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revieWs HIstory WIll repeat Itself
History Will repeat itself:
strategies of re-enactment
in contemporary art
KW InstItute for Contem por ary art, BerlIn
18 novemBer – 13 January
That history and collective memory are seldom directly experienced and are instead relayed through various
forms of media representation has become something of a truism. The 22 international artists whose work
is brought together in History Will Repeat Itself, however, seek not simply to reaffirm our relation to the past
but to challenge both the accuracy of received histories and to raise important questions as to the methods
through which history is communicated and enshrined in contemporary culture. That history can and should
be re-experienced, albeit through the medium of art, is a central premise of this show.
The artists and curators involved in the exhibition – which occupies all four floors of the KW Institute and
primarily incorporates film, photography and video – tend to shun, wisely, the notion that representation amounts
to an aggregate of subjective experience shorn of ideology. History Will Repeat Itself, despite the problematic
nature of its necessarily being organised around what is commonly recognisable, is by no means limited to the
familiar. Nor does the show pretend to construct a chronological account of reenactment, although it begins in
1920, with a selection of surviving photographs and texts from Nikolaj Evreinov’s spectacular recreation of the
storming of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg in 1917, moving through the decades with Iain Forsyth and Jane
Pollard’s File Under Sacred Music (2003), which recreates the Cramps’s legendary 1973 gig at the Napa State
Mental Institution, to Jeremy Deller’s almost canonical The Battle of Orgreave (2002). Alongside Deller, Pierre
Huyghe (The Third Memory, 1999) and Rod Dickinson, less well known artists represented include Omer Fast
(Spielberg’s List, 2003), Felix Gmelin (Farbtest, The Red Flag II, 2002), Irina Botea (Auditions for a Revolution,
2006), Daniela Comani (Ich war’s. Tagebuch 1900–1999, 2002) and Artur Zmijewski (80064, 2004). Dominating
the third floor is Dickinson’s collaboration with Tom McCarthy, the compelling Greenwich Degree Zero (2006),
in which French anarchist Martial Bourdin’s failed attempt to blow up the famous observatory is reimagined as
a success, the story told through manipulated versions of nineteenth-century anarchist newspaper clippings.
The artists’ collective C-level (Team Waco) have created a playable computer-game version of the Waco
siege, allowing the viewer/player to step into the shoes of David Koresh himself in his doomed battle with the
Irina Botea, Auditions for a
Revolution, 2006 (installation
Feds. Another work, the collective T.R. Uthco & Ant Farm’s by turns powerful, provocative and highly amusing
view, Chicago). photo: razvan Botea
© the artist and razvan Botea play on the assassination of JFK (The Eternal Frame, 1975), is equally absorbing – no less Kerry Tribe’s series of
interviews on the nature of representation with
the theorist Peter Wollen’s young daughter,
Audrey, in Here & Elsewhere (2002).
History Will Repeat Itself attempts to
bridge the gap between the recreation of
historical events as a documentary practice and
a critical relation to their original documentation.
This is a strategy which succeeds in destabilising
the idea of the ‘original’ historical ‘event’ itself,
while our own experience of the event is
compelled to oscillate between a multitude
of possibilities, bearing witness to a very real
conjunction of the historical, the ahistorical and
the imaginary. Luke Heighton
artrevieW 124
FEB_REVIEWS.indd 124 7/1/08 09:21:15
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