Reassembling Past Futures

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Reassembling Past Futures

  • 19 Mar 2014 — 27 Jun 2014

The exhibition features seven artists whose practices respond to key social and political moments from the last century. The works draw together narrations that represent the shifting territories and lost ideals that have occupied European consciousness in the recent century. If imagining the future depends on the need for remembering the past, this exhibition presents artistic practices that re-interpret history, to offer another perspective on how we can consider our present reality. Curated by Hannah Conroy the artists featured include Anna Artaker / Lilla Khoór, Sonia Leimer, Johannes Schweiger, Anita Witek and Klub Zwei.

‘The current global financial crisis may spark new interest in history. In face of an uncertain future, people tend to seek firm footing in the past.’ - Frits Gierstberg

Austrian-German duo Klub Zwei map the transition of Phaidon Press from Austria to the UK. The Jewish publisher Béla Horovitz saved the press from national socialist repossession of property by migrating the press to London. The 3-channel installation Phaidon. Presses in Exile (2006), discusses the history of Phaidon press using memory and personal accounts to disrupt or further inform the established subjects and narratives of that time. It touches on notions of reparation and the subsequent effects of this period.

Historiography and interpretation are significant motifs seen in the collaborative work created by Anna Artaker / Lilla Khoór. NEUNZEHNHUNDERT ÖTVENHAT (NINETEENHUNDRED FIFTYSIX) (2004) is a leporello folded book consisting of ten pairs of pictures. The pictures on the left side are Technicolor film stills taken from the second episode of the trilogy by Austrian filmmaker Ernst Marischka,  “Sissi the Young Empress”, which was shot and released in 1956. The screen shots are taken from the end of the films which depicts of the creation of a dual monarchy of Austria–Hungary in 1867. In stark contrast, black and white pictures are shown on the right side of the leporello. These were taken in the same year 1956, but this time show documentary photographs of the reality in Budapest at that time. They record different scenes from the unsuccessful month long Hungarian revolution of autumn ’56. The concertina display confronts two different methods to depicting history in order to redefine the authorship of account and its subjective reality.

The influence of the technological advances and the utilisation of the lens in documenting present realities - as well as imaginable futures - pervades many works within Reassembling Past Futures. Italian-born artist Sonia Leimer is interested in the individual exploration of foreign history as she reflects on the cold war and the space race. Silk-screen print 1959 (2012) is a reproduction of one of the first photographs of the Earth from space taken by U.S Satellite ‘Explorer VI” in 1959. Perceived as a failure due to lack of information, the abstracted image was believed to represent a reflection of sunlight from an Ocean, but did not offer a tangible vision of the earth. The image is printed onto an aluminium foil that was developed in 2012 for use in space shuttles, but was never used due to its insulating properties. Both the content of the image and the material on which it is presented denote the inability to appropriately capture factual data whilst bringing into question that which is quantifiable and useful.

Leimer will also exhibit the sculpture Not yet here, already gone, (2012). Taken by an amateur photographer, the work presents a series of photographs of the lost 1970’s satellite that was sent to take samples from mars, but never reached the planet. The title of the work suggests a moment of time between achieving a futuristic ambition and a missed opportunity. In an era of exploration the secluded satellite becomes a lone explorer without purpose, unable to be remembered, its untold story lost in space.

Vienna based artist Johannes Schweiger, uses the construction of fabrics as a metaphor for the reconnection with the past. The sculpture Nostalgia for obsolescence cronies (2013) presents a series of reproduced fabrics that have derived from vintage styled cloth commodities such as tea towels and bed linen. These fabrics were generated on historic looms in the textile machine depot in Mönchengladbach, Austria, for the purpose of constructing a more durable version of the simulated original. The title of the work refers to the commercial concept of ‘planned obsolescence’ − the term denoting a production strategy since the 1920’s, which deliberately reduces the useful life of a product to increase the consumption of goods. The textiles fulfill the nostalgic impulse for the ‘good old days’ of production and design, drawing focus to the weaving of subjective account and observation, in order to construct a version of the past, as framed through the contemporary.

Anita Witek draws together shifting territories and time zones through the layering of photographic imagery. Salzburg Im Bild (Salzburg in the Picture) (2011) uses pages from the 1942 Die Sammlung Parthenon (The Parthenon Collection) by Hans E Günther. These original pages present architectural landmarks that align Salzburg as a German City during World War II. Layered on top of these, Witek adds unclassifiable images of architectural interiors presenting parallel times and places. Witek often removes central subjects from photographs leaving the backgrounds as visual indicators of an atmosphere of a particular period of time or space. In the context of Salzburg Im Bild (Salzburg in the Picture) (2011) these contrasting black and white images create a spectrum of grey areas that disrupt one impartial reading, making an ambiguous idea of content or theme.

Accompanying Events

Sissi Trilogy - to accompany Anna Artaker / Lilla Khoór work NEUNZEHNHUNDERT ÖTVENHAT (NINETEENHUNDRED FIFTYSIX) (2004) the ACF's Cineclub will screen the entire Sissi Trilogy which is undoubtedly among the most successful German-speaking films of all time.
Part I Wednesday 26 March, 7pm
Part II Wednesday 2 April, 7pm
Part III Wednesday 9 April, 7pm

Sissi Antidote - films staring the lead actors from the Sissi trilogy in a totally new light!
Death Watch staring Romy Schneider, Wednesday 16 April, 7pm
Peeping Tom starting Karlheinz Boehm, Wednesday 23 April, 7pm

Emigres: The Story of Phaidon and Thames & Hudson
Tuesday 10 June 2014
In connection with Klub Zwei's 3-channel installation Phaidon. Presses in Exile (2006), Dr Anna Nyburg will talk about the journey from Austria to London of these two influencial publishing houses. A book on the subject is expected to be published later this year by Phaidon Press.

The exhibition continues until 27 June 2014

Opening times – Mon – Friday 10:00am – 5:00pm

Anita Witek, 'Im Bild', 2011

Austrian Cultural Forum London

28 Rutland Gate
London SW7 1PQ


T 020 7225 7300

F 020 7225 7300