At the end of the article The Non-Existence of Norway Slavoj Žižek analyses the flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East into Western Europe, proposing a global change in which “humankind should get ready to live in a more ‘plastic’ and nomadic way. One thing is clear: national sovereignty will have to be radically redefined and new methods of global co-operation and decision-making devised.“1
Two people, thus two images collide – an empty-handed man that walks through the landscape, looking for a place to settle. Then a man of plenty, trying to exclude the other from the land that he claims belongs to him. Law of nature and law of man superimposed.
Try to freeze this image in your mind: two men standing in a landscape. Now sink below the ground. See the sediments of the past. Add layers of culture and all the different interpretations of history and beliefs. This image is the starting point for the series of exhibitions Two men standing.
The exhibitions look for the invisible that suddenly, temporarily surfaces, allowing us to observe where we come from and which commons we have. They look at traces of radical redefinitions of culture being preserved within the landscape or being attributed to it.
Middle East Report (2005, 2017) by Goran Micevski (Belgrade), has the form of a travel guide for the Middle East. He realised this work before the Arab Spring started, during his many travels in the region. The photos depict touristic sites such as the location where Christ allegedly performed his first miracle in Qana or Allexander’s alley where Alexander the Great crucified inhabitants of Tyr.
Micevski simultaneously performs two roles: a guide (an authority) who selects where to look and how to interpret what we see and of a flâneur “who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes”. Photographs of desolate, neglected urban landscapes problematise the relevance and accuracy of those historic events. Texts from existing touristic guides combined with the artist’s reflexions question what and if we learned from common, shared histories.
The film Niches Cut into Bedrock at Sacsayhuamán, Cusco and Inca Stone Quarry at Cachicata, Ollantaytambo (2011) by Hannes Böck (Vienna) looks closely at Inka stone architecture from the 16th century, mimicking an archeological documentary approach. While looking at the geometric quality of pre-hispanic remains, one can contemplate on modernist sculpture.
His photo series Avendia Bolivar, Lima (2011) documents residential buildings built in a variation on the Bauhaus style. They represent the dominant architectural form for middle class housing in Peru from the 1950’s onward. However, in the Peruvian context modernist architecture was seen as a style imported from Europe, thus perceived as un-Peruvian. The two complementary works by Böck analyse the formal similarities between the ancient remains and the modernist architecture of Peru, thus questioning their cultural and national identities within a post-colonial context.
The sculptures Pano (2017) and Untitled (2017) by Katleen Vinck (Antwerp) are loosely based on existing underground architecture – on a bunker. Although atomic shelters still exist in contemporary cities they are often unnoticeable, turning into possible archeological artefacts from the Cold War era. What once was made to protect, now needs protection. Perpetual transformation cannot be prevented, but the archetype of a shelter always prevails.
Vinck’s grey architectural forms seem to have been slowly enveloped by nature. We are looking at objects that are open to more then one interpretation. Are they a model for the future or remains of the past?
1:: Žižek, Slavoj. (9 September 2015). The Non-Existence of Norway. Retrieved from http://www.lrb.co.uk/2015/09/09/slavoj-zizek/the-non-existence-of-norway