By producing work that lectures but does not necessarily converse with its viewers, DinéYazhí offers visitors a taste of Native peoples’ colonial experience: forever on the receiving end of (often unsolicited) information, of change, of aggression.
Early in the hour-long film, “The Judicial Murder of Jakub Mohr,” the central protagonist, a patient in a psychiatric ward, shouts in Czech, “My words are not my own!” [“Moje slova nejsou moje!”]. He is on Kafka-esque trial for saying out loud what is visibly true: a series of wires—“Threads!” rebukes the prosecutor—extend from his back and connect to an ominous box, which is held by a man who in turn dictates in whispers what the patient says. At one point, Mohr lists to the jury in indignation what he has become: a gramophone, a radio, an instrument. He is something between human self and machine, a cyborg, his agency mediated by the state and psychiatric institution.
There is a particular magnetism in things. I feel the way they cling to me especially now, as I travel from one country to another by train, wanting nothing (I tell myself) but to travel lightly, and instead weighted down by what I cannot throw away. Even as I am having an “experience” (travel), I am tethered to my objects. There are the essentials, or what must come with—my dog, for instance, a toothbrush, underwear, and some clothes—but a lot more of the inessentials: three dog toys, a pair of yellowed goggles, a cigar box full of art supplies that includes two pairs of scissors plus an X-Acto knife, a curved sewing needle and bits of ribbon, thoroughly read copies of the London Review of Books, and a board game with instructions only in Spanish, a language I do not read. The last item I managed to offload onto a friend I met up with in Croatia. A best friend, to be sure (who else takes on the burden of your things?), who begrudgingly agreed to bring this and a heavy, hardcover exhibition catalogue back to the United States ahead of me.