Can events be reconstructed on the basis of randomly selected data? asks Zbynek Baladran describing his video Working process, in which the artists archive of 16mm films is connected to the question of how to find the right orientation in databases. In all likelihood so-called objective interpretation exposed to the effect of subjective metaphors has serious flaws, Baladran concludes. The slippery nature of truth, the archaeologization of the present, and the arbitrary filtration of history through personal experience are at the core of the work of the artists in the exhibition, who take into account their historical and local context, and who express a social and political consciousness. They combine archival material and found images from different cultural sources through a process that entails the non-linear «excavation» of certain aspects of the history of their native country (or their reality in general). This is the place where I grew up we hear in Duncan Campbells Falls Burns Malone Fiddles. We don't know if they are the artists words that we hear or just another fictional voice. In spite of the fact that we are watching images from the archive of the Community of Belfast, where the artist grew up, the voice-over is Scottish rather than Irish, and instead of the media stereotyped images of rebellious Belfast youth, we watch people in their everyday lives. This perplexes the viewer who is no longer able to read the work in the specific political context of the situation in Northern Ireland.
Although Albert Hetas interventions take for granted his belief that The Republic of Kosova is real and it exists, and that it only lacks the recognition of the International Community, the provoking effect that the works have to different parties, challenges the distribution of truth and questions the dissolution of personal or communal identities into large ideas.
By photographing socialist design Romanian DACIA cars in front of Ceausescus era buildings in Bucharest, Yiannis Grigoriadis attributes the dynamics of social change faced by the countries of Eastern Europe adopting the gaze of an external neutral observer, who places his object of observation inside its real context but at the same time gives it a new ahistoric value.
Whether selecting and classifying data with unclear or lost contents and contexts (Baladran) or juxtaposing sounds and words taken out from their original context (Stephen Sutcliffe), those artists invent personal idioms and syntax of expressions and images challenging one-way reading of present and past facts alike. The process of those artists is not documentary; they rather adopt a para-journalistic approach, being aware that A picture of war is not war (Hito Steyerl, November), as well as, that a work of art is no more a construction than reality and history is. Sharing at times a fetishization of past documents and archives, and wavering between the subjective view of personal memory and the objective eye of the historiographer, the works in the exhibition often challenge the construed history. Looking ahead to the cliché statement the personal is the political, these artists do not aspire to write an alternative history but rather to point out the mere fact that any vestige of the past can be reframed and ideologized.
Springing from different local contexts of Europe these works are at the same time a Revolution in an Asynchronous Space 1 and an attempt towards Synchronizing Europe 2. In their essay Revolution in an Asynchronous Space Vit Havranek and Jano Mancuska are researching the revision and re-definition of construed history as a whole, pointing to the fact that All history is construed. By the artistic system.. They seek for their history a pluralistic asynchronous context, in which these two values will be natural and generally applied norms. We want to integrate to a history standing on new structural bases asynchronicity, parallelity, ephemerality, immediate context, arbitrary history.3 On the other hand, Ole Bouman asks how the synchronicity underlying the European community could be restored. (
) The deracination engendered by globalization conjures up a need for a new point of reference. (
) In Euro-nostalgia all you share is a romanticized memory, an absence, certainly not events. (
) A new experience must be created. Bouman calls for a re-evaluation of the time dimension in our society. For him art-specific time requires new makers, new forms, new organizations and a new public. (
) It concentrates not on form but on process. It develops activities that we no longer recognize by the place where they occur, but by the artistic effect they produce. In short, activities characterized not by borders but by border-crossing. Their focus is not on eternity but on history. This art is itself time, a creative moment in the ever so costly public time.4 Juxtaposing the two different claims for asynchronicity and synchronicity, as used in the above statements, with Ernst Blochs Erbe of discontinuity versus the Lukacsian totality, the historic debate of the German Marxist thinkers of the 20s-30s on realism as an aesthetic-political force seems not to have ended. The limits of the representational nature of art and the road to Agambens utopian Gesture (a moment of life subtracted from the context of individual biography as well as a moment of art subtracted from the neutrality of aesthetics) 5 are focal points raised by the work of the artists in this exhibition. The formation of new personal asynchronous histories through social-conscious art and the sharing of them in an art-specific time may be a way towards proposing a different reading of present and past alike or at least challenging the existing ones. After all, art is not about the formation of a new social body, but about the dissolution of the social body and the social bond. It is not about coming together but coming apart. It is not about coherence, but about discontinuity. Political critique may involve illustrating what we already know, but it reveals the complexities of an apparent surface, and also, of its apparent critique. It is insufficient to reduce our understanding of a political work to a series of effects or even to ornament.6
These are statements by artists who do not wish to represent things, whether it is their native country, a national art policy or an active local art scene. This is not an exhibition of political art but simply one of art, which is being produced now in different local contexts. An art that is about today and which is made today.
Vit Havranek, Jano Mancuska, Revolution in an Asynchronous Space, Springerin, April 2004.
Ole Bouman, Synchronizing Europe, in Hlavajova Maria and Winder Will (ed.), Who if not we
?, Artimo/Gijs Stork, Amsterdam, 2004.
Gesture is the name of this intersection between life and art, act and power, general and particular, text and execution. It is a moment of life subtracted from the context of individual biography as well as a moment of art subtracted from the neutrality of aesthetics: it is pure praxis. (Agamben, G. 2000, Means Without End: Notes on Politics, Theory of Bounds, V.201, University of Minnesota Press, as quoted by Hito Steyerl in Manifesta 5 Catalogue)
Marta Kuzma, In the age of political reproduction, Flash Art 244, Oct. 2005.