Identity is Uncertainty
On the socio-historical constitution of the present
Identity is Uncertainty
On the socio-historical constitution of the present
AFTER WATER DAMAGE THE EXHIBITION WILL OPEN AGAIN ON TUE 4 February 2020!
Anna Dasović · Lena Ditte Nissen · KURS (Mirjana Radovanović and Miloš Miletić) · Airi Triisberg
An exhibition in the context of the Fellowship Program for Art and Theory 2019-20
curated by Andrei Siclodi
Duration of the exhibition: until 27 February 2020
Updated opening hours: Tue, Wed 14:00 – 16:00 | Thu 10:00 – 16:00 and by appointment.
Closed: 0n 20 February 2020
The exhibition Identity is Uncertainty. On the socio-historical Constitution of the Present shows current works by the Fellows and in the context of their respective projects in Büchsenhausen. The title of the exhibition deliberately evokes the wording of a reference book title – a book, however, that neither exists nor is planned. Its intention is to emphasize rather the discursive claim of an artistic practice with a socio-critical connotation that questions common interpretations of political notions and as a result, also gives way to new knowledge insights, contributing to an altered understanding of our present time.
On that note, the currently omnipresent renaissance of nationalist identity politics, which are historically inextricably linked with the rise of social radicalization and exclusion from the “others”, provides the background noise of this exhibition, in which the Fellowship participants show current works in order to give an exemplary outlook on their projects in the upcoming months:
Anna Dasović: Re: So, on behalf of my country and from the bottom of my heart, 2019, text-based work, Video 11 min.
Anna Dasović: Before the Fall there was no Fall, 2019, text-based work, Video.
On 11 July 2015, Anna DASOVIĆ attended the burial of 136 people in Potočari, a town located in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is an annual event to commemorate the genocide that took place in Srebrenica in July 1995 by laying to rest the remains from mass grave sites that had been excavated over the course of the preceding year. According to the artist’s assumption, it is the only annually televised mass funeral in the world.
In 2015, the assembly also marked the 20-year commemoration of the genocide. Anna Dasović’s work So, on behalf of my country and from the bottom of my heart brings together images of the burial from news media, found mobile phone footage, and video material that Dasović shot with her own phone. The montage traces rhetoric and the physical movements of Bill Clinton and Aleksander Vučić, the Serbian Prime Minister in 2015, who was a member of the ultranationalist Serbian SRS party in 1995 and who still refuses to publicly acknowledge the genocide. Clinton’s narrative framing of the victims reproduced the gaze of the genocide’s perpetrator, while urging the audience to treasure Vučić’s presence at the burial ceremony. One of his most repeated pernicious claims, and interpretated as an emotional slippage, was that the people in Srebrenica got killed for a cause. The following erupted mass protest was quelled by security forces and the response of a Muslim community leader, asking people to remain focused on the grieving process. Relatives attending these annual burial assemblies – many of them survivors of the massacre – experienced a constraint of the possibility to express their political dissent as well as their grief being marginalized.
Anna Dasović’s installation connects the video with a three-part text work based on the script of Bill Clinton’s speech in Potočari. The text has been revised several times: as a corrective change of perspective on the events, as an angry commentary, as a deletion of the text except for the sentence that gives the work its title.
In a second work, the artist gives a first insight into her project at Büchsenhausen. Here she concentrates on the various representations of the (ethnically) “other” at the time of the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, while Western politics produced the image of a “civilized Europe”. The focus of interest is a collection of VHS cassettes that Dasović discovered in a public but inaccessible archive of the Dutch Ministry of Defence in 2014. The videos document military exercises by Dutch UN battalions prior to their deployment in the 1994-95 Srebrenica Zone – established by the United Nations as a safety zone.
In the exhibition, a short excerpt from one of these videos can be seen, combined with written behavioral instructions for the Dutch UN soldiers stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The self-cleaning activity of the soldier in the video subtly correlates with the etiquette and, considering the text’s grotesque seeming worldview, blures the dichotomous field of tension between blind execution and redeeming awakening.
Airi Triisberg: Yes to Freedom, No to Lies, 2019, Photo by Patrik Tamm, Tallinn.
Airi TRIISBERG will work in Büchsenhausen on activist biographies in Eastern Europe. The research project aims to document, contextualize and analyze social movements in the region, focussing on the Baltic countries. It includes interviews with a variety of political organizers who are active in movement politics, and often also work at the intersection of knowledge production, art and culture. The research participants are active on the broad spectrum of social justice initiatives, including queer/feminist organisations, labor struggles, anti-racist politics and ecological movements.
31 March 2019, Tallinn. This photo is from a demonstration organized in protest against the inclusion of the far right party into Estonian government. The demo was organized by a broad grassroots coalition and attended by 900 people approximately, which amounts to a mid-size demonstration in Estonia. In order to look somewhat bigger, the organizers put an effort into preparing signs and banners. The signs were produced collectively in open workshops and the demo was quite unique in its visual plenitude.
In the following days a heated debate about the visual politics of the demonstration emerged. The main object of the controversy was the combination of red banners and pink flags in front of the demonstration. The text on the red banner reads: “We also have red lines”. This sentence refers to a speech held by the leader of the neoliberal Reform Party on the night of parliament elections on March 3. When it was announced that the Reform Party had collected the biggest amount of votes, its leader assumed the role of future prime minister. Giving first statements to the press, she explained that before entering into coalition talks, her party will need to estimate the amount of “red lines” in relation to each potential partner. A week later, the two main potential coalition partners have isolated the Reform Party from the negotiation process by inviting the right-wing populist Conservative People’s Party into government. During the month of the government formation process, the expression “red lines” became a widely used catchphrase referring to the conflictual political situation.
On 31 March, a few hours after the demonstration had ended, the far right released a meme in social media, juxtaposing two images. One of them showed a historical image from the Soviet period – a march with red banners and red flags. The second one showed a photo from the afternoon demonstration, using a manipulated color scheme where the pink flags also looked red.
In the following days, the “red” top of the demonstration became a discussion topic in social media. By ignoring completely the context in which the “red lines” were used as an ironic paraphrase of the words of a neoliberal politician, it was widely agreed that the use of any red visual elements had been a big mistake. Many supporters of the demo expressed their unease, raising the question whether this seemingly liberal civil initiative had been hijacked by the left. Upon repeated clarifications that the flags belonging to the queer-feminist initiatives Ladyfest and Feministeerium are actually pink, it was sometimes suggested that the feminists should reconsider the use of this color, as pink is too close to red.
Some people who had participated in the demonstration without bringing a national flag regretted that others had not brought it either. In order to reinstate peaceful relations with their support base, the organizers explained that the red banner had landed at the top of the demonsration as a matter of unfortunate coincidence – no-one had remembered to bring the white banner with the official motto “Yes to Freedom, No to Lies”, therefore the red one had been used as a replacement in the chaos of the moment.
As a response to the red cloth controversy, national flags have always been present in the following demonstrations against the current government. It is probably the first and the last time since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, when a red cloth has taken on such a central position in a demonstration in Tallinn.
KURS (Mirjana Radovanović and Miloš Miletić): Lessons in Defense. Visual notes from the Liberation Movement, 2019, 5 single-colored linocuts, text-work in situ.
Mirjana RADOVANOVIĆ and Miloš MILETIĆ alias KURS work in Büchsenhausen on an artistic concretization of the archival research Lessons in Defense. Central to this research are specific aspects of the development of culture and cultural policy within the Peoples Liberation Movement (PLM) on the territory of Yugoslavia during World War II. The research follows several case studies and has been already published in two books. Focusing on key phases of the development of cultural activities of the PLM, as well as on antagonistic positions of its protagonists, the aim of the research was twofold. On the one hand KURS wants to reconstruct with the help of archival material, how partisan culture was able to develop during war times, and on the other hand why cultural and artistic practice had been so important for the PLM. Slovenian philosopher Rastko Močnik states that partisan culture brought people together in an anti-fascist struggle while at the same time it also produced new social circumstances. Thus, the partisan movement was not just a form of combating fascism, but, by facilitating new relationships, also a specific way of societal emergence in the context of which a consequently determined cultural shift occurred.
In the processing of archival data, KURS wants to focus in Büchsenhausen on cases and processes that can be associated with the social and political challenges society is facing nowadays. By reflecting on historical practices of the Avant-Garde, they want to address aspects that appear relevant for present-day European society: what does the revolutionary struggle and culture of the PLM mean in today’s context of former Yugoslavia in particular, and Europe in general, where the extreme-right is currently undergoing a process of expansion? What can we learn from the experience of organizing cultural workers within the anti-fascist movement? Could their models be reapplied today? Can we productively exert some of the practical experiences from then in our own art process? And the one question that can not be avoided and which largely defines our position within the cultural and artistic scene: What role can art play during social and political struggles?
In the exhibition KURS shows five linocuts that reproduce images in print from the researched fundus. Each picture is accompanied by a written in-situ-explanation outlining the socio-political context.
Lena Ditte Nissen: There Is, 2019, experimental short film, 20 min.
In Reflexive Alliance Lena Ditte Nissen engages with her family history and asks questions about transgenerational trauma, the transfer of knowledge and political and individual positioning.
“It is this fear of turning into stone when one looks back over one’s own shoulder into the past”, W.G. Sebald declares in his literary engagement with the German process of coping with the past.Lena Ditte Nissen faces the exact same fear. Looking over her shoulder, she sees her great-grandmother, the ‚’Reichshebammenführerin’, the leading midwife of Nazi Germany, and her granduncle who as ‘Reichsgesundheitsführer’, the first doctor of Nazi Germany, was charged in the Nuremberg trials. Her grandmother recorded the flight of the family from the Allies in 1945 and described her worries about family and the fate of her Führer.
Together with her grandmother’s diary, this flight diary forms the raw material for the engagement with the Nazi history of the own family. Lena Ditte Nissen has decided against an individual or isolated process and chosen a specific form of collective analysis and accomplishment for the texts: the artist uses the method of the ‘Deutungswerkstatt‘, developed for behavioral scientists in the 1990s by Swiss cultural anthropologist and psychoanalyst Prof. Dr. Maya Nadig. A diverse group of participants reads, discusses and analyses the text passages together in self-reflective talks. This method contextualizes the source material – the personal memoirs of the grandmother – and considers the very personal, social and cultural backgrounds of the protagonists of the ‘Deutungswerkstatt‘. Unconscious dynamics and the subjective experience are actively integrated in this process and provide valuable psychoanalytical conclusions. The group-based analytical sessions are documented by the artist and are lead by Dr. Jochen Bonz who has worked with Prof. Dr. Maya Nadig. He is at the moment the only scientist in the German-speaking world who implements the ‘Deutungswerkstatt‘ method.
“In the current political situation with rising nationalism in Germany and Europe, I want to use my resources and possibilities to comment on this development and position myself clearly, publicly and artistically, arguing through my work and using it as a basis for discussions“, Lena Ditte Nissen declares. In 2018, she intensively began to engage with the transgenerational transfer of knowledge and memory in works like There Is and Questions Without Answers. In the framework of the Fellowship Büchsenhausen Lena Ditte Nissen will drill deeper into her own past and ask herself questions about identity and family trauma.
(Text zu Lena Ditte Nissen: Anne Mager)
In the exhibition, Lena Ditte Nissen shows fragments from the experimental short film There Is (dt. Es Gibt), which is still in the making and about German artist and film maker Margaret Raspé (*1933). Raspé‘s life and work are the fascinating example of a post-world-war female artist‘s biography, which began with a socialization in the Nazi time, and followed the path of a career of an avantgardist filmmaker and single mother of three children. In the early 1970s, Raspé invented the “camera-helmet” and with it, produced an outstanding series of films. Her friendship with artists and filmmakers, who she met in West-Berlin (such as the Wiener Aktionisten, Joan Jonas, Peter Kubelka, and others), shaped her life and work. Being a single mother of three children, practicing a lot of body-work (Yoga and Eutony) and overtone singing as well as working and living between Berlin Zehlendorf and Karpathos, Greece had a great impact on her thinking and art practice. Raspé’s work has received renewed recognition in the last couple of years. Among other venues, her films have been shown in a retrospective program at cinema Arsenale in Berlin. Margaret’s film Let Them Swing, from the camera-helmet-series, was part of a special program on Feminist Film at the Berlinale 2019. Her films are archived by the Deutsche Kinematek.
This film is a reflection on the three weeks Lena Ditte Nissen and Margaret Raspé spent together in Raspé’s house on Karpathos, Greece, during the summer of 2018. It focuses on the theme of automatism, which plays an important part in her artistic thinking.
Anna DASOVIĆ’s artistic practice focuses on the rhetorical structures that make genocidal violence visible and those deployed to obscure politically inconvenient aspects of such conflicts. Central to her work is an exploration into the figure of the bystander and the ways in which the unimaginable and the unrepresentable—categories produced by the discourse on genocide—are evoked to neglect the responsibility of witnessing through representation. Dasović is interested in that rejection and in the exclusion of knowledge that is held in the body but denied by society’s authorizing structures. Though Dasović studied photography, and her installations and videos retain an element of formal precision, she now works in a broadly interdisciplinary manner. Her methodology involves archival research, fieldwork, interviews, and bibliographic research.
Mirjana RADOVANOVIĆ and Miloš MILETIĆ jointly practice visual art and research as KURS. In their work they explore how artistic practice can contribute to — and become an integral part of — various social movements. They often use archival material as a starting point, in combination with revolutionary poetry and prose and the visual language of progressive movements from the past. Most often they produce murals, illustrations and various printed materials including newspapers, posters, graphics. They are guided by the idea that the content they produce should be didactic and accessible to the wider public.
Projects that KURS realized in recent years are, among others: the research Lessons on Defense conducted in 2016 and 2017 on cultural activity within the People’s Liberation Movement; the mural Solidarity—to the International Brigades in Belgrade, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the International Brigades; the mural Struggle, Knowledge, Equality in Belgrade, on the occasion of the Students’ Day; the mural 20th October on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belgrade; the mural Factory to the Workers at the Itas-Prvomajska factory in Ivanec, Croatia as part of the 13th Urban Festival; a residency in Chile at the AIR Casa Poli; the participation in the Persona Non Grata program in Ankara, organized by the AsiKeçi Collective; and the mural What Do We Know About Solidarity during the Qalandiya Biennial 2018 in Palestine.
As part of the Fellowship Program for Art and Theory 2019-20 at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen in Innsbruck, KURS published the book Lessons on Defense: Cultural Activities of the People’s Liberation Movement (2020).
The Danish-German artist and filmmaker Lena Ditte NISSEN (1987*, Munich) studied film and media art at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Her films, performances and installations have been shown at international institutions and film festivals such as the Museo de Arte Moderno Rio de Janeiro, Bundeskunsthalle Bonn, Heidelberger Kunstverein, Museo del Banco de la República Bogotá, ACUD MACHT NEU in Berlin, the film museum in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, KAI10 Athena Foundation, Rubenstein Art Center, CCA Center for Contemporary Art Tbilisi, the International Film Festivals in Edinburgh and Belo Horizonte, the CPH:DOX in Copenhagen, WNDX Festival of Moving Image, 25FPS Zagreb, Festival de nouveau cinéma Montréal and the Anthology Film Archive NYC amongst others. Lena has been in residence at SOMA Mexico, LIGHT CONE in Paris and lugar a dudas in Cali, Colombia.
In addition to her artistic career, Ditte Nissen has also curated various film and video programs since 2013 that have been shown at international venues including Cinemateca Nacional de Colombia and the FAR OFF fair for contemporary art in Cologne, Germany. In 2018 she held a studio scholarship at Bonner Kunstverein together with Alisa Berger, with whom she works in the artist-duo bergernissen.
Airi TRIISBERG is an independent curator, writer and educator based in Tallinn. She is interested in issues related to gender and sexualities, illness/health and dis/abilities, self-organization and collective care practices, struggles against precarious working conditions in the art field and beyond. Her practice is often located at the intersection of political education, self-organization and knowledge production. One of her ongoing research interests focuses on historical and contemporary moments when experiences of living with illness or disability have been politicized in order to express social critique. In 2015 she curated Get Well Soon!, an exhibition presenting artistic re-articulations of social imaginaries rooted in the radical movements of the 1970s. Another strand in her practice focuses on precarious labor and art workers organizing. In 2010-2012 she was an active member in the art workers movement in Tallinn. In 2015 she co-published the book Art Workers – Material Conditions and Labour Struggles in Contemporary Art Practice together with Minna Henriksson and Erik Krikortz.
Andrei SICLODI (*1972 in Bucharest) is a curator, writer, editor and cultural worker whose theoretical research focuses on forms of critical-emancipatory knowledge production in art. He is director of Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen in Innsbruck and founding director of the Fellowship Program for Art and Theory which takes place there. He is also editor of the publication series „BÜCHS‘N’BOOKS – Art and Knowledge Production in Context“ and producer of the monthly radio broadcast „Büchs’n’Radio“ on Radio Freirad.
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