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OJOBOCA Screening – The Skin Is Good/The Masked Monkeys/Heliopolis Heliopolis

November 18, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

- Free

Screening at the University of Colorado at Boulder, basement of Macky Auditorium, Room 1B20.

Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy are filmmakers based in Berlin. Since 2010 they have been working together under the moniker OJOBOCA. Together they practice Horrorism, a simulated method of inner and outer transformation. They have presented their work internationally in a wide variety of venues. They are currently members of the artist-run film lab LaborBerlin.

16mm, 12 min, color, silent, 2018

The skin fiend is a stranger. He sent us strange messages (and a package). In the last message the skin fiend said,

“Try to be skin fiends for a moment. How, you ask? Well, to be a skin fiend one has to summon the skin demon. To summon the skin demon, one has to say the skin prayer (see attached). Before one says the skin prayer, one has to take command of the skin receptacles (see package). But the skin receptacles must never be touched. They are objects of the mind. One may only interact with the skin receptacles through sense memory. How can one remember what has never been physically experienced?

The skin fiend remembers the future. In the future, he remembers that the skin fiend has already seen the skin demon. In the future, he remembers that the skin fiend has already touched the skin demon. In the future, he remembers that the skin fiend and the skin demon are the same because in the future, the skin fiend has no eyes and the skin demon has no hands and yet the skin demon can touch what the skin fiend sees, and the skin fiend can see what the skin demon touches. But what the skin demon touches and what the skin fiend sees evaporate from memory once seen and touched. In the future, he remembers that the skin fiend remembers the sense of having forgotten. This sense is marked by a trace. The trace is a scent. In the future you remember, perhaps you will remember this scent and with any luck you will also forget it.”

We made this film for you, skin fiend. What do you think?

2015, 16mm, 30 min, black & white, sound.

The masked arts of Indonesia are thousands of years old. They are commonly referred to as wayang topeng (wayang: shadow or puppet; topeng: mask). It is believed that wayang topeng originated from tribal death rites, where masked dancers were considered the interpreters of the gods.

In the lowest rungs of Javanese society a unique manifestation of these masked traditions can be found. Its practitioners are performers, but they are not merely entertainers. Their aim is not simply to amuse. Their ambition is to be respected, to be honored, to be successful. They have embarked on a path they know will lead to a higher state, to an honorable and noble position.

16mm, 26 min, color, 2017

According to amateur Egyptologist I. I. Pearson, Heliopolis Heliopolis was the name of a metropolitan simulacrum devised as a training tool for urban planning at the NoUn School of Architecture in Egypt in the 3rd century BC. On her blog, “Secret Cities of Ancient Egypt” Pearson writes,

Heliopolis Heliopolis was created by an insurgent priest (whose name has been lost) as a tool to train students in the design of a revolutionary city meant to surpass the ancient city of Heliopolis. This in spite of the fact that the priest and his students appear to have never visited Heliopolis and based their model exclusively on texts and secondhand knowledge. Eventually this became a source of pride within the school and descriptions of Heliopolis gained a fantastical nature, becoming both meticulously elaborate and wildly implausible.

How it was used of as an educational model is heavily disputed among experts. The researcher, J. J. Dummings proposes that Heliopolis Heliopolis was in effect a very large maze. According to him, students were sent into the maze, blindfolded and naked with their bodies covered in duck grease. Their goal was to find the models of the city’s main temples and destroy them. To do this they would have used their bodies as torches. To substantiate his claim, he relies on two details. First, on the fact that Heliopolis was given its name (which in Greek means “city of the sun”) in recognition of the fact that the sun god Ra presided there, and second, on a passage from the written record that states (according to his own translation), that the purpose of the simulation was to “obliterate the light”.

My own research leads me to believe that Heliopolis Heliopolis was not a maze but in fact a very high tower. It was circled by ever-steeper steps, at the top of which stood the main temple, representing the sun. Along the way the students had to pick up primitive instruments, which, once at the top, they would use to build a large mechanical moon. The moon would create a permanent eclipse, shroud the temple completely in its shadow and thus, (following my own translation of the passage) “bring darkness to the light”.

Now, because of their personal history, opinions about the veracity of these interpretations are starkly divided within the amateur Egyptology scene. Apparently Pearson and Dummings were once married but he left her for their mutual friend and fellow amateur Egyptologist K.K. Apfelbaum. After looking closely at the online record their argument boils down to this: he accuses her of stealing his ideas and she accuses him of resenting her for not taking him back once she found out about his betrayal and forced him to confess. Needless to say, to this day both parties, and their respective factions, continue to argue over the true meaning of Heliopolis Heliopolis.

Although we considered creating versions of Heliopolis Heliopolis that would correspond with each interpretation, building an actual facsimile of the maze or of the tower would have been way beyond our means. Therefore we went with our own interpretation of the evidence to assemble this audiovisual simulation. It goes like this: the model was never meant to be built but was used during the ritual to induce a trancelike state of mind. In a hallucinatory haze, the student wanders through the imaginary city, which does not resemble a maze or a tower, but an endless body of water in which the temples, like islands, are floating. Each island is made of pure light and the student must transform himself into the island’s shadow, engulf it in darkness and from his inner abyss (following our own translation) “reveal the bright darkness”.


November 18, 2019
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
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