But Still Tomorrow Builds into My Face

14 March - 19 May 2016

But Still Tomorrow Builds into My Face , curated by Nat Muller,  features works by  Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Daniele Genadry, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Yazan Khalili, Taus Mackhacheva, Shahpour Pouyan and Pia Rönicke.

 

The exhibition takes on a timely topic: the disappearance and loss of cultural and other types of heritage. The works explore the relationship between collecting, power, history, conflict and identity. By snatching away subjects from the jaws of time and permanent loss, and by fixing them in memory, the works become poetic and political acts of preservation.

 

The title is taken from the poem "The Pages of Day and Night" by the Syrian poet Adonis in which he describes the cycle of time passing and how tomorrow always comes even as he forcefully clings to yesterday. In her series of the same name, Danish artist Pia Rönicke shows photogravures of plant material taken from Copenhagen's herbarium. Her selection is based on a cross-reference between plant samples collected during the 1760s Danish Arabia Expedition to Egypt, Arabia and Syria, and the species that were recently sent for safekeeping to the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway from the gene bank in Aleppo, Syria. The herbarium samples divulge data on plant matter as well as on the geo-political contexts they were collected in. They are what Rönicke calls, a growing "collection of anticipation".

 

Tunis-born Nadia Kaabi-Linke's Archive of Tunis Banalities demonstrates her unique technique of wall rubbings. Like an archeologist she uncovers a specific urban memory and brings the streets of Tunis, prior to the 2011 uprisings, into the gallery space. In Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács' ghostly, yet ornamental video the flattened motif of 18th century illustrations of the ruins of Palmyra are brought to life as if they were liquid. Created before the destruction of Palmyra by ISIS, the violence of the present overshadows the past and the artists' intent.

 

Iranian artist Shahpour Pouyan's sculpture of the tomb of the 11th century Muqarnas dome of Sharaf ad-Dawla, a Shi'ite mausoleum near Mosul, Iraq is another example of a site forever lost. It was recently destroyed by ISIS. Long-fascinated by its shape, and hoping he would one day visit it, Pouyan kept an image of it pinned to his desk. His sculpture thus is a preservation of an image, a memorial to a gone monument.

 

The violence, but also poetics, of loss and absence run consistently through the exhibition. This seemingly contradictory dynamic is well illustrated in the works by Palestinian artist Yazan Khalili and those of Lebanese artist Daniele Genadry. In his series of photographs The Day we Saw Nothing In Front of Us Khalili has taken images of the landscape in the Palestinian occupied territories in which he has scratched out the Israeli settlements on the horizon, thus revealing an image in which violence can be enacted upon the violence depicted. Genadry's screenprints on mylar are based on landscape photographs taken over the course of ten years from the same town in Mount Lebanon. These ephemeral-looking pieces have a sensibility of the durational while being fleeting at the same time. They question what seeing and not seeing might actually mean.

 

Finally, in her video Tightrope Dagestani artist Taus Makhacheva continues her querying of the production of history in the post-Soviet era. A tightrope walker crosses the abyss of a canyon in the highlands of the Caucasus' mountains transporting artworks of various Dagestani artists. This balancing act highlights how art history is threatened by amnesia and how an equilibrium can be found between the fragile balance of post-Soviet subjectivity and a traditional, national and contemporary narrative. Moreover, as with all the works in the exhibition But Still Tomorrow Builds into My Face, it asks what the role and the position of the artist is in these tumultuous times.