Candice Breitz’s Love Story (2016) draws attention to individual experiences of the worldwide refugee crisis, weighing them against the power of celebrity appeal. This immersive video installation juxtaposes first-person stories told by displaced persons with re-performances of their narratives by two Hollywood stars. The work suspends viewers between the gritty firsthand accounts of people who would typically remain nameless and faceless in the media, and an accessible drama featuring two actors who are the very embodiment of visibility.
To create Love Story, Breitz conducted interviews with six individuals who have fled their countries in response to oppressive conditions: Sarah Ezzat Mardini, a competitive swimmer from war-torn Syria; José Maria João, a former child soldier from Angola; Mamy Maloba Langa, a survivor from the Democratic Republic of Congo; Shabeena Francis Saveri, a transgender activist from India; Luis Ernesto Nava Molero, a political dissident from Venezuela; and Farah Abdi Mohamed, an atheist from Somalia. In the first room of the installation, these stories of forced migration are channeled on a large screen by actors Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore, here cast as themselves: two actors. In a second space, the original interview footage appears on six monitors, with each of the refugees recounting their own experiences.
Making its US debut at the MFA, Love Story builds on Breitz’s long-term investigation of the “attention economy” in our media-saturated culture. Her multi-channel installations, such as Queen (A Portrait of Madonna) (2005), explore how identification with fictional characters and celebrity figures runs parallel to widespread indifference to the plight of those facing real-world adversity.