Artist Adam Khalil on Why Irony Has a Radical Potential | Louisiana Channel



“A lot of our work takes the approach of a ‘serious joke’ – our history is so traumatic to unpack and still lingers on to this day in many different ways. To push back against that with rage and humor is the kind of tone that makes sense to us”. Meet Adam Khalil, part of The New Red Order, a public secret society that works with new strategies to promote indigenous futures.

As an artist, Adam Khalil works in different collaborative constellations. “All of our collaborators have a healthy distrust of documentary film. Especially as Indigenous artists, knowing the history of documentary and the proximity documentary has to objectivity and how much of a fallacy that is. Because whatever is not in the frame is somehow not present in what’s being distributed”.

Adam Khalil is part of the Ojibway tribe, all across the Great Lakes region in the Midwest, USA, and focused around the Great Lakes Khalil’s specific tribe is right on the border between the US and Canada. “I was taught never to think about the audience for a while, just to express yourself and put those things out there. That always felt wrong because it doesn’t exist until the audience consumes it. In terms of production and consumption, I am honest with myself and others about that apparatus,” Khalil says. “Nine out of ten people don’t go to the office the next day and tell someone; I saw a great, mid-length experimental documentary last night. They just say they saw a movie.”

“I think across all of the practices, we’re constantly thinking of the audience and trying to create situations where the audience feels unsettled because the content is severe, but there’s a humorous tone. I think that goes back to where my brother and I grew up. This role of the trickster is important to Anishinaabe or Ojibway cosmology and identities. That to see the world upside down might make more sense, or something akin to the idea of a sacred clown. This approach provides an ability to talk about difficult things, but in a way that maybe people can hear them.”

“And I think satire, irony, and parody, I feel they get a bad name these days because of those kinds of Gen X hangover around certain ideas of a lack of engagement, or even nihilism. But I think at its core; irony has a radical potential because when does irony stop becoming real or start becoming real,” Adam Khalil states.
“We talk about trojan horse filmmaking, where it looks like a movie, it feels like a movie, but inside of it is this radical potential for different kinds of discourses.”

Adam Khalil (b. 1988), a member of the Ojibway tribe, is an artist whose practice attempts to subvert traditional forms of image-making through humor, relation, and transgression. Khalil is a core contributor to New Red Order and a co-founder of COUSINS Collective. His collaborative work includes ‘Empty Metal,’ 2018, ‘Never Settle: The Program,’ 2018 – ongoing, ‘Nosferasta: First Bite,’ 2022. Khalil’s work has been exhibited/screened at the MoMA, Sundance Film Festival, Tate Modern, HKW, Toronto Biennial 2019 and Whitney Biennial 2019, Gasworks in London, Spike Island in Bristol, and Artists Space in NYC.

Christian Lund interviewed Adam Khalil at the Art Hub Copenhagen in January 2022.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edit: Johan von Bülow & Marie Estrup
Produced by Christian Lund

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022.

Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.

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