With great allegorical and transformational power, the works presented recount our links to other cultures, sift historical truths and constructs, and work with individual memory as an extraordinary resource for historical reappraisal.
As the exhibition's title suggests, the artists' attention focuses not on the ‘truths’ officially propounded by the media and history books, but rather on those unknown, unpublished or suppressed stories that often represent the other side of the coin.
In this sense, art plays a special role in exploring the themes and perception of reality. Rather than wiping out the multifaceted nature of the world, art makes it tangible. Indeed, the supposedly definitive nature of the real may acquire a fresh interpretative twist as the artist formulates his or her ideas in such a way as to engender irritation and remembrance, thereby transforming reality into poetry.
The artists invited work primarily in the plastic arts, from sculpture and post-object-based formats through installation to performative-objectual approaches to video art. The artistically strategic approach adopted in each of the individual stances derives from different cultural and personal points of view and from the media chosen. Observers are intended to become actively involved in deciphering the works and challenged to adopt viewpoints of their own. In this sense, the exhibition seeks to turn into a space that imparts an experience, offering different options for observing and exploring the ‘world’.
Sabine Gamper - Curator
Afghan film-maker Lida Abdul (Kabul, 1973) presents the video film In Transit (2008), shot in her home country, in which she shows a group of children attempting to make a shot-down Russian plane fly again. With enormous dedication, they stuff the holes in the plane with tufts of cotton wool and try to get it back off the ground by fixing sails to it, as if it were a kite. The children's game, highly transformational and unswayed by preconceptions, is seen in stark contrast to the destructive power of war and conveys the indestructible, constantly reborn power of hope for a better future in poetic images.
The fragility and vulnerability of the human body are there to be seen in ‘L’attimo fuggente’, a sculptural ensemble by Aron Demetz (Selva Gardena, 1972) that began life in 2010 as part of a set of burnt wood works. Here the artist uses the destructive and modelling force of fire on sculptures created using traditional woodcarving techniques, thus surrendering his work's creative process to an incalculable external power. Its formal resemblance to the charred corpses of ancient Pompeii and present-day associations with war, danger and destruction endow the work with exceptional potency as a portrayal of human suffering.
Here Martin Gostner (Innsbruck, 1957) presents a nine-part series of works of cotton wool in Plexiglas cubes entitled ‘Ennui - Retter, spiele, Retter’ (2016) and a work specially created for the exhibition entitled ‘Sem And Ham Dormant’ (2017). ‘Ennui’ alludes to the phenomenon of listlessness and tedium widespread in Western society, which apparently can only be countered by the frenetic search for entertainment and distraction. This swinging to and fro between depression and diversion is typical of a young generation whose exaggerated expectations of life often have no real foundation any more. ‘Sem And Ham Dormant’ alludes, on the other hand, to the biblical story of Noah's two sons as the founding fathers of the Semites and the Hamites, and the ideological continuation of their ‘private war’ in ethnic conflicts down to the present day.
As a child, artist Petrit Halilaj (Kosovo, 1986) lived through the war in his homeland, Kosovo, before addressing the experience of emigration as a youth. He is now working wholly personal images of his recollections into his art. Here he presents ‘PH/I 248, Untitled (Objects) 2009’, an ensemble of objects made of pipes, wood, neon lights and other miscellaneous materials – fragmentary recollections of his earlier life in Kosovo. The related video work, ‘They are Lucky to be Bourgeois Hens II’ (Kosovo, 2009), documents a wooden construction in the form of a space shuttle that Halilaj built as a henhouse in his parents' garden. The artist regards the past not as an unattainable construct, but brings it into the present in the form of surreal but, at the same time, poetic intrusions and ensembles of different materials.
Riccardo Previdi (Milan, 1974) presents a new edition of his work ‘OPEN’ (2017), a specially redesigned large-format neon sign that welcomes the visitor to the exhibition space. The work alludes to the many signs to be found outside shops, bars, and so on bearing the word ‘OPEN and listing the business's opening hours and activities. The artist has designed this large format readymade as a contemporary ‘keyword’ for a globalised society, highlighting the world trade in goods, messages, offers, materials and so on. At the same time, ‘OPEN’ extends an invitation and poses the pressing question of how ready we are to open up to migration flows worldwide.
Fernando Sánchez Castillo (Madrid, 1970) has created a new work specially for the exhibition: ‘Hidden Liberty, D´après Laboulaye and Bartholdi’ (2017), a wooden sculpture of the Statue of Liberty portrayed as a dark-skinned woman. In his works, Sánchez Castillo explores the way in which cultural memory is born and how political power over official accounts and images comes about. A central conflict concerns the deconstruction of monuments, which he challenges as tools of power and representation. Here the Statue of Liberty, an extraordinary symbol of freedom, independence and, initially, the end of slavery, has turned into the emblem of the ‘American way of life’, with dark-skinned Liberty taking on a complex significance in the current context of Donald Trump's America and its relationship with her own history.
The Slavs and Tatars (2006) artists' collective presents two works from the ‘Reverse Dschihad’ series (2015), large-format mirror-coated tablets that take up the tale of the particular political relationship between Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and the Ottoman sultan in the early 20th century. The Kaiser stepped up the first jihad when he had the propaganda broadsheet ‘El Dschihad’, which had appeared in several languages in the Middle East, distributed in Berlin in 1915 for about 30,000 Muslim in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Like archaeologists, Slavs and Tatars research what are often literary historical sources and use their characteristically humorous but always profound and soundly substantiated work to delve into the deeper layers of meaning of religion, power, language and identity.