What You Can't See
8 May to 19 June 2009
7 May, 7-9 pm. Artists talk 6pm
To launch the imminent construction of Belfast Exposed's new Archive Gallery this exhibition brings together three enigmatic film works created around photography archives. The artists, turned febrile investigators, draw out the processes whereby solitary photographs and found materials become the fabric of a compelling narration, which unravels as we see.
The starting point of the exhibition is Falls Burns Malone Fiddles (2003), a film about 1970’s and 80’s youth culture in Belfast by Irish-born Duncan Campbell. The film pieces together photographs of young working class people and depressed neighbourhoods taken in Belfast during the Troubles. Far from being the iconic representations of violence and political unrest that come to mind, these images make place for everyday existence; the hairstyles, fashions and aspirations of the moment. As the film unfolds animated diagrams, geometrical shapes and protest symbols penetrate the images on the screen as an alien body. Duncan's work is constructed from photographs of Belfast Exposed community archive and Community Visual Images and partakes in and comments on the DIY aesthetic that comes with these sources. The soundtrack to the montage is a voice-over in a near-impenetrable Scottish accent by actor Ewen Bremner who monologues about the relationship between photography, reality, the individual and society.
Ines Schaber & Stefan Pente’s Unnamed Series (2008) revisits Aby Warburg’s famous lecture on the Pueblo Indian snake ritual. In 1895, during a trip to North America taken when he was almost thirty years old, German historian Aby Warburg spent several months among the Pueblo and Navaho peoples of New Mexico. Though this trip (which profoundly altered his view of art history) took place at the end of the nineteenth century, he did not speak publicly about his experience there until thirty years later, as he was recovering from a mental breakdown at a sanatorium in Switzerland. In his lifetime Warburg made clear that the lecture and accompanying slide show should never be published. This material has however been the subject of a recent book. In the film and installation piece Unnamed Series Schaber and Pente interact with the images of the Pueblo Indians taken by Warburg, both physically and symbolically. They speculate on a latent activity within the photographs, knowing that they will not be able to make them disappear but hoping that they can help them become something else.
Jean-Gabriel Périot’s remarkable Nijuman No Borei (200,000 Phantoms) (2007) is an expressionistic documentary on the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The indomitable focal point of the film is the preserved ruin of a building by Czech architect Jan Letzel known today as the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima - extraordinarily still standing despite being just 150 metres from the epicentre of the bomb. When the World Heritage Commission met in 1996 to accord World Heritage Site status to the ruin America objected, concerned at the nomination’s ‘lack of historical perspective’. Périot’s film layers archival photographs of the building from 1914 to the present day, chronologically superimposed on top of each other, pivoting around and anchored by multiple views of the preserved ruin. As images move from black and white into colour, the building’s skeleton becomes the locus of memorialisation as well as a memorial itself. It remains, amidst the optimism of modern architecture, the subject of repeated preservation attempts and, significantly, as an image repeated to the extent that it becomes almost tangible, the very materialisation of historical perspective.
Duncan Campbell (b. 1972, Dublin) lives and works in Glasgow. He completed an MFA from Glasgow School of Art in 1998 and has since exhibited at Tate Britain, ICA, Kunstverein München and Manifesta 5, among other venues. He was the recipient of the Baloise Art Prize at Art 39 Basel.
Ines Schaber (b. 1969, Reutlingen) lives and works in Berlin. She studied fine arts and architectural theory in Berlin and Princeton and is currently writing her PhD at Goldsmith College in London. Her work has been recently shown at the Brussels Biennial, the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York and at Kunstwerke Berlin as part of the collaborative exhibition project No Matter How Bright the Light, the Crossing Occurs at Night.
Stefan Pente (b. 1964, Zurich) lives and works in Berlin and Zurich. Following training as psychiatric nurse, Pente began studying fine arts at the school of Art and Design Zurich in 1990. He has lived and worked in Berlin since 1995. His video works, installations and lecture performances have been seen internationally in both subcultural and museum contexts. Among other themes, he addresses social constructs of the monstrous.
Jean-Gabriel Périot (b. 1974) is an artist and filmmaker based in Tours, France. His work has been shown extensively around the world, winning numerous awards including the Grand Prix at the Tampere International Film Festival, USA and Best International Short at the Cork International Film Festival, Ireland.