Installation: 3 videos (á 4:04), appropriated and altered film poster, reprint of a postcard from 1860 (shows the appearance of the Lady of Guadalupe to Maximilian and Charlotte, the Emperor and Empress of Mexico)
In combination with an appropriated and altered film poster and a reprint of a postcard from 1860 showing Charlotte and Maximilian of Mexico, this installation presents an excerpt from the Mexican film “El signo de la muerte” (Chano Urueta, 1939) . The excerpt shows a parody of the historical figures Maximilian I of the House Habsburg-Lorraine and Charlotte of Belgium, the Emperor and Empress of Mexico (1864-67), whose parts are acted by the comedians Mario Moreno – Cantinflas – and Manuel Medel. For the installation this excerpt was dubbed into Spanish, German and English and altered with a different ending.
According to historical writings, Maximilian took at face value the statements of the French emperor Napoleon III: In Mexico, the peoples did not want anything else than a Habsburg as emperor. Maximilian allegedly did not know that Benito Juárez had already been proclaimed as president. Was it his will to govern, naivety, nescience or just ignorance to assume the imperial crown? Cantinflas and Medel present in their parody a couple that is solely indulged in themselves with no concerns whatsoever. With the help of costumes, the historical carriage at the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City Cantinflas and Medel make fun of them through drag performance and the comic use of language.
This parody was re-spoken in Spanish, German and English by the Mexican actor Héctor Dávila Cabrera in the role of Cantinflas/Charlotte and by myself in the role of Maximilian/Medel: The dialogue was dubbed in Spanish, where my accent and my insecurities can be heard, in German, a language that Hector Davila Cabrera does not speak and therefore is only able to repeat word by word, and in English, the global lingua franca, which we are only able to speak partially but that we must/can/shall apply regularly. The languages, therefore, are not independent but in a constellation to each other. They are characterized through a relation of translatability and un-translatability or say-ability and un-speakability. One of Cantinflas’ trademarks was his way to muddle and thereby to twist his opponent’s words. The end of the video presents this kind of wordplay – the act to cantinflear – as a revolutionary power…
Download Dramatis personae (pdf)
The installation was part of the exhibition “ABOUT TRANSLATION“ (Nina Höchtl & Anila Rubiku) curated by Karin Pernegger and Dagmar Höss, Gallery IG BILDENDE KUNST, Vienna (A), and “INQUIRY TOWARDS THE PRACTICE OF SECULAR MAGIC“ curated by LA Filmforum, pixel (+) frequency, Los Angeles (USA) (2011).