9 October 2012

Amanda Gutiérrez is a contemporary artist whose recent work questions the authenticity of the documentary form.

In her most recent series, Time Topographies, Gutiérrez's working process seems simple. She chooses a site and seeks to interview a series of local residents. These narratives are collated, transcribed, scripted and presented as a video installation or performance.

Scratch underneath the surface however, and Gutiérrez's study is much more complex. Each character that the artist has chosen is in fact an immigrant, and each testimonial is individually re-articulated through scripting. Moreover, instead of witnessing the face of the person presenting her or his testimonial,  the viewer sees a series of disembodied images. These visuals are often fragments from memories, and re-imaginations of situations that at times be alienating, while at other times, filled with satirical humour. This sense of separation is further complicated by the voice of the characters - each of which has their script recited by a different actor.  

Liverpool, more than any city in the UK, is infamous as a site for immigrants. Often considered to be the second city of the British Empire, this port town has been known for its connections to the slave trade, for housing the oldest Chinatown in Europe, the oldest Black African community in the UK, for being the location of the Toxteth race riots in the 1980s, and also for holding one of the most densely concentrated British Yemeni communities. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the administrative hub for the UK's immigration services.

Gutiérrez visited community centres and became embedded in the heart of the Welsh Streets of Toxteth - living on a semi-abandoned street in a house belonging to the artist and activist Nina Edge. Gutiérrez's pursuits found her knocking on the doors of shop keepers and restaurant owners, many of whom turned her away, perhaps afraid of the expository act of opening up to a stranger, who didn't profess to bear any credentials beyond that of an artist.

This started to change with the help of two guiding lights: Taher Qassim of the Liverpool Arabic Centre, who is a noted civic figure in the city, and Moira Kenny of The Sound Agents, an experimental sound collective, which also captures oral histories. After collating numerous stories, Gutiérrez settled on three: Xia Lu, Nahida, and Abdul Rahman. Xia Lu, an architect from China, fled her country during the Cultural Revolution that occurred under Mao's staunch ideological regime. Nahida, a Palestinian writer and activist born in a small village near Jerusalem. She also escaped her birthplace during tumultuous political strife; in her case, it was the Six-Day War of 1967. Abdul Rahman, born in Yemen and the oldest of the three subjects, was propelled to Liverpool because of his career as a travelling seaman.

Tonight's screening of Time Topographies: Liverpool features a live performance and Q&A with Amanda Gutiérrez and the cast of the film.

Tickets are FREE and can be booked online, in person at the Box Office, by calling 0871 902 5737.