As a part of our ongoing partnership with Art Practical, today we bring you a profile from writer Matthew Harrison Tedford on Claudia Joskowicz, a recent visiting artist at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Claudia Joskowicz, who is an artist based in New York and Santa Cruz, Bolivia, creates videos that reawaken violent events and their residue from Bolivian history. Often filmed in very slow motion, these works allow viewers to focus on the intense emotions or complicated scenarios they document. Oscillating between serenity and suspense, Joskowicz’s videos first create points of entry and then confront viewers with the trauma and anguish of the videos’ subjects.
Sympathy for the Devil (2011) is a haunting peek at a commonplace interaction between two unassuming neighbors in a La Paz high-rise. The opening scene shows two elderly men passing each other, as one enters and another leaves an elevator. The man facing the camera holds his head high, averting the gaze of the other, who looks down. The former represents K. Altmann, the alias of Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie, the German Nazi officer who earned the nickname “Butcher of Lyon” due to his torture of Jews and Resistance leaders in Vichy France. In the video, the second man represents an unnamed Polish Jew who immigrated to Bolivia during World War II and was allegedly Barbie’s neighbor, living on the floor below. The scene progresses like molasses, with almost indiscernible movement—as one might imagine feeling the time passing during such an uncomfortable situation. Did each of these men know the history of the other? Is Barbie’s distant glare evidence of hubris or humiliation?