Manifesta launches the group exhibition Dialogues by Lumen Travo Gallery in its headquarters at Herengracht 474.
This will mark the 7th edition of Manifesta’s in-house exhibitions.
Featuring nine artists of the gallery, the show finds its starting point in the contrast between the contemporary identity of Lumen Travo and the historical past of the Manifesta HQ building. The gallery decided to approach this unique location in a pro-positive way by highlighting the unexpected connections rather than differences arising from the dialogue between the art and the space. Here, the works leave their comfort zone to inhabit a building whose historical background appears far from them. In this whimsical juxtaposition, new combinations emerge. The result is a unique “conversation” that goes beyond time, space, color and materials.
Placing together old and contemporary, Eastern and Western, rich and poor, the artworks and location find their common ground in the delicate details and unexpected similarities that little by little appear throughout the exhibition. In this cultural exchange, the initial contrast becomes the strength of the exhibition rather than its weakness – offering new meanings and fresh perspectives.
1- Meschac Gaba’s Wisdom Lake This installation that can be considered the fil rouge of the whole curatorial concept behind this show since it’s scattered all over the place, from the entrance, till the rooms upstairs. It consists of 12 brains of ‘grandes maîtres’, as Meschac Gaba calls them, 12 great people who have made an impression on his life in a humanist, scientific, philosophical, religious and political way: Jesus Christ, Mahatma Ghandi, Desiderius Erasmus, Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx, Louis Pasteur, Marcel Broodthaers, Kwame Nkrumah, Martin Luther King, Miriam Makeba, Harald Szeemann and King Ghezo from Benin. Here the presence of the gold element creates a chromatic affinity with the golden decoration on the wall and the baroque style of the location and proposes new exchanges between Africa and the Western world. Lake of Wisdom is a work about memory, history and appreciation. In his art, Meschac Gaba focuses on issues around intercultural balance and imbalance; he often addresses ideas of value and revaluation, manifesting with irony and charm these tradeoffs through the notions of cultural alteration, creolization of cultures.
2- Flag of Compassion This is an ongoing conceptual artwork, initiated in 2002. It investigates ethical values in society. The artwork consists out of various elements: the word ‘compassion,’ an instrument ‘the Flag,’ a Manifesto, a foundation managing the artwork, the Unda Foundation, a distribution network and a website where you can purchase the Flag (www.flagofcompassion.com). The Flag of Compassion shows an undulating golden yellow horizontal bar centrally placed on a white field. The colour white symbolizes purity, non-violence and peace. The colour golden yellow symbolizes the energy of life, (human) warmth and compassion, and the emanation of the positive forces of the human being. This is not the symbol of a nation, institution, society, political party or religious conviction but expresses an abstract concept of a universal human value. It is a means for every individual to express compassion. For this occasion an explanatory video about the Flag has been installed at the help desk of Manifesta in order to welcome the visitors with a symbol that goes beyond cultural, social and geographical differences. Here the Flag becomes official standard of the exhibition.
3- Otobong Nkanga’s Remains of the Green Hill Halfway between a performer, a film-maker, a sculptor, Nkanga creates narratives that dwell on memory, environment, and the postcolonial histories embedded in her home country. Remains of the Green Hill is a video installation by the African artist Otobong Nkanga. The Green Hill in Tsumeb, Namibia, is an area that once had a high concentration of minerals, crystals and copper. The Owambo looked after it for generations. After the arrival of German colonists, Green Hill was exhausted by the export industry. During her visit, Otobong Nkanga found only a fenced off crater. Only a few green and blue traces of malachite and azurite serve to remind us of its rich past. This video installation deals with the lack of prosperity, with the environmental changes caused by a brutal colonial past. It shows what happens when material abundance is replaced by absence, and then desire is superseded by cool disinterest. This main concept is also enhanced by the location, a humble room which reflects upon the video’s topics in its own way.
4- Tiong Ang’s Models for (the) People Models for (the) People consists of an installation specially developed and produced by artist Tiong Ang for the Shanghai Biennial. Examining the visionary potential of Shanghai’s old and new history within the social, economic, political, ethnic and cultural relationships of our hybrid global reality, Tiong Ang has composed a hallucinatory, visual narrative along different tracks of transformation, questioning the credibility and persistence of its origins and bearings. Models for (the) People is a range of disparate images juxtaposed in both sequential and spatial environments. Video images, paintings, objects, songs and words in three languages are united in a display that generates a ‘contradictory space’, where differentiation and mutual contestation rule. In his practice, engaging in the search of intercultural encounters, the artist introspects the construction of collective and individual identities in different contexts of cultural shifts, whether in Europe or in China. He explores the forms and interactions of the intercultural dialogue, resulting in many collaborative and performative works in which he acts whether as an artist, a curator or an art critics.
5- Yvonne Dröge Wendel’s Universal Pattern Universal Pattern is a project initiated by Yvonne Dröge Wendel in 2002. This project focuses on the popular Brabant pattern and the values that each different culture has been giving to it. In Europe, many people appear to associate the pattern with rural cuisine and picnics. In Japan, the material has a spiritual significance. Buddha statues are wrapped in the cloth and placed on graves to signify that a child has died. In Indonesia, the checkered material is associated with the symbolization of good and evil; English colonists introduced the material to South Africa where it is used for children's school uniforms. The African Masaii claim that pattern as part of their national costume. This installation deals with cultural appropriation and authenticity of tradition. The project shows that our way of thinking is largely based on forgery and has always linked to human emotions and interpretations. The investigation into the fabric's origins can be seen as a sort of mathematical formula on how ideas about authenticity actually originate. The artist is concerned with the relationship between people and objects, and the quest for challenging new ways of relating to things. Dröge Wendel sets up experimental encounters and aims to capture what it is that objects can actually do. Rethinking the subject-object distinction and reworking our understanding of what it is for humans and nonhumans to constitute a world is the main focus point of her artistic research. In support of the theoretical achievements, her artistic practice will further develop built environments that evoke dialogue, inform and help formulate essential questions concerning (the future of) things.
6- Georges Adéagbo’s installation Georges Adéagbo produces site-specific installations through which he investigates the relationship between his own personal experience and the cultural-political history of his country. He regularly collects and organizes pictures, books, vinyls, objects trouvés that he puts together every time in a different way. The results of his practice are huge site specific installations which fill the space with their multiplicity of symbols, stories, concepts related with each other through a clever game of references and unexpected connections. His artworks are visual maps of his itineraries throughout the streets of Benin, his town. As a neutral bridge between races and by revealing aspects of cultures he seeks to serve as a catalyst for mutual understanding. Respecting and celebrating worldwide diversity, Georges is constantly searching for evidence of sources common to all to present in his composition. His hope is that all of us will be able to sense stages of our evolution and gain an insight into our destiny.
7- Ni Haifeng’s Washing Hands The humble location chosen for this video develops an immediate visual connection between the tiles installed in the toilet wall and the background shown in the video. Protagonist of the video is a dystopian detail: the action of washing clean hands that gradually become dirty. Ni Haifeng’s practice stems from an interest in cultural systems of return, exchange, language and production. Through photography, video and installations, Ni Haifeng explores the simultaneous creation and obliteration of meaning while drawing attention to the cyclical movements of people, products and goods that are often reflective of patterns of colonialism and globalization. Aims to subvert the status quo and counteract preconceived notions of art are, in Ni Haifeng’s words, an effort towards reaching a “zero degree of meaning”. The concept of uselessness plays a key role within his practice.
8- Atousa Bandeh Ghiasabadi’s Dragon Atousa Bandeh Ghiasabadi’s works are mainly two dimensional. Her drawings, videos and film works are stories delved in the ephemeral dimension of her memories. Her artistic practice can be described as visual poetry. She throws her images almost literally onto the paper-images of objects and portraits that conceal a profusion of symbolic associations. Personal memories tend to pop up not in a clear-cut way, but blurred, vague and deformed. Rather than representing a plain narrative, expressed in feathery layers of papers and moving images. Her life is caught in lyrical lines. In this aesthetic horror vacuum, there is a constant feeling of almost grabbing the story behind those faces portrayed by Atousah, but it’s a fleeting dream with a thousand meanings we will never completely know.
9-Monali Meher’s Falling through Irkal Well Monali Meher started her career by introspecting cultural shifts through a series of performances in which body and gender play an important role. Her artistic performances, installations, objects, photographs and videos witness her quest for defining the body as a trouble spot of time and space connections or mutual extensions. Beyond this quest, Monali Meher draws an ontological thought - time influencing human essence and evolution. With her drawings, she transferred her performance to the paper, by transforming a dynamic movement in a frozen two-dimensional image. Drawings for Monali Meher are like autobiographical diagrams; they often deal with the concepts of decay, hybridization of various elements from both European and Indian cultures, reshaping belongings and intimacy. Although her works are considered highly autobiographical, they also indicate a global truth hidden in them, which make them a collective, universal in nature.
10- Jens Pfeifer’s Right Here Jens Pfeifer is a visual artist, making sculptures, drawings and site-specific work. Being brought up in a forest, animals and the forest itself form a familiar and ever returning image in Pfeifer’s work. Collecting pictures from nature, like anthropologists do, his art contrasts yet with this scientific approach to elaborate a direct, timeless and unstructured dialogue with the viewer. The artist returns to the origins of language, myth, by playing on human instinctive emotions. His sculptures connect the civilization with the wide world of nature. Here the garden of Manifesta headquarters becomes the perfect location for showing and exploring the ‘un-cultural’, what escapes from and is not domesticated by human.