Margreiter’s work points to the complexity of site and locational identity and the polemics associated with authenticity and film.

Dorit Margreiter’s work starts with the medium itself. In a recent piece, Short Hills (2000), she explores the place of television soap operas in the lives of her Chinese-American aunt and cousin. For her aunt, who left Hong Kong in 1972 long before it was returned to China, a soap opera set in the city provides her with a ‘window’ to the world. She claims: ‘This way I have the feeling that I know what’s going on there’. The fictional story, because of its location, becomes a foil to the imagined ‘real’; she relishes glimpses of the city’s streets and bridges, and its new airport. The aunt’s disembodied communication with Hong Kong is, however, defined by the seductive and imprecise medium of television. Margreiter’s work explores the way that, increasingly, her aunt’s television set dominates even the design of her home.

Liverpool is a chameleon. Its streets and buildings have appeared as the backdrop in films as diverse as In the Name of the Father (2003) (starring Daniel Day-Lewis),The Hunt for Red October (1990) (starring Sean Connery) and The 51st State (2001) (starring Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle). In none of these films does the city appear as itself. Its faded neo-classical grandeur makes it the perfect ‘double’ for cities such as Dublin, Paris, Moscow and early-twentieth-century Chicago or New York. The city’s ‘other life’ as a stage-set, however, raises the question: what defines place?

It is this question that Vienna-based artist Dorit Margreiter addresses in her work for International 04 entitled Grandeur et décadence d’un petit commerce de cinema (2004). Her starting point is film footage of Liverpool by Alexandre Promio, itinerant cameraman for the inventors of cinematography, the The Lumière brothers. Taken on his way to show Lumière brothers films in Ireland in 1897, the resulting short films, collected as Scenes of Liverpool, show the city in its prime. In its infancy in 1897, the moving image was extraordinarily powerful, its mimesis of reality seemingly faultless.

For International 04 Margreiter has remade the The Lumière brothers film footage of Liverpool, but in this case showed Liverpool as Dublin. Shifting the emphasis from the original documentary to Liverpool’s dubious cinematic career as a stand-in, she filmed the transformation of the city from Liverpool to Dublin, including the set-building required. Her video peeled away the artifice of the place/performance, exposing the fact that ‘location’ in all film, whether for television or cinema, is performed and manufactured. The architectural ‘facts’ of a place and the seductive mimetic qualities of film suggest ‘reality’, but ‘reality’ in film is constructed.

Margreiter’s work points to the complexity of site and locational identity and the polemics associated with authenticity and film.

Grandeur et Décadence d’un Petit Commerce de Cinéma,
2-channel projection
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool



The Austrian Cultural Forum, London