Constructing the Past
How do we remember history? What visual means are used to recount it and who narrates it? What does the image purporting to remember the past for us conceal? These questions are at the core of the program “Constructing the Past.” The images in these films were either unearthed or conceived especially to operate within history: to conceal, alter, or create it from a contemporary perspective. Crucial to this process is the use of materials from popular culture and the adoption of cinematic syntax. By employing these strategies, the artists guide us to the sites in which collective memory is shaped and images acquire their power.
DateSaturday, March 28th
The Return to Osiris
On June 9, 1967, the then Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, gave a dramatic speech on radio and television, informing the Egyptian people of their country’s defeat in the war against Israel, and announced his resignation. By collecting, cataloging, and rearranging visual materials associated with that speech, Palestinian artist Essa Grayeb’s work sheds new light on the challenge of conveying historical and political events via artistic means. The film weaves numerous stylistically divergent excerpts together extracted from Egyptian films and television programs produced between 1976 and 2016, and edited to reconstruct Nasser’s original text. The artist thus assumes the role of the historian as a source of knowledge and interpretation, while exposing the practices of creation and emptying of meaning via visual systems of representation, and their manifestations in popular culture.
The opening shot of Berlin-based Israeli artist Dani Gal’s film features two postcards: one portrays the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart, built in the International Style; the other is the same postcard, having been manipulated by the Nazi propaganda machine and transformed into an Arab village, as part of the Nazi campaign against modernism and against cultures perceived as inferior. The film addresses the complex figure of one of the founders of Zionism, Arthur Ruppin, who was briefly an ardent supporter of the binational state idea as well as an enthusiastic student of race. It focuses on his 1933 meeting with German eugenicist Hans F.K. Günther, whose studies greatly influenced Nazi racial theory. Gal, who wrote the film’s script based on Ruppin’s diaries, reanimates the postcards at the end of the film, but this time places them within local history. White City is the third part of a trilogy featured at Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 2014, which was preceded by Night and Fog (2011) and As from Afar (2013).
Newsreel 63 – The Train of Shadows
Nika Autor’s celebrated film, which represented Slovenia at the 2017 Venice Biennale, begins with an attempt to delve into a short clip filmed by refugees while crossing Europe, as they hide between the wheels of a train. The artist uses archival photographs and scenes from the history of cinema to comprehend the interrelations between photography, history, and the mechanical movement toward freedom, asking: who owns the image, who is entitled to use it, and for what purposes? A member of the Newsreel Front collective, Autor draws on news materials to develop a critical perspective on society. The collective members thus associate themselves with an activist artistic trend that evolved in the 1960s and 1970s as an alternative for the official news journals, linking themselves to contemporary social protest against globalist capital.