Jaws of death: the Jarman prize winner on her excruciating look at dying in the digital age

By Adrian Searle

Oreet Ashery, who has just won the film-making award, talks about asking Syrian refugees to converse in a darkened room – and her frequently hilarious examination of today's death industry

‘For a long time,” says Oreet Ashery, “I was motivated by utter rage.” The winner of the 2017 Derek Jarman film-making award is remembering growing up in Jerusalem, where she was born in 1966. “I had rage about everything,” she recalls, “and got involved in activism.” It's a spirit that lives on in her art which, as well as film-making, spans photography, performance, workshop, text and music.

We are speaking shortly before her Jarman win is made public. Ashery has just staged, in the run-up to the announcement, a short fragment of her ongoing project NoNothing Salons in the Dark, a series of collaborative storytelling works, at the Whitechapel gallery, London. The fragment contained stories of Syrian refugees and the people trying to help them, recorded in a darkened room in Thessaloniki, Greece, earlier this year. “I was interested in how people work together,” she explains, “telling stories in a darkened room. Even if no one speaks, that is a story, too.”

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