Tales of an Innate Foreignness Nico Anklam

We wait for the linguistic knot to unravel, but it doesn’t happen. Magda Korsinsky leaves her audience clueless. We wait for subtitles but they don’t appear. This is what makes Korsinsky’s work “Welcome” (2007) remarkably successful. Only right at the end of the 10-minute video  does one of the protagonists speak about being displaced in German. All other voices remain in Tigrina, the language spoken in Eritrea. This encapsulates the tension of the work. The title not only welcomes the audience to this piece of work, but introduces it to an impending feeling of displacement and foreignness. The video culminates with the realization that the viewer does not belong.
Korsinsky assembled, composed and edited the documentary-style clips from Eritrea with the intention of alternating interior and exterior as well as colours and shapes, and thereby extends the meaning of their content. Soldiers in green uniforms march across red earth. The blurry images of the crowd are followed by aesthetically similar shots of tree rows. Again, we wait for subtitles to aid our understanding,  but eventually we are left to guess the meaning of the scene from the gestures.
The editing leads us from interiors and close-ups of the narrating faces to the outside. The piece directs our gaze to shots of a military parade in broad daylight and then a nighttime dance event with music outside. Korsinsky examines masculine and feminine traits in the piece through images of girls braiding their hair or the military parade. That is when Korsinky interferes and unveils our inherent bias: The soldiers turn out to be troops of women.
In this autobiographical work Korsinsky deals with her Eritrean roots but without any post-colonial criticism or migration-analyzing pathos. The gaze of the camera mimics our gaze into a foreign world, which is just as alien to us as it is for Korsinsky. She also doesn’t speak or understand Tigrina. We are, like her, dependent on gestures and smiles to intellectually follow the people’s narration. But like her, we fail. Only the tangible image and the intangible sound remain as a means for this piece to communicate. The last shot shows a landscape of rooftops. Rain is falling down on them. Visually, the rain washes away the linguistic confusion. The voices are phased out into the constant whooshing sound of the rain drumming on the rooftops. Korsinsky fades out the colours. The last shot almost resembles the black and white static at the end of a video tape.
Korsinky presents “Welcome” on a TV set that is cloaked in a tent made of clothing. Formally this outer skin shows references to Tracy Emin’s “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963 -1995″(1995). Both deal with notions of personal history or intimate relations. While coming from different backgrounds, they still operate in similar ways.
In her screen print series, Korsinsky exhibits clothing she wore and categorizes it according to the day it was used. She offers an intimate insight into a very private world but distorts this by printing images of the clothes that create rather abstract forms and colour fields. Korsinsky’s work thereby gains an aesthetic autonomy through which it is removed from the sheer documentary context of her daily life, just as her gaze on Eritrea is far more than just documentary. And yet, her work retains some reality. The tent around “Welcome” is clearly made of clothing.
The t-shirts and jackets, with which Korsinsky made the tent, came from her family’s possessions and can be interpreted as a protectionist layer and an expression of withdrawal. The vast screen prints, on the other hand, rather seem like large, colourful mosaics than individual pieces of clothing. Still, Korskinsky purposefully keeps traces of the original material intact and thereby preserves the indexical character of her media. It is exactly this interweaving of aesthetic super-positioning and the tracing of reality that characterize Korsinsky’s work.

Translation: Lam Thuy Vo