Mike Crane (2015 Visual Arts) premieres the first two episodes of the six-part teledrama, UHF42, in the Berlinale Forum Expanded exhibition (curated by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Anselm Franke and Nanna Heidenreich, on view through February 20th). UHF42 is set entirely in the studios of Wattan TV, the longest running 24-hour news station in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Each episode portrays one day of a continuous work week, blending scripted performances with documentary scenes of office life.
Wattan TV has been subject to multiple raids over the years due to their investigative reports of corruption in the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Military, significantly reducing their broadcasting capabilities to a limited audience. The station has resorted to online video platforms as a public library for their broadcasts, effectively decentralizing their archives in the wake of these debilitating raids. Taking this transition as a starting point, UHF42 follows the station’s crew as they act out a report on the topic of wages, debt and alleged credit-bubble in Ramallah. The city has experienced a surge in private bank loans and real estate investments over the past decade, forming a cosmopolitan island of prosperity. Parallel to these developments, Wattan produced the first dramatized news program of its kind in the Middle East, focusing on the criminal justice system in the West Bank through the genre conventions of a procedural crime drama. Following a successful three-season run, the show is currently being used as an educational tool by the legal studies departments in a number of Palestinian universities.
For the production of UHF42, Mike Crane worked with the writers, camera operators and performers of this program to script a new series about the labor that goes into maintaining Wattan’s historic frequency, UHF 42. By adapting the procedural aesthetics of television broadcasting in a period of rapid development, UHF42 turns the cameras inward as the employees stage their own investigation into the structures of public and private debt under military occupation. Each episode is presented on freestanding viewing platforms, which are being debuted episodically across multiple exhibitions throughout the year. Following the premiere of the first two episodes in the Berlinale exhibition, additional episodes will be screened on Greek national television in September as part of documenta 14. Mike Crane is currently seeking the appropriate venue to host the final installation of all six episodes.