“MA-KU” is a video piece by American photographer John Santerineross. It has been featured in an exhibition at the Arteleku Contemporary Arts Center in San Sebastian, Spain in 2010. The work was inspired by one of Santerieross’ photographs1 and it’s a pastiche of two separate images – the first is a mostly naked masked woman who appears to be trying to escape a metal box, and the second is rice falling into various vessels. The film moves back and forth between these two moving images: The woman gyrating and struggling, uncertain as to how she can break free of her confines, and rice falling, continuously. The sound of the individual grains of rice clinking against glass, a distant piano, and the ominous deep sound of a machine rumbling in the background are all part of the accompanying “soundtrack” for these images: There are no other sounds, nor spoken words.
Finally, the woman opens fans and disappears in a magnificent light, the video ends. At this point I feel relieved and imagine that she is liberated. I feel that the artist is using this piece as a metaphor of life; with its struggles, the falling rice representing minutes, days, and months always ticking by. The light at the end of the video symbolising death, or freedom, or both.
I wonder why Santerineross chose a nude female figure for this piece. It certainly made me feel uneasy that she was naked and that her face was hidden. I felt like I should not be looking at her, because she doesn’t know I’m there. Was it intended that the audience would have this voyeuristic feeling and for what reason? The piano music is somewhat calming music but also a bit disjointed, acting as a soft echo of joy barely perceptible behind the droning sound and the feeling of watching something I wasn’t supposed to. There was something about the tone of the piano notes that made me feel almost as if it was okay to watch.
The crown on the gyrating figure’s head is reminiscent of the ‘nimbus’ found in medieval art. As they were reserved for holy people, I am not certain to understand the meaning of using it in this piece, other than as a criticism of Christianity; who tried to give meanings to life, its struggles and that promise of an afterlife?
Overall the performance comes together to create an interesting piece that leaves you uncertain and thinking about the human condition. It’s dark imagery and strange sounds lending to the uneasiness and uncertainty of what is to come.
1 Vimeo LLC, “MA-KU”, accessed October 20, 2014, https://vimeo.com/13045739.