Opere iscritte al Premio Ora

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Karen Sztajnberg Karen

Place of birth: Rio de Janeiro
Date of birth: 09/10/1972
works and lives at Rio de Janeiro


In the film world, room tone refers to the recording of a specific silence that can later help with the sound editing of a given sequence, patching up rough spots in the dialog.

When my friend and I first landed at this sporting event, we too hit a rough spot, on many levels. Our attempt to make a documentary film about the people involved in making pole dancing an Olympic sport was on the skids, and our subjects recalcitrant as they realized none of them was the sole center of our intended film.

Eventually, that project went by the wayside, but I never forgot how attending this event for three days straight made us feel. At first, we were aghast with the level of physical adulteration these athletes achieved, blurring gender traits, and limiting suppleness of movement.  Beyond that, it was impossible to ignore the pervasive use of smart phone photography and social media posting.  To see and be seen, was done militantly and adamantly.

By the third day, a sense of strangeness had dissolved into normalcy. The physical prowess, one-track mindedness of the athletes and the posing frenzy just become second-nature, much too fast. That too generated enormous discomfort: the ease with which we entered a room and adapted all too quickly to its tone, one of extraordinarily labored physicality.

This digital video and audio immersion is an attempt to reprocess this experience with a little more distance and creative digestion. When capturing and posting self-referenced images become the main event, what does that experience say about our culture’s veering visual primacy? How does being in confined quarters, and voluntarily playing audience to exceptional physiques reshape an average person’s scopophilia? What need is being satisfied as one diligently settles for either end of the spectatorship versus self-display dyad?

These are some of the questions posed by this installation. The audio problematizes this contemplation by making use of three cycles to alternately remit us to the synthetic aspect of the original event, the distancing silence, and the bland sounds of the domestic, mundane part of life which comprises a heavy chunk of our existence, as it provides respite for the demanding scope of such spectacular  events.

I encourage you to take in the installation with whatever sound cycle you entered, then step outside, and return to catch it afresh, with a new sound cycle to see what it does for you.


With their backs turned away from the camera to offer anonymity and to optimize a contemplative state, subjects of this video art-installations replied to an open call and spoke freely about a specific episode where they experienced a sense of inadequacy.

The Narrative of Inadequacy aims to recover the value of experiences gone awry and highlights the edifying value of organizing these musings into a narrative whole. 

When I set out to shoot the first segment of this project in New York, here’s what I offered as a synopsis to my subjects:          

 "A friend recently asked me “where is the sublime of failure?’ The Narrative of Inadequacy delves into the unpredictability of physical intimacy, an experience that goes beneath and possibly antagonizes much of our social veneer and beckons us to wrangle with that part of ourselves which remains immune to cognitive organization."

 After shooting in New York, I collected similar statements in Istanbul. These cities yielded vastly different and culturally charged notions of inadequacy. It became clear to me that specific locus and cultural mores thoroughly informs our notions of inadequacy.

With that in mind, I would like to continue to explore this theme, excavating to arrive at what lies in the core of fulfillment and lack thereof, as I continue to hear and frame these inherently subjective stories.