (NL), QUAD (UK) amongst others. Flanagan is the winner of the 2019 IKOB Feminist Art Prize and is part of the HISK post-graduate residency 2019 & 2020.

CHE-YU-HSU (*1985, Taiwan) is an artist based in Taipei. Having earned his master’s degree from the Graduate Institute of Plastic Arts, Tainan National University of the Arts (M.F.A., Taiwan). Hsu Che-Yu creates primarily animations, videos and installations that examine the relationships between media and memories. What matters to the artist is not simply the history of events traceable through media, but also the construction and visualisation of memories, be they private or collective.
The artist has participated in exhibitions and festivals such as 'IFFR International Film Festival Rotterdam' (2020, 2018), 'Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin' (2020, 2019, 2018), 'Shanghai Biennale' (2018, 2012), 'London Design Biennale' (Somerset House, 2018), 'Bangkok Biennial' (2018), 'Spain Moving Images Festival' (Madrid, 2018, 2017), 'Asian Art Biennial' (National Taiwan Museum, 2017), 'Experimental Film And Video Festival' (Sonje Art Center, Seoul, 2017), 'Public Spirits' (Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, 2017). Hsu is part of the HISK post-graduate residency 2019 & 2020.

DIEGO LAMA (*1980, Lima, Peru) has built a body of work focused on research into time-based media and following an outstanding approach to the thought process of filmmaking. His work is often characterised by the use of poetry and irony in analogies where representations of power structures are subverted to reveal different articulations of human condition in politics, the art world and gender issues, while often featuring cultural references from sources such as cinema, philosophy and psychoanalysis.
He has exhibited at major international venues such as the Havana Biennial, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne and The Getty Center in Los Angeles. Lama has received several awards, and his works are included in several international collections such as The Getty Center, the Videobrasil archive, the Caixa Forum, the Cervantes Institute in Munich and the Museum of Art of Lima. Lama is part of the HISK post-graduate residency 2019 & 2020.

PAULIUS ŠLIAUPA‘S (*1990, Vilnius, Lithuania) works explore the relationship(s) between culture and nature, the interaction of ambience and light that affect our daily lives. From video installations and experimental movies for the cinema to object-like paintings, his oeuvre encompasses a wide range of artistic media. By accumulating the flow of painterly images, atmospheric sounds and poetic energy, the artist creates sensual narratives. Most projects consist of multiple works, grouped around specific themes such as organic structures, rituals in nature, the flow of natural and artificial light, and absurd poetic happenings. Šliaupa holds a BA in painting and a MFA in contemporary sculpture from the Vilnius Academy of Arts as well as a MFA in media arts from the KASK, Ghent. Selected exhibitions include the solo exhibition 'Dès Vu', Meno Nisa, Vilnius (2019) and the group exhibitions 'Perception games', Pärnu Linnagaleriis Raekojas (Uus 4), Pärnu, Estonia, 'SCRPR x MONTAGE', LaVallée, Brussels (2019) and 'Media Art Festival' MAXXI, Rome (2018). Šliaupa is part of the HISK post-graduate programme 2020 & 2021.

ELIA CLAESSEN (*1997, Leuven) is a visual artist. Elia holds a BA of interior design from the KASK, Ghent, and is currently a BA-candidate in mixed media at LUCA School of Arts, Ghent. Selected exhibitions include 2019 Mayday Festival, CAMPO Victoria & Kunsthal Gent, 2019 European Media Art Festival, Osnabruck, Germany.

DANIELLA GÉO is curator at the HISK – Higher Institute for Fine Arts, Ghent. Géo holds a PhD and a master’s degree in Film and Audiovisual Studies from the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III. She is a researcher, lecturer and curator with a special interest in the politics of representation and the role played by images in the construction of (common) sense, in particular those related to violence and prejudice. Her practice explores techniques of appropriation and the aesthetic use of non-artistic images, interdisciplinarity, dialogical and non-hegemonic perspectives, and the political potential of art. Géo has served as curator at the 4th Biennale de Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the 5th Biennale internationale de la Photographie et des Arts visuels de Liège, Belgium. Recent curatorial projects include the first Latin American retrospective of Roger Ballen, Transfigurações (Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo, Caixa Cultural, Brasília); the panorama of Charif Benhelima’s Polaroid work Imagem em Processo (Museum of Contemporary Art, Niterói, Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba – co-curatorship); Six Solo Exhibitions (Station Museum of Contemporary Art, FotoFest, Houston – co-curatorship); the group exhibitions TRANS (University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa), Álbum de Família (Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro); the experimental residence project Jean Katambayi Mukendi em Residência-Aberta (Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro), a collaboration with the socially engaged art project Children in the City, Foyer, Brussels, amongst others. She has lectured in symposia and seminars, such as DRC today: a look onto society through art (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro – curator), De-colonising Art, Education, History, Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, São Paulo; Mediating Past, Present, Future, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Kinshasa, DRC; Appropriation and re-contextualization of photographic images in contemporary art, INARRA- Grupo de Pesquisa Imagens, Narrativas e Práticas Culturais/PPCIS – Rio de Janeiro Estate Univerity, etc. Géo is a teacher at the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro.