An exhibition with nominees and winners of the Marcel Duchamp Prize
Kader Attia, Mircea Cantor, Cyprien Gaillard, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Anri Sala, Tatiana Trouvé
Memories can be sweet or painful. Sometimes we indulge in them, sometimes they are deceptive, and sometimes they take leave of us. There are memories we do not want to lose at any price and others we try to avoid as much as possible. A certain smell is often sufficient to bring a whole chapter of one's life to mind, whether we want it or not.
Our relationship to the past is characterised by the knowledge of the insurmountable distance to it. Only memory is capable of bringing the past to the light of the present; it is a procedure, however, that does not take place without interpretation and selection and hence is per se construed and fragmentary. It furthermore contains an almost melancholy component: the experience that the memory references must first be completed in order to reach our consciousness - memory always presupposes a loss. And yet memory is not only backward-looking but also offers a forward-looking potential: we employ memories to confirm the present, as the impetus of renewal or to question our own standpoint. Memory serves self-assurance, it endows identity.
The discourse concerning memory has increasingly grown in significance with the ongoing medialisation of our society, the immaterialisation of all data and the associated possibilities of relocating memory, and it furthermore resonates in the production of contemporary art as well. In our dealings with memory, space (not in the sense of a spot on a map but as a social framework) is perhaps the most important category. Memories are stored and conserved, ordered and inscribed in spaces. Art is an apt example of this: once taken up in the canon of museum collections, art not only embodies a part of our memory but is itself also decisively involved in the production of memory. Artists therefore play a special role in the construction of spaces of remembrance: they communicate between epochs and generations and contribute to preserving of the fundus of our shared knowledge. At the same time, their works are often also critical examinations of this knowledge to the extent that they subvert or call the pre-existing histographical canon into question. Art itself can consequently also be seen as technique of remembrance.
The Spaces of Remembrance exhibition is devoted to the mediums of storing and archiving memory as well as the artistic reflection of history. The manner in which memories - that initially always reference an individual experience - can become generally binding unfolds particularly vividly in the works of the six artists gathered together here. But on the other hand, they also occupy themselves with the destruction and rewriting of "monuments of remembrance," deal with the transitoriness and fluctuability of memory or with the reconstruction, the restructuring of remembrance spaces and the gaps in them.
Anri Sala's (born 1974, Tirana) video Byrek (1999), is given over entirely to an identificational ritual that the artist is visibly trying to preserve: his own grandmother's daily preparing of byrek. Personal memories of his own family's history are superimposed here with the general difficulty involved in preserving and handing down the traditions of one's own origins over geographical and chronological distances.
In Kader Attia's (born 1970, Seine-Saint-Denis) floor sculpture Couscous (2009), a specific food is likewise equally the existential staple of a specific geographical region and the carrier of individual memory. The grain is heaped to form a hilly landscape that, however, is interspersed with gaps. The openings evoke associations to the obliteration or disappearance of entire cities and peoples.
Remembering and forgetting, writing and rewriting are similarly aspects of Mircea Cantor's (born 1977, Oradea) video Tracking Happiness (2009). Women dressed in white walk in a circle one behind the other. Each of them holds a broom in her hands with which they obliterate the tracks of their predecessors and lay down new tracks of their own at the same time, which will also be covered over at the next moment. The round dance is repeated ceaselessly like a mantra, alluding to the impossibility of permanence and perpetuity.
In Cyprien Gaillard's (born 1980, Paris) photo series Geographical Analogies (2006-2011), transitoriness is already a done deal through the selection of the material. The continuously developed picture atlas is a key work in the artist's his long-term exploration of the relationship between nature and architecture. Presented in a kind of display case, the series of Polaroid photographs shows a very personal selection of natural sites, mythically-charged places, constructed monument and urban life in general. Gaillard is less concerned with loss when he repeatedly documents decay and destruction. He is much more fascinated by the transformations our environment is subject to. The collection of pictures consequently expressly stands for the parallelism of various times in space.
Tatiana Trouvé (born 1968, Consenza) understands the process of drawing as a mental process: a steady production of ever new spaces of remembrance takes place in the serial operation of drawing. The spaces that emerge in this way are elusive and seem, like memory itself, to be flowing rather than static. The impression is created that the forgotten and the absent are just as much a part of the drawings as the visible. This lends the works an almost somnambulistic, dream-like aura.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's (born 1965, Strasbourg) on-site installations involve accessible rooms in which biographical memories are interwoven with reminiscences from literature and film. The living spaces she has set up tell their stories with reduced means, particularly through the meticulous employment of light and colour, of 7 July - 9 September 2012