Rosalind Nashashibi, THE STATES OF THINGS, 2000.

© Courtesy of the artist and Murray Guy, New York


Rosalind Nashashibi (1973 – )


Accession number


Grainy, black and white 16mm footage depicts aged women and a few men, rifling through piles of clothes: bustling, folding, arranging. Like seagulls they pick over a ravaged sea of junk and jumble, of fabric and garments. Where are we? When was this footage taken? The film itself seems old and battered, like a vintage piece of fabric itself, the cuts bleaching into white light. The protagonists, who appear to be at some kind of market are unaffected by the presence of a filmmaker<&ndash>–<&ndash> they go about their business, never looking at the camera. A mournful, Egyptian love song is playing: Hali Fi Hawaha Agabrecorded by Um Kolsoum in the 1920s. The viewer is left to grope around and try to locate what they are watching. Led by the non-western music, we imagine that this could be early documentary footage of a souk, perhaps, during some inter-war period. Resting on this notion, however, we begin to lose footing. These look like British grandmothers, a girl is wearing pigtails and modern hairclips, a boy is in a contemporary school uniform. The time and the place of the film becomes slippery.

Rosalind Nashashibi’s The States of Things(2000) was part of the artist’s exhibition at the Beck’s Futures Prize, in 2003, of which Nashashibi was the winner. Nashashibi made the film, in fact, at a Glasgow Salvation Army jumble sale, and, although this fact is never made explicit, the slow dawning that we have made a wrong assumption about the footage is uncomfortable and critical, yet strangely magical. For a moment, though only in our imaginations, this group of individuals were different <&ndash>–<&ndash> part of an utterly different narrative than the one we would place them in had the footage been made and presented differently. As eloquent as this is, Nashashibi’s film also touches on boredom, however. The viewer is made aware of a feeling of disinterestedness in non-specific foreign or historical lands: a sense that one can’t understand what we are seeing, although we feel we should, that we should see its importance. This feeling of boredom is also, however, peppered with nostalgia, with exoticism, Orientalism, of the Other.

These associations, this experiential form of film viewing is ushered in by Nashashibi by way of manipulating the medium of film itself, with deceptively simple adjustments allowing the viewer to locate the footage’s origin elsewhere. As Amna Malik has commented: <&ldquo>“A souk seems more exotic because it is located in an imaginary realm that is distant as much in time as in space, but is essentially the same as a jumble sale.”<&redquo> Nashashibi’s artwork often presents a kind of idea that reality is a kind of fluid, mutable substance that, if only lit this way or that, or accompanied by this soundtrack, can become glamorous, fictional, dramatic or exotic, and here, in this short film, by minimal means, she manages to take a scene of Glasweigan pensioners and lift them, transporting the scene into another narrative, another film, another set of meanings, of different states.

Laura McLean-Ferris