Abbas Akhavan (b. in Tehran, lives in Toronto), August 2006, 2006. Stereo, 7:43
Abbas Akhavan’s August 2006 begins with a fade in to a downward focus on pavement. The surrounding din of the crowds in the street is punctuated by successive explosions. The handheld camera shakes in symphony with the explosions and the increasing pace of the camera operator. Panning up to capture bystanders to the left and right of the now rapidly moving camera, the surroundings can be distinguished as a city street. A mother pushing a stroller races by. Disorienting as the initial perspective of the video is, the familiarity, bred by the twenty four hour news cycle, of civilian witness footage resonates immediately as the first documentation of conflict or catastrophe. As the camera turns upward to the night sky, the flashes of light accompanying the percussive explosions outline the buildings, reinforcing the impression of violence on a grand scale. Police officers stand tranquilly in the street and the distinguishable conversations of bystanders begin to undermine the initial sensation of panic and potential trauma. This is accompanied by a flagging of pace. The camera approaches and enters a crowd with their focus skyward. Fireworks can now be distinguished through the gathering and between the crowded urban horizon. As the sustained focus upon the fireworks becomes more intense and singular, surrounding sounds die down. The explosions of light and trails of smoke that mars the night sky become abstract and the upward focus fades to black.