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Quantum Political Feedback

Is a conceptual art film that was created by Edward Akrout, Jakob S. Boeskov, and produced by Shelby Welinder.

Chosen in the official selection for festival Les Rencontres Internationales, the film made its international debut (in association with the Pompidou Center) at Le Carreau du Temple in Paris. Following its premiere, the film opened in Berlin at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. It will next screen in Antwerp at Het Bos from November 22-25, 2018. 

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Artists Edward Akrout and Jakob S. Boeskov sit in a Chinatown loft. It’s spring in New York and still bitterly cold.

The space is Boeskov’s. He’s had it for nearly 8 years, well before the area started to gentrify. Given his line of work, the warehouse has been entirely built out and redesigned, in a Scandinavian minimalism that has somehow managed to maintain remnants of the neighborhood’s characteristic grit and grime.

The two bounce from narratives of Nabokov and Lars Von Trier to postmodernism and the Third Reich. They’re sensitive intellectuals with wonderfully wacky ideas and often offensive truths. Akrout, 35, is a Parisian. Boeskov, 45, is Danish. Together, the two men make for an entertaining pair.

They met in the city, right around the corner from where we currently sit, roughly a year ago, although they’re obviously kindred spirits. Akrout’s medium is contemporary abstract, varying from oil paintings to ink drawings, while Boeskov’s is conceptual—videos and performance pieces. They teamed up to create their first joint venture, titled Quantum Political Feedback, which debuted last week at the festival Les Rencontres Internationales in Paris. In association with the Pompidou Centre, the film screened alongside a series of art videos at Le Carreau du Temple.

Quantum Political Feedback combines pseudoscience with repetition to investigate the connection between technology and truth. An E-meter is exploited as a crude polygraph machine; its function is to “detect lies” in order to monitor a statement’s progression from lie to truth. In the video, statements are read to and repeated by the participants, a man and a woman. Through this continuous repetition, the subjects gradually build a relationship with the spoken words. These combined elements result in a mettre en abîme, the transformation of a political affirmation into a belief.

The video opens on an E-meter, its readings fluctuating back and forth. There’s street noise in the background. A test subject comes into focus with the back of Akrout’s head in frame, blurred, Akrout makes a declaration which the subject repeats. The pace of the dialogue starts to slowly increase. Akrout whispers some remarks and shouts others, responding to the emotions the subjects show. The rise and fall of the hand on the E-meter reveals that certain statements strike a chord with the participants. For the male, it’s being told “I need to become rich,” which subtly moves the hand towards affirmation and belief when he repeats it. For the female, it’s hearing and repeating the words “I am no longer important” that brings her to tears, in an emotional and climatic end to the film.

When asking where the concept originated, Boeskov focuses first on the prevalence of fact checkers, who “supposedly protect us from disinformation, manipulation, and fake news.” However, the truth, he says, is under attack: “Facts have now been put on trial, and their power has been challenged.” Akrout adds, “Individual expression has reached a paroxysm and is now stuck within its own echo chamber.” Quantum Political Feedback exposes that the world inside our heads has become more tangible and attractive than reality. Never before have our personal experiences been so similar to others, yet never have we felt so isolated.

Words by Shelby Welinder