Was Wäre Wenn

Allison Smith, from The Muster, 2004

Allison Smith, from The Muster, 2004

Volker Eichelmann, Follies & Grottoes, 2003-2006

Volker Eichelmann, Follies & Grottoes, 2003-2006

Sharon Hayes, from The Interpreter Project, Site #76 und Site #84, 2001

Sharon Hayes, from The Interpreter Project, Site #76 und Site #84, 2001

Anja Kirschner, POLLY II – Plan For a Revolution in Docklands, 2006

Anja Kirschner, POLLY II – Plan For a Revolution in Docklands, 2006

Karolin Meunier, Modell Figur (Set #2), 2006

Karolin Meunier, Modell Figur (Set #2), 2006

WAS WÄRE WENN # 4

Hands-On History

April 1 - May 13, 2006

 

Volker Eichelmann, Sharon Hayes, Anja Kirschner, Karolin Meunier and Allison Smith,

curated by Vera Tollmann

Exhibition design by Marinus van Eldik

 

When procedures of historiography are questioned and available history is combined in new ways, the means responsible for the representation of history (historical narrative, costumes, architecture) can be used to create new possibilities beyond history as it has been written. This involves not a direct repetition of the past, such as that aimed for by the concept of Live History, but a re-interpretation or extension into future histories. I am interested in what takes place between the existing material and the newly articulated event. It is a matter of interrupting and altering chronological timelines, of questioning established forms of narrative, and then of creating different accounts and writing history against the facts.

 

Volker Eichelmann visited and filmed British follies and grottoes from the past three centuries. Follies have no real practical use, sometimes actually being planned as ruins. They stand as symbols of superabundance (of time and money) in gardens and landscapes, including a triangular tower and a pineapple house. Eichelmann’s film Follies and Grottoes brings together an extensive collection of ambiguous buildings that articulate an incorrigible desire to bring the past into the present. To this end, those who designed them used elements of Gothic, Roman and Antique styles, combined with freely invented forms. From various perspectives, Eichelmann gives a further theatrical twist to these private mises-en-scène by choosing camera angles that turn the natural surroundings into a stage set or amplify the absurdity of the buildings in some other way.

 

In the United States, the individuals who provide guided tours of historical sites are known as “historical interpreters”. For her video The Interpreter Project, Sharon Hayes visited the only four (of over 70) National Historic Sites dedicated to women (Eleanor Roosevelt, Clara Barton, Mary McLeod Bethune, Maggie L. Walker). In front of each house, Hayes “re-interprets” the guided tours by listening to the recorded script over headphones and simultaneously repeating it. This repetition of the narratives unmasks the way historical attributions work, clearly showing how “oral history,” personal anecdotes, and remembered dates are pieced together into a story. The exhibition shows the recordings about the politician and activist Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, who worked to improve educational opportunities for African-Americans, and her contemporary, the human rights campaigner and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

In her film POLLY II, Anja Kirschner tells the story of a revolution that takes place in the near future. The reason for the uprising is the gentrification of London’s East End. Kirschner developed the characters for her film on the basis of John Gay’s opera Polly (1727): as ghosts of England’s maritime past, pirates come to the aid of the local residents in Docklands in their fight against investors. For her compositions, Kirschner drew on the socio-political illustrations of the British caricaturist William Hogarth, a contemporary of Gay’s. In the film’s four scenes, historical references mix with TV drama gestures and science fiction effects.

 

In her video Modell Figur, Karolin Meunier makes a seemingly objective diagram in which she deals conceptually with communication models and whose attempts at logical linking deviate from scientific models. Careful definitions open up new scope for interpretation. One theme here is the relevance of the fictitious to what really happens or is remembered, a theme which also forms the basis for another video that works with historical image material and which is set opposite the diagram like a footnote. The installation Modell Figur (Set #2) is shown together with Der Entwurf des Adressaten (Blueprint Of The Addressee), a book recently published by Material-Verlag in its Kombinator series.

 

In 2004, a few days before the Republican National Convention, Allison Smith invited her artist friends to the country residence of the artists Mark Dion and Morgan Smith in Pennsylvania for The Muster, an event due to last several days. With the question “What are you fighting for?” the guests were called on to appropriate the popular genre of Civil War reenactments to perform combative demands for their future. The result of this parody on patriarchal folklore and national pride is a series of photos in which the participants portray their concerns dressed in historical uniforms, thus affirmatively reinterpreting the mechanisms of historical reenactment.

 

Vera Tollmann

 

 

 

Exhibition views WAS WÄRE WENN #4