Into the Unknown

Into the Unknown brings together works by artists and filmmakers who reflect upon and make productive use of archival film footage and other material from the past. They focus on how such stored images are received and interpreted today, not just on the circumstances in which they were once produced. In their hands the archive becomes a journey into unknown territories, but at the same time it is always reconfigured according to today’s interests and perspectives. Paradoxically, the constructed past that these artists excavate from the archive radiates a presence rivaling that of the present moment.

The works presented in the gallery at Ludlow 38 and during screenings at the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building open up new pockets of time that allow us to observe the past, and the communities that lived in it, at our own leisure. At the same time they set up spaces for future agency. The exhibition encompasses topics such as social uprising, official versions of everyday routines, the disappearance of political systems and the individual’s relationship to society and to collective memory.

The show borrows its title from Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevicius’s latest film Into the Unknown (2009), which depicts everyday life in the German Democratic Republic. When commissioned to produce a new piece from National Archive’s ETV Collection of socialist propaganda films at the British Film Institute, Narkevicius decided to re-edit different clips of existing films and sounds, thus restoring existential weight to these cinematic representations of really existing socialism.

Also shown in the gallery at Ludlow 38, Mariana Silva’s Archive for the Permanence of Image, Functional Model (2008) takes as a starting point Super 8mm footage from the time of the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974, culled from archives in her native Portugal. Silva has reworked the films into an installation that comprises various material presented on moviolas: a demonstration of construction workers besieging Lisbon’s São Bento palace, a Sunday of volunteer work cleaning of public monuments, separatist protests by inhabitants of the Azores islands.

On March 1, the evening before the exhibition opens at Ludlow 38, Dublin-based American artist Sarah Pierce will give an artist talk at the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building. The presentation will look at the relation between performer and audience and deals with the artist’s interest in conversations. Since 2003 Pierce has used the umbrella term “The Metropolitan Complex” to describe her practice which uses archives, exhibitions, and papers – often opening these structures up to the personal and the incidental.

Film screenings at the Wyoming Building continue the exhibition off-site. They include Russian artist Dmitry Gutov’s film Lifshitz Institute (2004) about the Marxist art critic Mikhail Lifshitz and the contradictory reception of his writings in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia as well as in the West throughout the 20th century. Also featured are two Portuguese films, João Dias’s Operações SAAL (2009) and António Cunha Telles’s Continuar a Viver (1975), portraying the unique efforts of a radical experiment in participatory architecture in Portugal.

March 1: Artist talk with Sarah Pierce at the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building

March 18: Screening of Dmitry Gutov’s Lifshitz Institute (2004) with an introduction by New York-based artist, architect, and filmmaker Alfredo Jaar, Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building, 7pm

April 1: Screening of António Cunha Telles’s Continuar a Viver (1975) and João Dias’s As Operações SAAL (2009), with an introduction by Joaquim Moreno, doctoral candidate in the Architecture Department at Princeton and curator of the Portuguese representation at the Venice Architecture Biennial in 2008. Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building, 6pm

Curated by Anders Kreuger, Astrid Wege, Rike Frank, and Tobi Maier

João Dias is a Portuguese film director author of As Operações SAAL which won the MIDAS prize at DocLisboa 2008. He is the author of documentaries and a short fiction film for Dance Company Clara Andermatt and is currently preparing a documentary on tourism in the south of Portugal.

Dmitry Gutov’s recent exhibitions include the Third Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow; documenta 12, Kassel; Thaw: Russian Art. From Glasnost to the Present, Chelsea Art Museum, New York; La 52 Biennale di Venezia, Venice; Repetition, Canon, Comeback, Deceleration, Stupor, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. He lives and works in Moscow.

Deimantas Narkevicius’s solo exhibitions include Brandts Kunsthalle, Odense (2010); BFI Southbank Gallery, British Film Institute, London; Kunsthalle Bern; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (all 2009); and Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2008). He lives and works in Vilnius.

Sarah Pierce is one of six commissioned artists working with the Dutch platform If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution. Recent projects include: It’s time man. It feels imminent, ICA, London, 2008 (subsequent chapters at De Appel, Amsterdam, and FOUR, Dublin); The question would be the answer to the question Are you happy?, Sala Rekalde, Bilbao, 2009; An artwork in the third person, Project, Dublin, 2009. In 2005 she represented Ireland at the 51st Venice Biennale.

Mariana Silva was one of the winners of BES Revelação prize (Serralves Museum, Porto, 2008) and is currently on a residency at ISCP, Brooklyn. Her article The Escape Route’s Design (with Pedro Neves) was published by e-flux journal in May 2009.

António Cunha Telles is a Portuguese film director and producer with a large number of productions since the early 1960s.