When entering an exhibition that explicitly addresses the failures and legacies of the Soviet utopian project, it can be productive to draw parallels with the current socio-political climate. In today’s context, the exhibition shows us how artists have dealt with dystopia and the collapse of an ideological and economic system.
A poster recalling 1970s giallo film aesthetics heralds the play CROCOPAZZO! by Leila Hekmat at Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, but upon crossing the gallery’s threshold one realizes that the actual play was already performed in petit comité and what remains comprises the exhibition. CROCOPAZZO!’s structure is complex, as it includes a number of discrete elements: the play, an edited film of the play, the original set and props, and the handmade garments the performers wore. The narrative of the work raises questions relating to accessibility, caring structures, and mental health.
Guests arrived in formal attire and brought gifts, and were welcomed by two photos hung on the wall, each a portrait of one of the two brides: Binga in an elegant suit and tie with slicked-back hair and big eyeglasses in an office, and Menna in a shot taken during her actual 1959 wedding day, in her white gown holding a flower bouquet against a white car.
We need to make arts funding functional for the production of art, not just for repeating agreed social truths within an echo chamber.
The exhibition History Without A Past, currently on view at Mu.ZEE, Ostend, features recent work by Samson Kambalu and Vincent Meessen. Of all the currents of ideas revealed by 1968, the Situationist International (1957–72) is probably the most enduring. Situationism was conceived by its adherents led by Guy Debord as a response to the failures of both the Marxists and the artistic avant-gardes, from Dada to the Lettrists. Since its self-dissolution in 1972, it has nurtured several generations of activists, intellectuals, and artists who have drawn on its texts to radically criticize what makes modernity in our societies: subversion in art, from Dada to Happenings; the conceptions of the city inherited from Le Corbusier; consumerism of material goods and leisure; the system of media representation. In this conversation, the artists give detailed accounts of the narratives and constellations operative in their work, sharing radical perspectives on the historical and contemporary ramifications of the SI International toward Africa and the West. Meessen and Kambalu expand on art and cinema as a socialized and politicized praxis, laying the ground for internationalist forms and alliances in the present.