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Hugh Merchant

After many promises, Barack Obama has still not made a visit to Australia and Absence responds to this in a most simple but provocative way. To a soundtrack of Obama’s voice we see empty Canberra streets instead of the President’s motorcade and the House of Representatives devoid of human presence. The disembodied voice of Obama addresses no-one. Obama’s ‘speech’ is in fact a very clever editing together of various voice grabs of the President. It is put together so seamlessly that while Australia is never mentioned, the phrases are both general and specific enough to suggest he is indeed addressing the Australian parliament and people and when coupled with scenes of our National Capital, the fable is convincing. It is slightly unsettling how the well-intentioned but ultimately predictable platitudes that characterise such public addresses can be so easily transferred between contexts.

Hugh Merchant, Absence, 2011, digital video, audio, 5:00 min