Wednesday, April 2, 2008

History Will Repeat Itself

History Will Repeat Itself. Strategies of re-enactment in contemporary (media) art and performanceHMKV at PHOENIX Halle Dortmund: June 9 - September 23, 2007

In contemporary (media) art there has been an almost ‘uncanny’ longing for the performative repetition or re-creation of historical situations and events. The exhibition History Will Repeat Itself focuses on current strategies of re-enactment in contemporary (media) art and performance, and presents the positions and strategies of 30 international artists. It is a cooperation between Hartware MedienKunstVerein in Dortmund, and KW Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin, and is the first comprehensive exhibition in Germany dealing with the topic, or strategy, of re-enactment.
In general, a so-called re-enactment is a historically correct recreation of socially relevant events, such as important battles or other historical events. In a re-enactment, the audience that normally remain passive or at a certain distance of the documented event become immediate witnesses of a (repeated historical) event, which unfolds in front of their eyes, or they become participants in an action, in which they actively participate.
In contemporary art there has been an increasing number of artistic re-enactments – the performative repetition or re-creation of historical situations and events. For example, in his work "The Battle of Orgreave" (2001) the British artist Jeremy Deller had a violent clash between miners and police from the year 1984 re-enacted by ex-miners, ex-police and other re-enactors.
Unlike popular historical re-enactments, like e.g. the re-enactment of historical battles, artistic re-enactments are not performative re-stagings of historic situations and events that occurred a long time ago; rather, events (often traumatic ones) are re-enacted that are viewed as very important for the present. Artistic re-enactments are not simply affirming what has happened in the past, but rather they are questioning the present via repeating or re-enacting historical events that have left their traces in the collective memory. Re-enactments are artistic interrogations of media images that try to scrutinise the reality of the images, while at the same time pointing towards the fact that collective memory is essentially mediated memory.

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