The Suspension and Excess of Time

Screening #1,

The indefinite period of standing in line represents a multi-faceted experience of ‘transition’. Chantal Akerman gets to the heart of this experience in her 1993 film D’EST (From the East), shot during the period of upheaval of the 1990s. With the filmic travelogue that moves from Russia to Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic across the former GDR and to Belgium, her documentary essay film shows people standing wordlessly in endless queues. It thereby creates the cinematic feeling of being-in-between – a situation experienced by people at the time.

Starting with this testament to historical transformation, the feeling of being in transition – as a condition between the past and the imagined future – forms the point of intersection for the screening chapter’s works. Challenging the idea of isolating the past, The Suspension and Excess of Time follows a conception of historicity in which a multiplicity of times coexist, opening up parallel perspectives. The selected video works follow a chrono-political understanding of history. They deal with different temporal poetics that unfold as durational documentation (Józef Robakowski); live actions (Ulrike Rosenbach); live sculptures (Eglė Rakauskaitė / Rakė); and re-enactments (Sanja Iveković). They move between the historical imagining of life in a transcended system (Sasha Pirogova) to the envisioning of a time machine (Clarissa Thieme). Understood as a transformation process with multiple trajectories, feminist and political practices stand in the focus of this screening chapter. These demonstrate the time-transcending influence of political and social structures, the power of influence of religion and patriarchy as conditions that render personal daily life political. As a structural principle, the interaction of different layers of time within the work threads its way through the screening as a whole, whether in the form of confrontation with different historical and religious models of identity, the actualization of political and economic transformation in Eastern Europe at the end of the 20th century, or processes of technological or physiological, human development and change. The performatively staged views (which look backward and forward) intersect through the concept of history, which only becomes manifest in its actualization. Spanning an arc from the 1970s through the 1990s and into the present, cross- and back-references abound.

  • In 1957, Roland Barthes stated that in “Western” mythology the USSR would be a world halfway between the Earth and Mars to exemplify that the communist world was considered as foreign as another planet. Similar to Barthes’ literary method in his Mythologies book, curator, filmmaker and artist Xandra Popescu scripted three semi-fictional short stories to introduce major paradigms of her screening program O’ Mystical East and West.

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  • Screening Preview

    Preview: THE SUSPENSION AND EXCESS OF TIME

  • The curatorial selection The Suspension and Excess of Time explores the role of time within a period of radical political, social, and economical change. The selected video works focus on the changes different societies were going through during the Perestroika era, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the soviet empire. Paying tribute to speculative temporalities, curators Becker and Seehusen will trace people’s everyday experiences in the former “East” and “West” before and after 1989 / 1991.

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  • The changing role and function of language before and after the “transition” cannot be discussed without considering the dimension of authoritarian speech acts in the last phase of socialism. Anthropologist Alexei Yurchak shares the observation that during the authoritarian speech act, sign and reference, language and gesture, word and action merge into each other. This thesis is the foundation for an understanding of the variety of linguistic and performative experiments in post-socialist video art. The curators will focus on video works that reflect upon shifts in language and meaning and employ diverse silent, verbal, performative, activist, and other strategies to discuss collective and personal memory, identity, power relations, gender roles, and socio-political change.

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  • Screening #3

    Cosmos Cosmetics

    Political protocol tends to dispossess, overwrite, and refurbish unwanted narratives. Parallel to this, there are new agencies that enhance the intersections, reciprocities, and movements between bodies, spaces, objects, and memories. The video art and experimental film works of COSMOS COSMETICS: Unresting Memoryscapes and Corpofictions are concerned with architectural, corporeal, and phantasmatic materializations of internalized mnemonic, and bio-political regimes. Meanwhile they address surface porosities and subcutaneous layers of post-socialist cities. Hence this chapter of screenings in D’EST brings together artistic strategies and methods for unsettling, decontaminating, and queering artificial mono-histories, which stem from the urge to untag and distance the subject from the constraints of conformity, imposed belonging to a certain ethnic group or community, and identitarian politics in general.

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  • Screening #4

    The Body as Indexical Reader

    Among the manifold effects of the post-1989 transformations, one can discern certain semantic shifts and taboos with regard to the socialist past. This chapter focuses on the artistic use of the body as a reader of leftover indices of this past. Material examples for these indices include architecture, historical audio recordings, manuscripts, notes, and diaries. The selected video works represent performative “readings” of external indexical topographies, such as that of the soviet communal flat (kommunalka), a rundown future spa facility or a soviet modernist building. Here, the body acts as a corporeal reading tool, which carries out the mnemonic process of indexically reading and analyzing (“reading traces”) in an imaginative way. Therefore, it plays a central role in video art as the ars memoriae of the present.

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  • Screening #5

    We are Family

    Entwining autobiographical, historical, and fictional narratives, this screening program examines generational, personal, and political frictions, breaks and entanglements, taking place in the dystopian context of post-1989. The tension bears down on the sphere of the personal and the political maintained through the relationship of the four figures: the figure of Neighbor, the figure of Mother, the figure of Lover and the figure of Other.

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  • Screening #6

    ReTopia

    The screening chapter ReTopia acknowledges “post-socialism” not only as a continental but also as a global phenomenon, though with palpable regional specificity and intensity. It looks at transitional shifts and modes of remembrance of historical processes that evoke forms – rejected, outmoded, disposed from power, gender political, architectural, and even full of potential. Without being afraid of utopian ideology, it looks back and forth and sideways in search of radically different futures. Both curators, Bettina Knaup and Katja Kobolt ask these questions against the backdrop of their individual and collective endeavors to create “temporary archives”: re.act.feminism (2009-2013), a travelling performing archive Bettina Knaup initiated with Beatrice E. Stammer; and Perpetuum Mobile. The Artotheque, a collection of videos and other digitized works initiated by feminist curatorial collective Red Mined within the Living Archive (2011-2015) through the simple act of giving.

    → See the screening dates in the Program