Augustijn is the title of a multichannel installation by artist Omar A. Chowdhury, based on his real-life chance encounter with a young Belgian man called Stijn, short for Augustijn, and the relationship the two have developed since then. The charismatic Stijn is a recent convert to Islam, and his devotion comes to the fore when he discusses his religious beliefs against the backdrop of his hometown, the post-industrial Flemish city of Aalst. Chowdhury’s personal journey in the opposite direction—from a Muslim background to atheism—forms an additional layer in this portrayal of Stijn, and informs their exchanges and mutual fascination. Yet where does the line run between life and art? What does it mean for the subject of the artist’s work to be represented by his autonomous actions?
Working with artist and filmmaker Omer Fast as his mentor, Chowdhury tackles these essential questions with the tools available to the medium of Moving Image. The nonlinear narrative becomes unstable, and sequences begin to repeat themselves with minor variations. Can the viewer still suspend disbelief when the lines that Stijn reads are obviously scripted? In addition, Chowdhury and Stijn probethe conditions that influence the distinction between actions and performance. Stijn’s Adhan—the call to prayer—will resonate across the HKW at regular intervals, challenging our neatly defined delineations, and enabling unmediated encounters.
Film still: Omar A. Chowdhury