Ewan Macbeth

documentair - film - fotografie - educatie - media - installatie - video

I am an artist working with moving image and photography whose work explores the unreality of unaccountable power. I think we live in a world where media, corporate and state interests are so intertwined that the borders between them are seemingly non-existent. My work explores how, working together, these powerful forces shape and control perceptions of reality.

I try to tell stories which function on a historical, philosophical and psychological level. These works take on their subject matter, which I find deeply serious and important, with an absurdist and satirical tone. Using uncanny visual metaphors my work considers the increasing inability to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.

In my research I investigate archives, read theory, write narrative scripts, collect and make photographs. I usually seek a specific event, image or moment in order to later represent a more universal story. The final outcome of my work has included photography, installation and posters as well as single- and multi-channel videos.

Prison with Songbirds (2022) - ‘Prison with Songbirds’ tells the true story of my father’s wrongful imprisonment in an unnamed country. The story cuts between two different narratives of this event: The first narrative is based on an Amnesty International report written by him upon release, detailing his experience: the conditions of the prison, the inmates he shared a cell with, and the torture they were subjected to. I rewrote this text to remove specificity of time and location, in an attempt to tell a Kafkaesque tale of nightmare bureaucracy and a faceless state. This story is visualised with a unique 35mm animation process invented by artist Ugo Petronin. The second narrative is a dream-like story, regarding an unlikely bond he formed on release with two men, one of whom had coincidentally also been released from prison on that same day. This story follows a road trip where they go to a luxurious restaurant and dine together on songbirds. - a traditional meal eaten by covering one’s face from God with a napkin. This uniquely decadent meal, which is the height of animal cruelty, is used as a metaphor for torture and how governments play God with people’s lives. ‘Prison with Songbirds’ uses absence as a narrative tool: the prison is never shown, the country and characters are never named. Through framing this story within an unspecified yet contemporary environment, my goal was to avoid making a touristic work and create a sense of urgency about the human condition versus forces of power that continue to dominate today. For the audience, I hope, the subject matter has a broad and international appeal, touching on timely issues of freedom-oppression, social trust-isolation, and the impact of tyrannical state power. . Supported by: CBK, Mondriaan Fonds, Droom en Daad, Amarte Fonds and EYE Filmmuseum
Divided Together (2018) - password:lies “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ” ― George Orwell, Politics and the English Language (1946) Divided Together portrays the leader of an ideologically ambiguous government while he has an awkward and leering interaction with a make-up artist who is preparing him for his televised address to a newly-invaded country. The work deconstructs the spectacle of the political arena to show how power plays out on a micro and macro level. If politicians are actors, the obscene is their mise-en-scène. Supported by EYE Filmmuseum
I Declare a Thumb War (2020) - password:red123. I Declare a Thumb War is a re-enactment of a propaganda photograph found on an official military webpage. The image, which depicts a soldier playing a friendly ‘thumb war’ game with a child, appears in different versions throughout the internet; all uploaded by official military sources. The work re-stages this absurd motif - imagining it as a veteran’s trauma. Shot within a business that sells sand in Europe, the work attempts to satirise Hollywood orientalism and subvert the language of contemporary war cinema. This repetitive act, with its absence of violence and facts, questions the ideology of endless conflict. Supported by Mondriaan Fonds and Creative Scotland
Men Sitting in Chairs (2021) - Art Rotterdam installation of the video works 'I Declare a Thumb War' and 'Divided Together'.
Mass Production (2016) - Mass Production is a video installation that shows four perspectives of a newspaper printing press, shot in unbroken long takes. Filmed within Euronews, the largest newspaper printing factory in the world, this set is just a small fraction of the News Corp empire, which is owned by billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch. This printing press, which is seen producing the Financial Times, is also used to make publications such as The Daily Telegraph and The Sun. Over the course of the 15-minute video installation we witness the making of 60,000 newspapers. In order to both appreciate and reduce its size and power, the factory is portrayed in a series of abstract details.