Work by The Atlas Group, Richard Harden, Adam Niklewicz, David Small, Esther Solondz and Shellburne Thurber. Curated by Steven Holmes.
Remembering implies forgetting. An event or incident is remembered clearly only as a corollary of erasing all competing memories of the incident. Whether it is the private memory of the individual or, for instance, the official histories of public school textbooks (the socially filtered, public equivalent of individual memories), both make decisions based on recollections that, when scrutinized, are often revealed to be tenuous. Even so, what scrutiny reveals is not necessarily any more truthful; it is merely that which has most effectively survived the contests of doubt and forgetting.
This is Then is a reflection on memory. Not a collection of memorials or monuments, This is Then highlights how memory functions — politically, historically, socially, psychologically and philosophically.
With The Atlas Group, Walid Raad presents the recent history of Lebanon. While the materials are a mix of found and authored material, the fact that the presenting entity is itself fictive brings into sharp focus the framework within which history is presente, giving memory its veracity.
In In A Field Of Poppies, Richard Harden
addresses the psychological, spiritual and historical dimensions of conflict in the Balkans, where memory is a moral and political enterprise. As each mental image from Kosovo makes claims on the artist, so too do the memories of atrocities, battles, treaties and truces make claims on historians, statesmen, peasants, mullahs and priests.
Polish born Adam Niklewicz's work is lyrical in its sense of loss and in its obsession with the impossibility of reconciling past and present, evoking not homeland, but rather the absurdity of nostalgia and the futility of trying to be in any place other than the liminal space of the prefixed-American. Neither fully Polish nor fully American, Niklewicz’s work is ultimately about the folly of romanticizing a past that no longer exists.
David Small's’s Illuminated Manuscript is a large interactive book commissioned for Documenta11 and shown here for the first time in the United States. Projected text is virtually printed onto the blank pages of the book by a video projector and sensors embedded in the pages and mounted on the platform react as pages are turned; visitors can run their hands over the page to disrupt, combine and manipulate the text on each page. ‘Illuminated Manuscript’ makes physically real that all reading is interactive, all texts are in flux, each reading of every text ever written is a uniquely different experience and has unique meaning. Paradoxically, it is in the act of rendering the book as a corporeal, tactile, ‘manual’ experience, that the reader experiences both the pleasure of interaction and the cognitive dissonance of realizing that all narratives, be they historical, personal, political, or religious, float on an ocean of constantly flowing palimpsest.
Esther Solondz's salted objects recall the history of their own materiality. Baptismal gowns, mittens, and first communion or first-day-of-school-shoes are preserved by being soaked in salt solutions. But preserved to what end? In seeking to halt the processes of time, to stop rot, halt decay, defeat corruption, Solondz has entombed the subject once and for all. Solondz’s poetry is in her choice of objects. Seeing her elegiac rows of children’s shoes, one imagines piles of shoes near the ovens at Birkenau. What is the history of these shoes? What is being preserved? The shoes, or the loss they represent? Lost childhood? Lost children? Futility seeks itself, and we are left to simply believe that within the salt form of a shoe, the real shoe resides, waiting.
Shellburne Thurber’s photographs of the empty offices of psychoanalysts reveal spaces that are everyday, yet highly charged. Through their potent vacuity, these photographs reroute the imagination to a consideration of what happens in these spaces. Thurber’s images serve as postcards, souvenirs of places, but also memorials to spaces that are in turn places where memories themselves are the besieged, invisible subjects.