Plate It With Silver is shot in the Strait of Hormuz, a historically and geopolitically significant passage and trade rout in the Persian Gulf. The film follows a parallel flow of video and audio recordings captured during the artists’ encounters along the shores and port towns of the Strait. In the film the traffic of smuggled goods between the north and south of the Strait, mostly of household electronics, clothing and cigarets, is juxtaposed with an old cult of spirit possession still practiced throughout the Gulf. In this cult bodies are believed to become possessed by certain ‘winds’ who come from surrounding lands and waters, some as far as the eastern coast of Africa, going back to the deep trade routes. Meeting their demands will often pacify these winds who then stay inside the possessed subject for life, making him or her member of a community named the “air people”. The film connects these practices in that they broach a clandestine or unworldly micro network into the existing geopolitical and historical configuration of the Gulf, a network through which various unofficial material and immaterial exchanges, conducts, embodiments and movements can take place.
Central to the film is a long sequence at a silversmith’s workshop which follows the plating process of a rattan stick. Rattan sticks are often used during the healing rituals of the possession cult as a mediating device between the wind and the possessed, while it is the wind that defines the details of each plating. By depicting the melting, hammering, flattening and carving of silver all the way to the plating of the rattan stick, this sequence demonstrates the absorption of silver or its material value into the immateriality of magic where it obtains other properties associated with the world of the winds. If illicit exchange of material goods operate on the dark side of the global market, the ‘alchemy’ of wind possession transmutes this economy and the cruelty of its geography into a meta-historical site of negotiable arrangement and affects.