Video Art Programme:  
Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani “Freedom of Movement” 2019

Fischer und el Sani “Freedom of Movement” 2019

Fischer & el Sani, Freedom of Movement, 2019, HD Video, 29 min., Film Still © Fischer & el Sani und VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

The film refers to the first Olympic victory by a black African in Rome in 1960. At that time, the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila ran a marathon barefoot.  Thus, he became a sporting legend as well as a symbol of an Africa liberating itself from colonialism. Fischer & el Sani have had this largely forgotten victory re-enacted by a contemporary athlete, also barefoot but without an audience. The course ends amidst Rome’s rationalist architecture of the EUR compound built in 1938. Here, the contemporary runner encounters a group of refugees and immigrants who are singing a song demanding their right to freedom of movement and to be accepted in another country.

The film consists of three chapters. In the first chapter, sequences of the nocturnal barefoot run overlap with historical film footage, with archive material about the construction of fascist monumental architecture, such as the model city EUR, which was built under Mussolini, as was the Foro Italico sports complex in Rome. The second chapter shows the re-enactment of the historic marathon in the streets of Rome today, performed by a black runner. In the third chapter, a group of African refugees climb the stairs of the Colosseo Quadrato in the EUR area and sing as a choir on the roof about their own identity and about the country they now live in.

With Freedom of Movement, Fischer & el Sani explore the complexity of ideological, colonial and architectural implications of Abebe Bikila’s symbolic Olympic marathon victory and its impact up to this day.

Nina Fischer (*1965 in Emden) and Maroan el Sani (*1966 in Duisburg) have been working together since 1993 in film and photography projects that focus primarily on urban spaces and collective memory. As a duo, they have participated in numerous international exhibitions, including Manifesta 13, Marseille 2020, Videonale, Bonn 2019, Media City Seoul Biennale 2014, 2012, Istanbul Biennale 2007, Liverpool Biennale 1999, and the Berlin Biennale 1998. Fischer and el Sani live and work in Berlin.