HOLD OFF/THE TIME OF FUN/ is an immersive performative media project based on the reflection, reconstruction and speculation upon the phenomena of terror, the role of a state, hostages, voluntarily and involuntarily spectators. The artist is using the economy of public attention – the asset making the terror efficient. She designs a reality of historical inevitability vs the reality of contingency due to speculation about the possible solution of the tragedy. The task can be solved with active physical involvement of the audience mediated by the artist.
Fifteen years ago more than 1100 hostages were taken by terrorists and kept without food and water for three days in a school in Beslan. The decision not to give people food and water arose when the official announcement on public television diminished the number of hostages fourfold. The officials did not fulfil the fundamental right of the citizens on the exhausting information; as well as the officials did not facilitate any negotiations to release the hostages, withdrawing their fundamental human right to live. Fifty-two hours of captivity were the predetermined torture of the 1100 people with 777 small children among them, all packed into the school gym with wired explosives above their heads.
The point of no-return occurred when on the third day of the siege, an explosion thundered. Officially it was said, that the explosives detonated as a result of a button released by one of the terrorists. The unofficial private investigation of Beslan victims showed that there was a shot from the outside. The storm began and took the lives of hundreds of people. As a result, 334 people were dead, including 186 children. More than 800 people were injured. It makes this offence one of the cruelest known in contemporary history after the 9/11.
By the gesture of holding a button, or giving the button away to the participants, the artist wants to recreate an affective situation of an ethical impossibility. From the one hand, it gives a feeling of personal responsibility: the people are alive, as long as one is holding the button. From the other hand, it provides an impression of the inevitability of the historical process. When one is pressing the button, it brings him/her in the ambiguous position. In a position of a terrorist craving for media-attention; or a place of a ‚situation hostage‘ suddenly found oneself with a button – be it one of the real hostages, or a TV-bystander, whose attention may be crucial in this crude political bargain, and whose indifference may be fatal for many. The bystander’s attention and involvement can postpone the inevitable and give the hostages a hope to survive.
Images: © privat.