DIG WHERE YOU STAND
Uqbar Project Space
Curated by Naomi Hennig
10 - 18 December 2016
With Thomas Anderson, Anne Baumann, Meray Diner, Gwendolen Dupré, Anastasia Mina, Dicle Ozluses and Andrea Palašti
The exhibition "Dig Where You Stand", hosted by the project spaces uqbar and Kronenboden in Schwedenstrasse 16, presents works by eight artists from Cyprus, Scotland, Serbia and Germany. It is the result of a residency programme, whose participants were invited to respond to the theme of historiography, and to dig into the personal and collective memories connected to the urban space of Berlin and beyond.
The title refers to Sven Lindqvist's book of 1978, where the writing of history is seen as an emancipatory collective responsibility, claiming that everyone can be a historian of his or her own everyday life and environment. Grassroots-historiography also played an important role in the development of Berlin's landscape of monuments and sites of commemoration. Politics of memory and the debates that emerge around the representation of the past are factors that shape our perception of the urban geography. The city is a discursive phenomenon, as much as it is a phenomenon in time and space. It has a vertical history, an underground to be excavated, physically but also on symbolical levels. Exploration of places like Berlin thus happens in multiple directions – moving between different coordinates on the city-map, but also by simply standing still and listening to the stories and memories that resonate in the streets and neighbourhoods, official histories as much as untold ones.
Walter Benjamin wrote: "Only for a redeemed mankind has its past become citable in all its moments.“ With the growing number of digitised archives and the vastness of available documents, we might have come closer to this ideal – technically. But the question remains, in whose interest and to what end history is being written. Perhaps it is in the multitude of 'small' histories, where there is space for artists, poets, filmmakers, to excavate the unsaid, the seemingly forgotten, to rescue it from oblivion in order to push towards this idea of a universal citability of the past. This citablity must be based an the capacity to critically reflect the information and to relate it to dominant narratives. And only then, the least possible fragment of a story is worth being told, being reconsidered, as an act of humanisation.
The Young Artists Residency Berlin is carried out within the framework of the EU funded project "Confrontation through Art: Contemporary Art as an Instrument for Reconciliation in Cyprus" (2014-2017).
The Gardens of Adonis were makeshift temporary gardens created by concubines and heterae, celebrating the ever-youthful deity. Taking these as a symbolic reference point, Garden (Berlin) plays with notions of immaturity, rashness and short-sightedness in current politics, leading to never-ending repetitions of mistakes instead of a real evolution of human civilisation. The containers used here are ceramic vases from two different makers in what used to be East and West Germany, containing the wet, chthonic lettuce plant that symbolises impotence and death. The Rhinoceros, a figure borrowed from a play by Ionesco, refers to the basic element of totalitarian societies, the individual that refuses to take responsibility. The two photographs show the grass that grows over what once was a Nazi rally ground in Munich, and the stones covering the compound of the former Gestapo headquarters in Berlin, touching upon the problem of commemoration and the need for a collective historical consciousness that structures identity.