The Gift Video
The Gift is a 20-minute three-channel film which investigates how gifting is embedded within the landscape of Europe’s identity formation, exploring particularly intriguing examples of gifts of architecture, art, music and dance through the use of allegory and narrative. The film addresses the concept of a political gift; a donation of artistic, architectural, political or philosophical thought to national and ideological structures. The project is filmed across paramount examples of architectural donations; Oscar Niemeyer’s French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris (a gift from the architect to PCF), Palais of the Nations in Geneva (composed from gifts by the international community), Museum of 25th of May Belgrade (a gift to Tito from the nation), and Mount Buzludzha Bulgaria (a gift from the nation). The film investigates culture’s role as a political style-bearer and a Trojan horse for covert diplomacy and political interest.
The script for the film is drawn from archival traces on discussions about soft power and cultural diplomacy that led to some of the most iconic architectural and artistic manifestations of political gifting within European space. The storyline follows three men – the Gifts of Art, Music and Architecture – as they participate in the final round of a competition that seeks the perfect gift for a divided nation; a gift that must be both aesthetically impressive and politically adequate. The competition takes place within a perfect setting for the spectacular competition: an open and transparent assembly hall that appears to break with the burden of antiquated political style, cutting away from the past and propelling itself into the future. Filmed in the French Communist Party’s headquarters in Paris, itself a gift of the architect Oscar Niemeyer. Within this set-up the Gifts are judged and scrutinized by allegories of Four Fundamental Freedoms who drive the discussion into its very own destruction: a collapse of the symbolic tie between state and culture, a reminder of past ideals and their collapse in the rise of populism.
Co-commissioned and co-produced by FLAMIN – Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (with funding from Arts Council England), steirischer herbst ’19 and macLYON and co-produced with Waddington Studios London.
Supported by Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Cooper Gallery DJCAD, University of Dundee; Northern Film School; UGM Maribor Art Gallery; Museum of Yugoslavia; United Nations Geneva; Espace Niemeyer and Palace of Youth, Warsaw.