How did you become involved in the Iraqi Youth Art Project
Mohammed: The main reason for being part of this program is to make sure that the voices of young Iraqi artists like myself be heard. I first heard about it through a link on the Iraqi Cultural Festival webpage. When I knew that ICE was part of it I made sure to participate because ICE has a reputation of engaging young talents and gives them a platform to express themselves artistically.
Ludwig: I am a visual artist who has been working in CACD for the past 2 years, particularly with ICE. I was involved in many of their projects as both participant and facilitator. I was contacted by Jonathan Wilson to mentor Mohammed, a young Iraqi performer, writer and photographer to produce a short video piece.
What has it been like to be mentored/be a mentor
Mohammed: I enjoyed it. I liked how the mentor takes an idea or a vision you have, questions it, expands it and reworks it with you for it to be presented in a different way.
Ludwig: As a mentor I felt I needed to pass my knowledge over to Mohammed who has never worked in video before as an art form. As an emerging artist myself my knowledge isn’t as vast as an artist would expect from a mentor so Mohammed and myself agreed it would be better and more efficient and rewarding for both of us to collaborate on making the video work. It was my way of producing an accomplished work with Mohammed on one hand and giving him a skill he never had before on the other hand.
How have you enjoyed/learnt/struggled with collaborating
Mohammed: The program enabled me to learn the skill of making video art. I also learnt a lot and enjoyed collaborating with my mentor on making the artwork. I hope one day I can work with him again.
Ludwig: Collaborating with Mohammed had more ups than downs. I felt some resistance at the start from Mohammed who wanted to have a more narrative-based short film. After some time, and a very honest recording session about Mohammed’s traumatic experience as an Iraqi asylum seeker to Australia, we both agreed to use two videos of just fifteen seconds each that Mohammed took as he entered Australian waters on a leaky boat. This was a starting point for the final video, stripping his story and the video to its minimum in order to give the audiences the greatest impact.
Can you tell us what your artwork is about
Mohammed: My artwork is about the struggle of asylum seekers specifically the boat journey. The video is real footage I shot with my phone as soon as we entered Australian waters. Although there was lots of stories and memories to choose from my trip to depict in the artwork, we chose only this one.
Ludwig: It’s about two minutes of the life of an asylum seeker. It starts with a quote said to Mohammed as he was recording the videos: “Why are you filming We will soon be dead”. The two videos shot by Mohammed on his phone starts popping up randomly to make five vertical sections on the screen. The videos keep looping and the sound keeps growing and becomes louder as the video proceeds. At the end the only sound we hear is the cracking of the wooden ship as we see a glimpse of the person who is taking the video – Mohammed.
What effect do you think this work will have on the audience
Mohammed: This work will change the perception of some people who think that the road to Australia via a boat is easy. Australians are used to seeing asylum seekers through the lens of the media. In this work the audience will see real footage from the boat thus feel the struggle of the asylum seeker.
Ludwig: I think it is an uneasy work to watch, it’s very confronting. We wanted the audience, regardless of their opinions about asylum seekers, to have a sample of what a person must have felt facing death for a better future. Revealing Mohammed’s face at the end of the work transforms it from being a universal stand about a controversial issue to a very personal depiction of a traumatic experience that happened at a specific time in Australian waters.
Why are you filming we will soon be dead.
Mohammed Alanezi in collaboration with Ludwig El Haddad
On display at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery 2-30 April 2016.
More info: https://ice.org.au/project/iraqi-youth-art-project/