LIVING FORGIVING REMEMBERING
Group show. Multimedia installations.
AKRAM ZAATARI | BUHLEBEZWE SIWANI | DINH Q LÊ | FIRAS ABU SIRRIYEH | GUY KÖNIGSTEIN | HIWA K | KAREN SARGSYAN |
LANA MESIĆ | LUNGISWA GQUNTA | MONALI MEHER | SAAD QURESHI | VOLUSPA JARPA
| 19.03. - 06.06.2021 |
Curated by Mirjam Westen
"An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind"* is a good epigraph of Kunsthall 3,14´s series of upcoming exhibitions. The many project reflects and raise questions through artworks and artistic actions directed at personal and historical events. The artists look back into the past at the same time contemplates contemporary times and intervene directly in many ways the current exchange of words.
How can we read events and history as a balance of rights and wrongs, or events and history that instill pride and shame. How can we live and forgive injustice? Is forgiveness an act that negates justice? May forgiveness without justice as forgetfulness cover-up and promote further offenses and abuses? How can we move beyond forgiveness to the ultimate act of embrace final reconciliation? Is the willingness to reconcile, public apologies, renewed educational efforts needed to contribute to further reconciliation? Is memory a redeeming keeper of moral equilibrium?
Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness are life-altering lessons and processes that the 12 artists within the exhibition Living Forgiving Remembering shed light on.
The exhibition is accompanied by 3,14 Live program and performance by Grace Ndiritu.
Further details will be posted at a later date. [www.kunsthall314.art/314live]
The exhibition is in collaboration with Museum Arnhem in The Netherlands.
Living Forgiving Remembering has been made possible by the support of Mondriaan Fonds and Fonds21.
* Mahatma Gandhi. This famous quote refers to an Old Testament reference regarding the legal penalties for violence.
- Audio Guide >>>
- Exhibiton booklet >>>
- To Make Ready by 3,14´s text contributor Johnny Herbert >>>
- Anmeldelse Bergens Tidende >>>
ABOUT THE ARTWORKS:
- Lungiswa Gqunta
Feet Under Fire
Lungiswa Gqunta often works with everyday objects and materials, such as beer bottles, broken glass, bedsheets, bedframes and petrol cans. For her, they embody social conflicts in her native South Africa. These emotionally- charged materials represent a certain threat, particularly when we think about how they can be used. Certain combinations can, for example, be used to make explosive devices. In the video Feet Under Fire, the artist’s feet dance in and out of view. She is wearing scrubbing brushes with the bristles replaced by matches. In the background we hear voices chanting the isiXhosa nursery rhyme Umzi Watsha: ‘the City is Burning’.
Lungiswa Gqunta (1990 Port Elizabeth, South-Africa). Feet Under Fire, 2017. HD video 14’54”. Courtesy Gallery WhatIFTHE World, Cape Town, South-Africa.
The wall installation QWITHA consists of scrubbing brushes with matches for bristles. Like the video Feet Under Fire, it is a reference to the constant threat of violence in South Africa’s post-apartheid society. Lungiswa Gqunta symbolises that threat using everyday objects with minor adaptations. If a scrubbing brush has matches for bristles, a single spark could bring about a devastating change. The title Qwitha is the isiXhosa word for an empty container, in this case a matchbox, which is also the nickname for the tiny shacks erected by the government in the townships to house the black population.
In her installations, videos and performances, Lungiswa Gqunta draws attention to the ongoing effects of colonial and patriarchal domination which account for the serious social inequality still experienced in South Africa. For the people of the townships, very little has changed even after the introduction of anti-racism laws. By using everyday objects, including household items, Gqunta is emphasizing that “home is not only a place of safety and security, but also one of conflict.”
Lungiswa Gqunta (1990 Port Elizabeth, South-Africa). QWITHA, 2018. installation, wood, matches. Collection: Mr. Michel, Globe Natural, Peru.
- Voluspa Jarpa
Through Blindness Archives, Voluspa Jarpa seeks to draw attention to the physical effects of police brutality and human rights violations committed against demonstrators in Chile. In 2019, thousands of people took to the streets to protest public transport fare increases.
For them, this was the last straw; the cost of living had been rapidly rising since 2011. The police responded with disproportionate force: a remarkably high number of protestors were blinded in one or both eyes by rubber bullets. Jarpa’s installation comprises a series of glass cubes, photos, an infographic and a video.
Blindness Archives is a monument to the 460 people who suffered (permanent) eye injuries due to police violence at the demonstrations. It is also an indictment of the Chilean government’s failure to bring the perpetrators to justice and its attempts to understate the number of casualties. For each victim, Jarpa has produced an anatomical model of an eye, set in a glass cube inscribed with the victim’s age and the date on which he or she was injured. Thirty of these cubes are included in the installation.
The photo wall is made up of images showing marks made by rubber bullets on trees. Jarpa found this damning evidence of police violence in the parks where many of the demonstrators had gathered.
During demonstrations in Chile, a group of young people became the ‘Frontline’, forming a human barricade against the police. It was this group who bore the brunt of the violence. The infographic compares the number of eye injuries sustained during these protests with data from other countries where armed police are deployed to control demonstrations.
Voluspa Jarpa sent seventeen people a candle in which a metal pellet had been embedded, together with an extract from the book Blindness by Nobel laureate José Saramago. The recipients were asked to light the candles and record the moment that the pellet dropped. The resultant compilation video is a further tribute to the 460 people who suffered serious eye injuries.
In her work, Chilean artist Voluspa Jarpa uses a wide range of methods and materials to record events which are frequently ‘forgotten’ in the official history. Blindness Archives has been created especially for this exhibition. It represents the relationship between human rights violations and the lack of vision, in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Jarpa collects the physical marks that violence leaves in its wake. They are, she contends, necessary to remember and recover from the events of the past as we seek to create a more just world.
Voluspa Jarpa (1971 Rancagua, Chile). Blindness Archives, 2020. Installation, optical glass, photography, HD video. Courtesy of the artist.
- Hiwa K.
The Bell Project
The Bell Project consists of a dual video projection and an enormous church bell (elsewhere). The video shows the day-to-day life of Nazhad, a scrap metal dealer operating in Kurdistan and northern Iraq, as he dismantles tanks, bombs, rockets and weapons, sorts the parts and melts them down to be recycled. Hiwa K. bought a quantity of the metal and had it transported to a bronze caster in Italy, where it was cast into a church bell, as used in the West to call the faithful to prayer and warn of impending danger. The entire process is the exact reverse of Europe’s wartime practice of melting down church bells to produce armaments. The decorations on Hiwa K.’s bell refer to the wanton destruction of ancient monuments and artefacts from pre-Christian Mesopotamia and Babylonia by the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh).
Kurdish-Iraqi artist Hiwa K. left his home country in the late 1990s for political reasons. His art is heavily influenced by his own history and by the stories of people he has met. For example, his video Moon Calendar (2007) documents his performance in the hall of the prison where Saddam Hussain’s politic opponents were held. It shows the artist tap- dancing to the rhythm of his own heartbeat, to which he is listening using a stethoscope. Hiwa K.’s videos and installations confront the viewer with the reality of a refugee’s existence and the contradictory experiences of hospitality and hostility which dominate their daily life. The installation he created for documenta 2017 in Kassel consisted of twenty stacked sewer pipes, in which members of the public were invited to spend the night. Hiwa K. is a keen observer of globalisation and its impact on local communities, but he refrains from judgement. His philosophy is summed up in a 2017 interview published in Metropolis M, in which he quotes the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
Hiwa K. (1975 Suleimaniya, Iraq, lives and works in Germany and Iraq). The Bell Project, 2007-2015. Two-channel HD video installation, 19’39’’, 5’52’’. Courtesy of the artist & Prometeo Gallery, Milan.
- Guy Königstein
Welcome Back is an account of how Guy Königstein brought about an open discussion of a politically controversial subject among a group of childhood friends in Israel. At his request, they met in the region of their birth, Galilea. Königstein asked them to collectively devise a welcome ceremony for displaced Palestinians should they ever be allowed to return to their village. Images are interspersed with audio clips of the group’s discussion about their own position, their part in the conflict, and the exile of the Palestinian people. What would their ‘return’ actually entail? Is it merely a question of financial reparations? Must the Israelis leave once the Palestinians return or can everyone live peacefully alongside each other? We hear the group discussing the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation and attempting to devise an appropriate ceremony. Will this ceremony ever take place?
Israeli-Dutch artist Guy Königstein zooms in on the role of public monuments and ceremonies in Israel, as used to commemorate ‘important’ people and historical events. He examines their influence on the collective consciousness. Memorials are usually static, while remembering is a process of inclusion and exclusion, the artist remarks. “While we are remembering, we are also forgetting. Our individual and collective identity is constantly being reconstructed. It is established because we choose to remember some events and repress others.” Königstein is critical of the way in which monuments and ceremonies are used to bolster nationalist power politics. The authorities focus solely on one side of the story. Any alternative views are suppressed. To counter this, Königstein founded the Institute for Research and Documentation of the Erased History. He has created countless ‘flexible memorials and rituals’ which make ‘elastic commemoration’ possible by taking heed of all alternative views and accounts. Through fantasy, humour and provocation, he challenges the public to make an active contribution to his installations, and thus to the dialogue.
Guy Königstein (1982 Ramat-Gan, Israël, lives and works in Amsterdam). Welcome Back, 2014. HD video 7’50”. Courtesy of the artist.
- Dinh Q Lê
Light and Belief: Sketches of Life from the Vietnam War
This installation presents an entirely different picture of the Vietnam War (1955-1975) from that found in most history books. It comprises drawings and paintings which artist Dinh Q. Lê collected in Vietnam over a period of years. All were produced by Vietnamese soldiers who had been ordered to document the conflict as ‘war artists’. In addition to depicting the fighting itself, many drew portraits of their comrades and recorded mundane day-to-day activities. The results combine to form a chronicle of life on the front line. Many soldiers were keen to sit for a portrait in case they did not survive. The subjects, usually very young, would adopt a casual, cheerful expression so that their families would remember them as a happy person rather than someone tormented by the horrors of war. In Q. Lê’s selection, the emphasis is on the experiences of the Vietnamese soldier as an individual. The accompanying video includes interviews with some of the official war artists, interspersed with animated versions of the drawings.
Much of Vietnamese-American artist Dinh Q. Lê’s work involves collecting documents and memories. The starting point is his relationship with Vietnam, where he was born and spent his early childhood before fleeing the communist Khmer Rouge regime at the age of ten.
In 1984, Dinh Q. Lê enrolled on the Fine Arts programme at the University of California. In 1992, he gained a master’s in Photography and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in New York. In 1996, he relocated to Ho Chi Minh City where he now lives and works.
Dinh Q Lê (1968 Hà Tiên, Vietnam, lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City). Light and Belief: Sketches of Life from the Vietnam War, 2012. Installation, pencil, watercolour, ink, oil paint. HD video 35’. Courtesy of the artist.
- Monali Meher
The pile of potatoes on the floor is part of the performance Old Fashioned. Each potato bears an inscription in black ink: negative words linked with expressions of anger, rage, hate, aggression, racism, etc.
Indian artist Monali Meher produces installations and performances which she hopes will fuel discussion about the cultural, social and historical significance of objects, materials and their context. ‘Skin’, as a carrier of social meanings, forms an important motif within her work, demonstrating that one’s identity is not permanent or immutable but changes over time. Meher’s installations often comprise an ordered collection of everyday, utilitarian objects which she provides with a new ‘skin’ and hence a new emotional significance. She might, for example, envelop objects in red wool. Red is the colour of life and exuberance, but also that of violence and death. The object itself becomes invisible, detached from its original purpose. Time and temporality are important features of her performances. This is also the case in Old Fashioned where the potatoes are allowed to sprout.
Monali Meher (1969, Mumbai, India, lives and works in Ghent, Belgium). Old Fashioned, 2006-2020. Potatoes, ink, peeling device.
- Lana Mesić
Anatomy of Forgiveness
In 2014, Lana Mesić was one of two photographers commissioned by an NGO to produce a reportage about the situation in Rwanda twenty years after the 1994 genocide. She opted to focus on what the local people had done in order to resume a ‘normal’ life. She made contact with people on both sides of the conflict – the survivors and perpetrators of the genocide – and asked them to recreate the moment at which the survivors had forgiven the aggressors (which was a condition of the latter’s release). Each survivor and perpetrator was also asked to indicate the degree of forgiveness they felt they had given or received, using a self- made scale. Mesić recorded these moments and also photographed the subjects’ houses (which in some cases were less than fifty metres apart). The entire photo series is now being shown for the first time, together with transcripts of conversations between Mesić and the participants. Their stories form an essential part of the exhibition, inseparable from the photographs. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to show what Lana Mesić set out to record without them. Anatomy of Forgiveness is a representation of something that is intangible and invisible: a transaction between people in which guilt is acknowledged and forgiveness extended. Mesić shows us very personal definitions of forgiveness.
The Rwandan Genocide took place between April and July 1994, during the final weeks of the Rwandan Civil War. Over a period of one hundred days, approximately one million people were killed. The majority were Tutsi, although members of the Twa and moderate Hutu ethnic groups were also among the victims. After such a devastating event, forgiveness became a condition of further participation in Rwandan society.
Lana Mesić (1987 Zagreb, Croatia, lives and works in Rotterdam). Anatomy of Forgiveness, 2014. Installation, photography, interview transcription. Courtesy of the artist.
...read the interview transcripts here >>>
Lego Kalašnjikov (part of the Yugoslavia Project)
In her Yugoslavia Project, Lana Mesić combines personal experiences with historic accounts of the Yugoslav Wars (1991-1995). She highlights banal events which are not mentioned in the official history but which nevertheless formed part of everyday life during the conflict. Mesić calls on her own memories to show us how war put an end to childhood innocence and the comfortable security of ‘home’. She has built Kalashnikov rifles from Lego bricks, just as she did as a child when cowering in the air raid shelter. She was not alone: many Yugoslav children played with Lego. Even the very youngest were also encouraged to arm themselves against the enemy. When declaring his country’s independence in 1991, president Franjo Tudjman stated that “all Croatian children must know who the enemy is before they can read and write.”
Lana Mesić left Zagreb, the city of her birth, in 1999. Again, she was not alone: another 2,4 million people did likewise. Although the war ended twenty-five years ago, strong nationalist feelings live on to this day. According to Mesić, the ‘us against them’ narrative prevalent in her childhood can increasingly be heard in the rhetoric of today’s Croatian politicians. The dissolution of Yugoslavia not only resulted in the creation of six new states but also in six different versions of the events that led to the break-up. Mesić examines the current nationalist agendas and makes connections with the ideologies which unleashed the Yugoslav Wars.
Lana Mesić (1987, Zagreb, Croatia, lives and works in Rotterdam). Lego Kalašnjikov (part of the Yugoslavia Project), 2020. Lego bricks. Courtesy of the artist.
- Saad Qureshi
Gates of Paradise (I, II, IV)
Against the background of a society blighted by widening differences, Saad Qureshi chooses to focus on the similarities and points of convergence between various religions and worldviews. The Gates of Paradise series is inspired by the artist’s fascination with diverse beliefs about the afterlife. Qureshi asked members of various religions, as well as atheists and agnostics, to describe their idea of paradise and what its threshold might look like. Qureshi’s Gates of Paradise are not based on the familiar imagery but represent a fusion of styles drawn from many cultures, religions and historic periods. The wooden sculptures, finished in monochromatic grey, seem to rise organically as if liberated from the force of gravity.
Saad Qureshi seeks to connect different worldviews and cultural backgrounds. He interweaves stories in which memories, ideals and beliefs from various cultures are willingly surrendered. Based on a desire to build bridges, he focuses not on differences but on similarities.
Qureshi’s work demonstrates a deep fascination for natural materials and traditional techniques. Wear and imperfections can be seen as a metaphor for the way in which memories and knowledge are passed down within cultures, and for the passage of time.
Saad Qureshi (1986, London, United Kingdom). Gates of Paradise (I, II, IV), 2019. Installation. Wood, celotex, idenden. Courtesy of the artist.
- Karen Sargsyan
Ketevan and Abel
Karen Sargsyan produces tableaux vivants in which masked figures play the central roles. This new installation depicts the reconciliation between Ketevan and Abel, the protagonists of the film Repentance (1984) by Russian director Tengiz Abuladze, which was long banned in the Soviet Union due to its criticism of Stalinism. The plot concerns the consequences of repression and persecution as experienced by successive generations of both perpetrators and victims. Eventually, the ‘repentance’ of the title leads to reconciliation, which only became possible once Nikita Khrushchev came to power and began the process of de-Stalinization. Karen Sargsyan has dedicated this installation, with the small monument in the middle, to all the innocent people who were persecuted and killed in the former Soviet Union.
Since his residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam (2006-2007), Karen Sargsyan has focused on producing theatrical installations. Sometimes elegant, sometimes in an aggressive pose, his figures are reminiscent of dancers or samurai warriors, frozen in time. They are dressed in carnivalesque costumes made up of several layers of paper or aluminium. Sargsyan is fascinated by the individual’s social and cultural development which, he believes, depends greatly on location and context, or zeitgeist. One’s life then develops according to a set political ideology or religion. Sargsyan spent his own formative years in Armenia before escalating political tensions prompted him to emigrate to the Netherlands in 1998.
Karen Sargsyan (1973 Yerevan, Armenia, lives and works in Arnhem, the Netherlands). Ketevan and Abel, 2020. Aluminium, copper, acrylic paint. Size approx. 250 x 230 x 230 cm each.
- Firas Abu Sirriyeh
Wallmart, Mezuzah, Menorah
Wallmart takes the form of a ‘concept store’ from which consumers can order a set of white or metal bricks with which to build their own wall. This is artist Firas Abu Sirriyeh’s way of condemning the controversial West Bank Barrier now being erected by Israel. This ten-metre high wall forms a physical barrier between Palestinian and Israeli territory. When complete, it will stretch over 750 kilometres. According to Israel, its purpose is to keep terrorists out. According to the Palestinians, it is a way of annexing part of their territory. In Israel, the wall is termed a ‘security barrier’. In Palestine, it is known as the ‘Great Wall of Apartheid’. Sirriyeh’s building blocks are also an ironic comment on consumerism and the thriving tourist trade in Judaica and souvenirs from the Holy Land (Israel). The bricks can, for example, be used to construct a typical Hebrew mezuzah or menorah.
Firas Abu Sirriyeh graduated from the Musrara- Naggar Multidisciplinary School of Art and Society in Jerusalem in 2014 on the strength of the Wallmart installation. The newspaper Haaretz named him as one of the Top 10 art graduates of the year. In 2015, however, the installation was turned down by Design Week Jerusalem because the artist was “attempting to ridicule the Israeli wall”. As a Palestinian Jerusalemite, Sirriyeh knows exactly what it means to grow up in Jerusalem in the shadow of ‘the wall’. He has experienced at first hand the racism and discrimination directed at the Arab population. He is nevertheless convinced that the various ethnic groups can live harmoniously together. All it takes is better communication and greater mutual understanding.
Firas Abu Sirriyeh (1988, Jerusalem, Israël). Wallmart, 2014. Installation. Courtesy of the artist.
- Buhlebezwe Siwani
Yimbasa Yelizwe (Family Crest)
Buhlebezwe Siwani has made three casts of her own body covered in green Sunlight soap, a material which has often featured in her work. Sunlight soap is an everyday commodity in South Africa, particularly among those of limited means. The artist associates it with household chores, but also with the strenuous physical labour undertaken by, say, miners. They can’t afford expensive shower gel and use the affordable Sunlight soap. Siwani also uses soap as a reference to the patriarchal culture in which the black female body is fetishized and yet regarded as ‘unclean’. “I was always urged to wash and ‘purify’ myself in all sorts of ways. We black women are regarded as inferior, impure people.” Her figures appear to be engaged in some spiritual and ritual cleansing ritual, whereby they are trying to rid themselves not only of sexist prejudices but also the traumas of colonialism. The accompanying soundtrack features a traditional Xhosa song that is frequently sung in South African churches. It is about healing past suffering and overcoming trauma.
In her videos and photo montages, Buhlebezwe Siwani reflects on colonial injustice, the disadvantaged position of (black) women, and on the relationship between African spirituality and western Christianity. Her work is influenced by her experience as a sangoma, a spiritual healer who strives to bring harmony between the living and the dead. Siwani is a founding member of the IQhiya collective, which was formed as a response to the under-representation of black female artists in South Africa and the scant opportunities for them to exhibit.
Buhlebezwe Siwani (1987, Johannesburg, lives and works in the Netherlands and in South-Africa). Yimbasa Yelizwe (Family Crest), 2020. Installation, polystyrene foam, soap, sound. Courtesy of the artist.
- Akram Zaatari
In The House
The video In The House (2005) shows a group of people watching a man digging in the garden of a house in Ain el Mir (Southern Lebanon). They find a letter hidden in a mortar shell. It is addressed to the Christian family who lived here before fleeing the war. The house was then occupied by Lebanese resistance fighters once the Israeli army had withdrawn from the city in 1985. The author of the letter, Ali Hashisho, buried it at the end of the war in 1991. He explains why the resistance found it necessary to ‘commandeer’ the house and welcomes the family back to their home. This video is a second version of an earlier work entitled Ain El-Mir 23.11.2002 (2002).
Akram Zaatari is a filmmaker, photographer, archivist and curator. In 1997 he joined fellow photographers Fouad Elkoury and Samer Mohdad to establish the Arab Image Foundation. His work is based on collecting images, documents, stories and audio clips from all parts of the Arab region, but especially Lebanon. He explores this material and other artefacts to uncover historical facts and memories, which since 2007 he has presented in successive photo series under the overall title Objects of Study.
In 2013, Zaatari represented Lebanon at the Venice Biennale where his multimedia installation Letter to a Refusing Pilot (2013) did much to establish his international reputation. The work is based on a story that he heard while visiting a village in Southern Lebanon, then occupied by Israeli forces. It was claimed that an Israeli fighter pilot had been ordered to bomb a building just outside Saida, but deliberately disobeyed that order because he knew that the target was a school. Years later, Zaatari discovered that the story was no idle rumour: it was actually true. The video installation examines the pilot’s complex thought processes and the consequences of his decision.
Akram Zaatari (1966 Sidon, Libanon). In The House, 2005. HD video 30’12”. Courtesy of the artist.