Exhibition at PODROOM gallery, Cultural Center of Belgrade, Serbia
2. 8 – 25. 8. 2018
Departing from our own personal geographies with all their layers and trajectories, this video-based exhibition is part of a long-term project that aims to intensify social and historical sensibility and to create transversal links from south and east of Europe to South America and vice versa. Through fragmented micro-histories, the artists are searching for the ways to confront traces of the past inscribed in landscapes, minds and bodies. They deal with the ancestry-related issues of memory and forgetting, with transgenerational trauma and the topics of violence and migrations that took place in and between these areas. Rethinking micro and macropolitics from antirascist (post-)migrant feminist and queer perspectives, these critical recollections have no place in dominant historiography and memory discourses as they question the linearity of historical process and the meaning of political identities and territories.
The main media used by the artists to counteract dominant historical and political narratives is the moving image. Of crucial importance is a relation between visual, written, oral and performative models of testimony in the form of monologues, dialogues, gestures, poetry or melodies. The exhibition thus includes video and film essays (Angela Melitopoulos, Angelika Levi, Yara Haskiel), video-installations (Ana Hoffner, Lana Čmajčanian), documentary video interview (Virginia Villaplana) and video document within a broader multidisciplinary project (Teresa Mulet). Conceptual framework of the exhibition builds around the issue of dispositive–not only political, social, cultural and family dispositive of remebering that the artists are dealing with–but also of dispositive in which moving images meet their public and the materiality of the media with regard to the possibility of transmission of memory.
Philosophically grounded visual essays and sound installations by Angela Melitopoulos are results of her thorough research into the relations between collective memory, politics and psychic mechanisms. In her work Passing Drama, she deals with the question of minorities, such as the case of Pontus Greeks, among them Melitopoulos’s grandparents, who were driven out of various regions of present-day Turkey and forced to seek refuge in Greece between 1921 and 1925. Many of the children of these refugees, including Melitopoulos’s father, were brought to Germany to work in the labor camps during the World War II. Because of constant migrations, they were unable to construct historical continuity and to fit into national identities. Can we recognize the refusal of historical continuity and identity as a utopian possibility of radical solidarity and subjectivity of resistance?
The video-essay Tsakalos Blues by Yara Haskiel develops along years a conversation with her father that grew up in post-war Germany as a stateless person. “Tsakalos“ is a term that discribes the sub-proletarian figure “Mangas“ of the Greek Rembetiko culture. It is a humorous description about Yara Haskiels grandfather from Thessaloniki that survived the death camps in Poland and Germany during World War II. The film traces the gaps and taboos of fractured memories and connects them to the places of lived expierence, but interwoven with fictional super 8 diaries. The anachronism of time and places generates the non-linear montage, that reflects the restless process of searching for answers, mourning and fractured remembrance itself. The work affirms a forthright proletarian “blues“ between the second and third generation after Shoah.
Can we relate World War II and the 1990s war in Bosnia-Herzegovina without reproducing iconographies of horror and instead try to open up new possibilities for the situation of looking and listening to emerge? In her artistic and theoretical practice, Ana Hoffner is searching for such a possibility and proposes to rethink memory through queerness (which is not limited to the memory of queer persons) and asks a question: how can this way of understanding memory can help us confront our own traumas and those of others? Her video-installation Transferred memories, embodied documents starts with a complex description of the video report on camp Omarska in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which grabbed an image from the video footage and made it into an “iconic photograph” from the Bosnian war.
Delving into her own Jewish-German heritage through the archive of her mother, who spent a significant part of her life in exile in Chile, Angelika Levi came to the conclusion that transgenerational trauma can serve as a basis for writing a different history, one that is not limited to the category of the victim. Such history takes into account the complexity of personal geography, all the movements, meetings, coincidences and inevitabilities that can shape a sensibility able to transform the painful experiences into a story of personal dignity. Or as Hannah Arendt wrote in The Human Condition: “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. The story reveals the meaning of what otherwise would remain an unbearable sequence of happenings”.
Can this approach open up also the possibility to face the violence that surrounds us daily? Venezuelan artist Teresa Mulet in that sense nominates her artistic practice an “accounting exercise”, accounting for the victims of violence in Venezeuela. If the violence has become normalized and legitimized through the politics of fear and false promises, that does not mean that we should accept the position of passive victims or bystanders and stop paying attention. On the contrary, precisely when it seems hopeless, we should continue to take care and holding account.
Documentary video essay is one of the key critical models through which Spanish artist and theoretician Virginia Villaplana in the last two decades conducts socially engaged media practice as a counterpoint to the propaganda of global capitalism, social inertia and political repression. The construction of memory and transgenerational trauma are the key topics in her work, starting from the open wounds of the past, such as Spanish Civil War and the period of Franco regime, and arriving at the struggles of today. Points of Support. Zones of Resistance is a video interview with guerrilla fighters Remedios Montero (Celia) and Florian García (El Grande), the last filmed record before their deaths. It forms part of a transdisciplinary project El instante de la memoria confronting the logic of cultural oblivion in present-day Spain.
The video-installation by Lane Čmajčanin showing the sea horizon is titled A Change is Gonna Come. The sea is not only a tourist destination, it is a political landscape on which the divisions among national territories are drawn up. It is also a migration road, the only road to get to another shore, and it has become a mass grave for many who put all their hopes into this final journey. The sea horizon is also a philosophical-poetic landscape and a zone of contemplation that puts into question geopolitical divisions and power mechanisms that determine the constructions of identities and territories.
As we are currently faced anew with right-wing misogynist shift in global politics, we belive in what Angela Davis said during the Refugee Strike 2014 in Berlin: “The Refugee Movement, is the Movement of the 21st century, its the Movement that is challenging the effects of global capitalism, it is the Movement that is calling for civil rights for all human beings!” We believe in the potentiality of these movements, that inevitable transform and inform our social fabric in any part of the world. The underlying idea of Personal Geographies is to look for another ways of telling history beyond categories of identity and territory. The focus is upon the strategies of survival and the places of pain that are at the same time places of resistance, hope, empathy, solidarity and utopian imagination.