Summary

Sebastian Diaz Morales was born in Argentina and studied both in Argentina and at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Morales’s video work blurs fiction and documentary genres and has been screened extensively at film festivals as well as in a gallery context. With its spliced footage and stills and jumbled observations, his work follows the tradition of Latin-American narrative film. Morales plays with the structure of narrative within his work, typically documenting and constructing journeys that explore social and political concerns.

The number in the title of this work, 15,000,000 Parachutes, refers to the population of Jakarta, Indonesia. It is estimated that around sixty percent of these 15,000,000 inhabitants are unemployed. Morales’s video installation is an allegory, telling the story of one man, a ‘parachutist’, as a metaphor for the plight of those unemployed. The cyclical structure of the narrative mirrors the cyclical life of an anonymous would-be worker. Each morning, the voiceover tells us, the parachutist wakes up, finds the taps at his sink do not work so washes his face in bath water, and summons the courage to ‘attempt another jump’. These jumps are made from the national monument of Jakarta, Monas, an obelisk topped with a gold flame, which was built in the 1960s and 1970s to symbolize Indonesia’s independence.

The narrative delivered over the images in 15,000,000 Parachutes complicates the status of the film. While the images document the social poverty in Jakarta, Morales presents the story in a way that is surreal and fantastical. The parachutes that are launched throughout the film are in fact miniatures, weighted down with toy figurines. An earlier work, The Persecution of the White Car (2001) shot in Durban, South Africa apparently focuses on the ubiquity of white-coloured cars while documenting the chaos of the city. Overlaid with a conversation between a couple commenting on the film itself, it is also a reflection on the constructed nature of narrative and the representation of reality.

This work was filmed within a period of three weeks in an area on the outskirts of Jakarta. Morales later montaged together segments of video in a way that maintains the immediacy of the medium. The roughness of Morales’ film adds to the urgency of the story of Jakarta’s inhabitants struggle for survival and dignity in the face of devastating unemployment.

Tate’s copy of this work is number 2 in an edition of 5 with one artist’s proof.

Further reading:
Tele-journeys, exhibition catalogue, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Mass., USA, 2002
Wim Peeters, In A Not So Distant Future, exhibition catalogue, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Netherlands
Gregor Muir, ‘The Documentary Style’, Flash Art, February 2003, pp.78-81

Maria Bilske
May 2005