23 May – 4 July 2015
The Documentary. Resistance and Critical Tendencies in Art.
Kasper Akhøj, Otto Berchem, Dora García, Maria Pask and Susan Philipsz
Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS proudly presents the exhibition The Documentary. Resistance and Critical Tendencies in Art. This group exhibition focuses on the use of documentary in art as a form of resistance; as a way to show or even to form alternative communities.
The power of the documentary and its critical potential derives from its capacity to disclose unknown or unseen events. As such, the documentary can become a form of resistance, or a form of alternative community. It can resist the way events were formerly depicted, serving as critique, or it can create a different way of looking at those events, displacing or relocating them.
The works presented in The Documentary, existing of documents, photographs, songs or stories are taken up by the artists to displace them and by this act to relocate historical events and to create a new context for them. In their choice for existing “facts” or documents, all the artists engage in historical or political debates, without becoming explicitly political.
Captain Gervasio’s Family (2012) by Kasper Akhøj and Tamar Guimaraes is a silent black and white portrait of a Spiritist community in Palmelo, a small town in the interior of Brazil. It’s a town of 2000 inhabitants, half of whom are psychic mediums. The film refers to a map drawn by a Spiritist woman in Palmelo, charting twenty astral cities hovering above the whole of the Brazilian territory. Cities ‘like those on earth, but infinitely more perfect’. These astral cities are a splendid vision of modernity and a utopia of continuous progress and urbanisation. With their qualities as medium the community living in Palmelo shows projections of a city yet to be; it shows an alternative way to imagine the city.
For his works presented in The Documentary, Otto Berchem used existing photographs of revolts and protests and colored parts of these photographs in accordance with his color alphabet. In the creation of this alphabet, Berchem became inspired by the writings of Jorge Adoum and the medical condition of Synesthesia, where one for example sees colors when reading letters or hearing music. Through this investigation, Berchem developed his own alphabet of designated colors. This results in a series of work reviewing iconic images and creating his own documents by strategically deleting pre-existing meanings and slogans, and replacing them with his interpretation of reality.
The scripted performance The artist without works, Berlin (2008) by Dora García will be on display, consisting of a script, a picture and newspaper articles. The performance itself consisted of a guided tour in the museum, and is about an artist that refuses to produce anything. The tour-guide speaks about this artist but at the same time is not informing the visitors about anything. The public is left empty-handed because all materiality seems to be evacuated from the situation. What will happen if the supposedly active element, the work of the artist, is eliminated from the formula? What will happen to the elements that are left: the museum as context, the expectations of the public, the verdict afterwards, and other unwritten rules of contemporary art?
Starhawk! the musical by Maria Pask, is a musical realised with art academy students around the themes of spiritual and political activism. Interested in alternative concepts of life style and community organization, Pask chooses to focus on the existing personality of Starhawk. Starhawk is a real person in her fifties, an ecotopian and feminist activist based in San Francisco. The musical, in fact, evolves through a series of workshops Pask develops with students who have applied to participate by answering the ads she spread around the academy in search of the cast (“WANTED! Enthusiastic student to work on developing a musical score for an art project.”). In four acts – ‘Beginning,’ ‘Direction,’ ‘Teaching,’ and ‘Witness’ – and a number of scenes the students are free to reinterpret and improvise the script according to their own interests, knowledge, experiences, fantasies, and artistic convictions. There is no distinction between the rehearsals and performances themselves: the camera is the audience that is permanently present, registering all stages of the development.
In her work The Internationale, Susan Philipsz displaces the song “The Internationale” from its time, by using her own voice. She mixes the song into a different space, this time the exhibition space of Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS. “The Internationale” (French: “L’Internationale”) is a widely sung left-wing anthem. It has been one of the most recognizable and popular songs of the socialist movement since the late 19th century, when the Second International (now the Socialist International) adopted it as its official anthem. The title arises from the “First International”, an alliance of socialist parties formed by Marx and Engels, who held a congress in 1864. By displacing this song, Philipsz poses the following question: what remains of this widely known song when it is played in a different context (a gallery space) and how does this song change this context?
Image: Kasper Akhøj and Tamar Guimaraes. Captain Gervasio’s Family (2012). 16mm film, 14 minutes, silent.