The White Balance. On Subjective Perception.
Catalogue text / Verbatim 2008

Verbatim denotes a mode of replicating speach. Verbatim also refers to a type of experimental theatre, based directly on the tradition of oral narrations. Storytelling has a significant place in the works of Loulou Cherinet. The narrative in her films can function either as a direct report, or - as in a folk tale - a story; a frictious account with a moral. In spite of leaning towards the journalistic, Cherinet does not abandon aestetic considerations; on the contrary, she carefully choreographs situations, subjugating them to the strict demands of the cinematic need.

On the linguistic level, Cherinet employs colloquial speech, suggestive of belongig to particular social groups; translation, which transports the text into a new cultural context; and, finally, dubbing which constitutes an integral part of the work and which, at the same time, adds another level of interpretation. Thus, language in Cherinet's work is the tool of an anthropologist.

Verbatim also is a method of operating via the image. In Minor Field Study (2006), the juxtapositions of analogous "microspaces" in Congo-Brazzaville and in Sweden act as symmetrical copies; citations from reality. They demonstrate the existence of two parallell (but how different) worlds, the perception of which, however, ventures well beyond the mere comparative.

Loulou Cherinet tackles head on such culturally established notions as gender, race or moral values. In her works, the "white versus black" and the "here versus there" do not correlate directly to "positive" and "neagtive"; instead, they do no more than reveal the immense tension which results from the existence of many individual points of view. The white man, photographed on location "somewhere in Africa" (White Man Series, 2001) is no longer the ruler and the colonizer; on the contrary, he appears to shrink under the curious stares of the indigenes. In White Women (2002), black men reveal in front of one another the brutal truth about their relations with white women. Their denaturalized relationships, opening doors to the "better" world which tantalizes with opportunities, exists on the margins of migration policies, with the tacit approval of the government. A system, in which the exploited and the exploiters keep swapping places, reveals the nuances of multicultural coexistence.

The Allegory of the Cock (2006) deals with subjective and misleading perception. The film is constructed around an almost folk story, the analogy of which can be traced back to Plato's The Cave. The artist ventures beyond the documentary material, in search not of facts, but of a universal message, unencumbered by cultural ballast. Hence, a blind man and a cock. With the help of such a frame of reference, the artist targets the limitations of human perception, which makes it impossible to be simultaneously both here and there, or to see that white can be black; and black - white.

Taking into account Loulou Cherinet's biography, it is difficult to conclude other than that her striking ability to percieve the ambivalence of the postcolonial world stems directly from her own backgrund and experience. However, in the artist's own words: "Black and white' is not an obvious cliché that belongs to history and minstrel shows - it is to this day a political, social and economical reality. A reality we all share. The confusion [of the observer] might come from the fact that I see these images as complex and I've made the choice not to be involved in the production of propaganda. I've always had the feeling that my work say more about the observer than about me. You won't necessarily find the same confusion in me. My work is not biographical in that way. I never identified with that idea of me 'balancing between two worlds'... My world acctually comes together, and seems extremely natural to me."

Anna Smolak