Pride and Prejudice, 2023
4K video, 27'21 mins
for Unschöne Museen
gta Exhibitions, Zurich
1 March - 19 May 2023
curated by Fredi Fischli, Niels Olsen and Geraldine Tedder
Filmed in various locations at ETH Zurich, and suggesting a lineage of adaptation and modernisation, Pride and Prejudice (2023) takes its title from Jane Austen’s novel of manners, with three strands/subplots running throughout. In the gta exhibition space, a woman dances unreliable facts on the beauty wars between YouTube influencers James Charles and Tati Westbrook, the gauze between performed kinship and business. In the storage space for architecture models of gta archives, and in focusTerra – one of ETH’s few museums displaying the natural sciences – rehearsals are rockily underway for a new staging of the antique political satire Peace by Aristophanes, with the company struggling with context and intention of the historic material. In the foyer of the physics building, two skaters ride, and speak excerpts from Vingt Regards, a play by Cheng about skateboarding as a cultural object of shifting status. This play also informs the fragments of piano throughout; a pianist rehearsing Vingt Regards by Olivier Messiaen, a composition that intersperses collected birdsong transcriptions with religious themes.
The staging of classical and contemporary texts is used as a performative tool through which to think about the fictionalization of history, the fiction that history can be, and the role of individual memory within a web of knowledge production. Customs, codes, mannerisms are acted out and discussed: the skaters refer to skill as best stolen rather than taught, the actors express doubts about straying too far from a traditional interpretation: "you're making this cultural object in your own image". The script of Pride and Prejudice positions the museum alongside processes of fiction, akin to constellated moments of recognition coming to act “with the force of history”. There is stated resistance to the museum as mausoleum, where historical objects are classified and maintained within stagnating meaning. With the performers appearing framed in a manner between natural and stylised, their characters are proposed in relation to their real life identities; young architects, performers, designers. This relationship to contemporary economies of production and reproduction is the rationale for insisting on family as a way to think around grouping, selection, accumulation, and narrativisation. Expanded sisterhood - a chosen family - is proposed as an ambient critical mode, with Austen's group of sisters against the family values, the dissenting servants and gods in Aristophanes, the complicities of skating against society, and the professionally coded 'sisters' and 'mother' of James Charles.
Spirit of the Mask/Dancer - Shade Theret
Architecture Students/Actors - Shen He, Helia Jamshidi, Juliette Martin
Skaters - Fretz, Tuna
Piano - Jacob Abela
Direction/Camera/Script/Edit - Ivan Cheng
Additional camera - Jumana Issa
Special thanks - Geraldine Tedder, Özgür Kar, Seraphin Reich, Otto Bonnen, Daniel Weiss, Fredi Fischli, Niels Olsen, gta exhibitions, gta archives, FocusTerra, ETH Hönggerberg