»And I saw light in the form of a river blazing with radiance.« This is Dante’s description of what he perceived as he entered the tenth circle of heaven in paradise. Throughout history, light phenomena have been interpreted as religious visions. Others explain what for some is a spiritual accomplishment following hours of seclusion, as a physiological reaction following a period of reduced stimulation of the sense of sight.
‘Prisoner’s cinema’ is the term used to refer to the varicolored play of light which prison inmates – but also pilots and long-distance truck drivers – have reported on. They see it when they gaze into a visually unmodulated and virtually unchanging environment for long stretches at a time. What they are actually experiencing is a phenomenon determined not by the outside world, but by the brain. This is how the brain reacts to an ‘undersupply’ of visual stimulae. ‘Prisoner’s cinema’ is also presumed to be a scientific explanation for apparitions.
Melvin Moti’s 35mm film The Prisoner’s Cinema (2008) forms the core of the solo exhibition When No Means On, which – on view at the MMK Zollamt from 17 October 2008 to 18 January 2009 – will present a number of works never yet shown in Germany. Film is Moti’s primary medium. Recently, however, he has begun showing his films in conjunction with works in other media. When No Means On will continue this approach. Apart from two films, the exhibition will include photographs, prints, a text-based work and an installation in the public realm. When No Means On is a reflection of Melvin Moti’s interest in states of non-productivity. On various levels, the works are concerned with the reduction of visual information and the reactions to that reduction. The Prisoner’s Cinema, for example, is far more than the illustration of a neurological phenomenon. As we watch the film, we begin to wonder how much of what we see is generated in our inner worlds, and how much outside of ourselves. Is it really all happening on the screen, or are we encountering the very phenomenon the film tells us about? No Show (2004) looks at the theme of vision and imagination from a different angle. Making reference to a historical event that took place at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg during World War II, the film revolves around an exhibition which only appears to the eye through a conscious act of imagination. Again and again, the historical emerges in entirely unexpected moments, like a ghost, in Melvin Moti's works. Within each of the subjects explored, imagination is stretched to the outer limits of human capacity and proposes a radical, yet playful, apprehension of a possible alternative.
Melvin Moti, born in Rotterdam in 1977, studied at the Academie Voor Beeldende Vorming in Tilburg from 1995 to 1999 and at De Ateliers in Amsterdam from 1999 to 2001. His works have been shown at the Frac Champagne in Reims, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Kunstverein Köln and at the 5th Berlin Biennale. He lives in Rotterdam.