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Jananne Al-Ani
A Loving Man has a stronger narrative impetus, but what emerges is not exactly a story, not even five stories woven together; it is, rather, a slow accretion of comments, in which the non sequitors and lulling, repetitive cadences are as telling as the comments themselves.

The game kicks off with the phrase "A loving man", spoken by the first player, which her neighbour then repeats before adding "He looked so young and optimistic once". And so it goes on for fifteen minutes, each player adding a new phrase after repeating the previous comments in sequence.

The man, clearly, was known to all five women, whose observations are by turns searching, dreamy and bitter as they look back over the years spent without him. Resentment is followed by longing, empathy by near-indifference; the rotating logic of the game leaves no room for spurious coherence. The shifts in tone are crucial-they confound the viewer's efforts to construct a streamlined narrative and point to differences between the five women, though those differences are soon obscured as the comments multiply.

What the piece suggests, among other things, is that the experience of loss is neither wholly internal nor entirely collective. The family or community is, in Al-Ani's work, a kind of echo chamber in which events continue to resonate over a period of years. The game, with its ever-longer repetitions, cleverly suggests the passing of time while hinting that some memories are never laid to rest (the closing phrase is "He has broken my heart"). After all, the players remember their lines. By the end the litany is a long one, but they barely miss a beat. According to the old cliché, time heals; A Loving Man suggests otherwise. But by using the format of the game, it anchors separation in the quotidian and avoids the pathos of the lament.

Still from A Loving Man by Jananne Al-Ani, 1996-99
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