• Attempt of reading [two works by Ibro Hasanovic]

  • In his seminal book L'invention du quotidien (The Practice of Everyday Life), Michel de Certeau opposes the idea of reading as a passive act. Instead of viewing it as an assimilation to an imposed “system of verbal and iconic signs,” he considers it as a way to invent “in texts something different from what they intended.” (i) Reading then becomes an act of creation in which the reader can leave his mark, actively remake its objective, and “[allow] an indefinite plurality of meanings.” (ii) As such, the text acquires significance only by means of the interpretation of its reader, becoming a proper text through its relationship to an exterior element—its interpreter.

    When viewing Ibro Hasanovic’s video Attempt of being..., 2006, it is exactly this momentous exteriority of the text that is deprived from its subject. Watching a young man sitting down in a picturesque grassland with a book, one witnesses the seemingly ideal conditions for recreation and the emergence of meaning. However, the book is Colette’s L’Ingénue libertine (The Gentle Libertine), 1909, and the young man, the Bosnian artist Ibro Hasanovic, has set himself a quasi-impossible task. Turning himself to an author whose main themes are the whereabouts of female sexuality in a male-dominated world, Hasanovic is reading the original French text aloud without knowing how to speak that language. But, instead of witnessing a disempowered male body struggling with the reversal of his gender position, as is suggested in previous readings of the work, it seems, for the purpose of this text, more evocative to turn to the act of reading itself and to discover within this act the work’s decisive connotation.

    According to de Certeau, reading has become “a visual poem,” it has been derived from “the murmur of a vocal articulation” and “the movement of a muscular manducation.” (iii) In this sense, the artist’s self-imposed constraint of reading a text he cannot comprehend or appropriate—literally stuttering through a series of incomprehensive vowels, producing a failure of speech—might be interpreted as an inverse gesture of resistance. Rather than relating his body to the text’s compulsory nature, constructed through historical and culturally enforced readings, Hasanovic establishes it as a field of opposition on which texts are no longer able to inflict their authoritative meaning.

    In his video the name of the film is... i cannot remember the name of the film, 2008, Hasanovic playfully turns his attention to the ephemeral nature of a moving image experience. Instead of commenting on the impenetrable construction of mass media, Hasanovic gives a voice to the average spectator, the reader and active interpreter of the filmic text. However, the artist has imposed yet another constraint upon his subjects. The characters in the video are asked to connect to a film they have viewed long ago, based solely on their vague recollections of the original viewing experience.

    Through simple editing, an engaging dynamic is created between the various monologues, which range from highly specific descriptions of a scene, to quasi- politicized interpretations of a narrative and even to occasional abstract ramblings. Hasanovic’s process stresses the individualized character of remembering, relating it to notions of perception, imagination, and experience. Additionally, the intercut musings and monologues of the various characters become parts of a newly constructed larger narrative of fragmented film history, the filmic text acquiring ‘significance’ through the interpretation of its readers. In this history Nick Nolte, the Daughter of Dracula and Pasolini’s Teorema, 1968, coexist on the same abstract level. This gives an additional pleasure to the viewer of Hasanovic’s piece, as one tries to locate the films within one’s own memories, a project that is ultimately doomed to fail. It is, however, in this failure that, together with the on-screen interpreters of the filmic texts, one finds a way to subvert “the only freedom left to the masses,” that of “grazing on the ration of simulacra the system distributes to each individual,” an idea heavily opposed by Michel de Certeau as well. (iv)

    Niels Van Tomme
    New York, April 2010.

    1. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, Los Angeles, CA (1984)
    2. Ibid.
    3. Ibid.
    4. Ibid.