A testimony is an account of oneself given to an other. Its essence is not the narration, it is not the description, the information. Its essence is in the act as such. The self presents itself as a testimony – experience, life, touch, sight, smell, feelings, desires, – as both themself and story, to others.
“Is our relation with the other a letting be? Is not the independence of the other achieved through his or her role as one who is addressed? Is the person to whom we speak understood beforehand in his being? Not at all. The other is not first an object of understanding and then an interlocutor. The two relations are merged. In other words, addressing the other is inseparable from understanding the other. To understand a person is already to speak to him.” (Levinas, in Entre nous: on thinking-of-the-other, 1998)
Beyond the Square is a collaborative documentary project that engages its participants in shared narratives and testimonies of time, place and themselves. It aims to construct an experience of diverse ideas and stories brought together in a visual, social and sensorial representation, and self-representation, of a rich multiplicity of identity and of voices.
During the events leading to February 2014 in Kyiv, there was an explosion of international media reports on Ukraine. The visual representations of conflict have their own language, a language which is understood, replayed and re-enacted in the visual vocabulary of revolution inscribed in the bodies, gestures and poses of the people. Identity is everything but being a subject of recognition is at the same time being shaped by the norms of that recognition. When we face a picture of a person, whose voice is that artefact an expression of? Who shapes the knowledge that is constructed about who we are and our aspirations? Who tells the stories of ourselves? The media iconography of conflict articulates a narrow narrative very well but it is often a language of generic motivations, some times of misrepresentation, and which many times wedges a distance of understanding between audience and the typification of the other.
The title “Beyond the Square” attempts to signal a double meaning. On one hand to go beyond that visual grammar of conflict, the imagery of Independence Square that was so re-iterated in the media. On the other, a going beyond into the aftermath of those events. To take a sense of feelings, hopes, desires, fears and aspirations, a view on the present days of Ukraine and its people, their place, their stories and identities.
To reflect on the fragmentary nature of this engagement, of the multiplicity of experiences, the medium of this project is not a singular object, a film, a book, instead it is this growing collage of materials, testimonies and different kinds of contributions from every participant, sharing an equal ground in the voicing of the project. A central point in this project is to explore representation, self-representation, testimony, and memory. So the juxtaposition of different elements is key, such as different modes of text (written by the participants or by myself), images, films, and audio and video interviews.
A testimony is a story of ourselves and our experiences, it is an embodiment of memory, it is an account of oneself – experience, life, touch, sight, smell, feelings, desires – given to an other. Thus, the idea of collaboration is at the heart of this project. Sharing and engaging with every interlocutor as such. Every moment in this project is a reflection on and of the situations and encounters that were shared, a sensorial sequence of images, films and words that, rather than condense it, means to multiply the possibility of meaning – Beyond the Square is a reflexive dialogue from the very start, a creation of something together.
Manuel Francisco Sousa, December 5, 2014
Beyond the Square is a collaborative documentary project by Manuel Francisco Sousa with Mariana Panchuk, Marta Vaz, Natalie Samovich, Oksana, Evgeniya Pavlenko and her students, Vitaliy Gorduz, Mykyta Gapchuk, Serj Korenev, Sergeiy Yakutovich, Elena Fadeeva, Pinhas Fishel, Irina Dzhus and Sasha Sukhetska, Nataliya Andreeva, Viktoria Shibistaya, Roman, Larissa, Alexeiy Imas and Inna Imas and Maximillian and Eric, Anton Ovchinnikov and his students, Anton Safovov, Viktor Zotov, Valentina Masalitina, Katerina Lisunova, Alena Vezza and Yaroslava Chumachenko.
The cameras used in this project were kindly provided by Sony Portugal.