Into the Interior (Last day of the permanent exhibition)
“Into The Interior (Last day of the permanent exhibition)” orbits around The Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA) in Belgium, a former royal estate of King Leopold II. During 2013 Zdjelar regularly visited and dug into the guts of the museum, allegedly the last expressly colonial museum in the world, which closed for renovation in December 2013, designating a fracture in time and the running narrative preceding Congo’s independence. Zdjelar registers some of the final moments before the museum’s now ossified historical and cultural narrative draws to a close, thus marking an end to an era and exposing the museum’s attempt of attunement towards the generational inquiry of today.Through the lens of Zdjelar’s camera, we observe in Into The Interior (Last day of the permanent exhibition), 2014, the traces of a distant era through decomposing forms of preserved animal trophies. As a museum assistant removes wads of fabric from the inside of a tatty leopard’s head fixed into an eternal expression of faux-aggression, the viewer is reminded that decomposition of these animal skins, embody a decaying ideology. The two-channel video mediates footage and dialogue concerning the animal trophies intermingled with shots of the actual building’s deterioration, alongside a gradual survey of a painted landscape of Congo, the colours of which time has reduced to a dull, lifeless, tertiary palette much like the flesh of the animals. The work is thus a meditation on the museum’s ossified history and the closing of the cultural narratives it entails. Using the cinematic technique of colliding the gaze of a hunter with that of a painter, the basement storage space with the exhibition space, the amalgamation of an animal and painted landscape produces an eerie and juxtaposing interstice that is as withered and dated as it is perennial. In this middle ground, the background cannot be dislocated from the dynamics of the foreground.
Hunting and painting were a masculine way of passing time in the colony; these activities were distinct to the upper classes, who thought of themselves as delving into the virgin forests, lands, contours, essentially the very interior of the African continent. This pastime of the white Western men translated into the accumulation of animal trophies and resonates of the surplus and excess of this time. Having neither scientific nor cultural status, the trophies’ status within the collection of the museum is ambiguous, unresolved. They are unpacked just to be packed and stored again. Their decay corresponds to the temporal ideological stretchings and note time passing.