In Citizens and Subjects, Aernout Mik presents a new, complex multichannel video installation consisting of three new works embedded in an architectural intervention in the Dutch Pavilion. Training Ground (2007), Convergencies (2007), and Mock Up (2007) extend into one another to create a multifaceted installation.
In the two-channel installation, Training Ground, a fictional training is shown, in which policemen learn and rehearse tactics for handling the arrest of refugees and various techniques of law enforcement. Through repetition, mimicry, inertia, re-enactment (including references to other filmic work, namely Jean Rouch’s 1954 Les maitres fous) and building of irrational excess, the scenes of the fictitious training gradually transgress into a series of cathartic moments questioning settled hierarchies of power and ways of handling issues such as (illegal) immigration in the so-called West.
Convergencies is a two-channel work, in which Mik puts together existing documentary footage gathered from international news agencies. Starting from the idea of training, he looks at what kind of "threats" we feel need to be actively addressed in order to respond to the pervasive sentiments of anxiety within society. Here footage related to immigration is entwined with media images from trainings and real situations aimed at dealing with a potential attack or crisis that would compromise local or national security, the nature of which is at times difficult to detect. Although the situations involved are filled with chaos, confusion and unpredictability on one hand, on the other the police, teams of first responders, refugees and victims seem to populate these scenes with a baffling sense of routine, as if suggesting that this state of alert is our new "normal".
The four-channel video installation Mock Up is a fictional work filmed in an uninhabited Dutch "village" Marnehuizen, which is one of the largest military exercise sites in Europe. In a "detention centre" built for this occasion inside the compound, a training for evacuation of the building in the case of a fire is staged. Besides detainees and guards, the fire brigade, police and various medical teams are present. The cast on the film set involves a large number of young people who are part of the drill. Through the interaction between the adults and the young people—Mik’s narratives evolve through action before the camera, without the use of scripts or rehearsals—the actors begin questioning the unspoken rules and conventions of the situation. They infuse the course of things with aberrant behavior and absurd actions, over-saturating the work with irrational play and empowering invention, as if this was a space through which new confidence in other possibilities could materialize.
With the project Citizens and Subjects Aernout Mik questions the simplified distinction between citizens (as those with the rights and full privileges of belonging to a state or nation) and subjects (as those under rule or authority) today. On one hand he asks, aren’t we all actually subjected in the same way to this rather disquieting reality? Concurrently, he clarifies the notion of the "subject" as one who is capable of acting in order to overcome the distinction between subjection and possible liberation, metaphorically suggesting that perhaps it is from here that new opportunities might emerge.