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Trope of Struggle is a cinematic fight that pits artist and professional stuntwoman Helga Wretman against a male antagonist, played by curator Nadim Samman. Through a looped sequence of pulp violence which seems to escalate interminably, driving towards a concluding blow that never actually comes, each protagonist pursues a triumph deferred. Lacking a background narrative, the viewer comes to the scene without a clear view of the rationale for the pair’s conflict. As questions and tensions mount, the film provokes a desire to ascribe responsibility and identification – such as interpreting the scene through the familiar lens of gendered violence. Perhaps, however, the scenario dramatizes professional relationship dynamics? Whatever the frame, or the story, it seems that the ultimate struggle is between the viewer and the film, when it comes to the question of sense making. Is it possible to look at the action without positing an explanation? Or to look away without picking a side? Marshalling the contemporary taste for violence as entertainment, toying with subconscious sympathies, playing with role-play, and the attraction of illusion, Trope of Struggle is commands our attention.
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