The literal zone: exhibits A-J

The short essay film “The literal zone: exhibits A-J” is Andrej Slávik’s first foray into the terrain of (audio)visual historiography. Consisting of ten brief episodes (or ‘exhibits’), each focussing on a highly cicumscribed event, the piece revolves around the figure of the refugee as it has been constituted throughout modern history, juxtaposing the recent – in fact, ongoing – so-called refugee crisis with what migration scholars have recently begun to describe as a “forty-years’ crisis” in the beginning and middle of the 20th century (ca. 1919–59). While the key notion in the title is apparently literal in the sense of verbatim, word-for-word, without metaphor, the term is also intended as an allusion to its near-exact homonym littoral – one pronounced /ˈlɪt(ə)rəl/, the other /ˈlɪtərəl/ – meaning “of or pertaining to the shore” (OED). In this way, the incongruous expression “literal zone” – ostensibly a misspelling (which, as such, actually returns a few hits on Google) of “littoral zone” – enacts a play of sense and nonsense where, in the tension between lexical distinction and phonetic ambiguity, the literal and the metaphorical almost come to seem interchangeable. Hence, the title can be regarded as an instance of the kind of stylistic resources – allusion, ambiguity, and the like – that Slávik borrows from the arts, without in any way claiming the status of art for his own work.

“Andrej Slávik’s film is an immersion in the restless archive of found footage, in which the images transcend their representational roles. Various spatial and temporal zones are layered together with distinctive narrations, whose lines disturb the unilinear interpretation of the visual material.” – Lea Vene, curator

“The literal zone: exhibits A-J” (2018) | HD video | B&W and color | sound (various languages with English subtitles) | 5:28