Saturday, May 27, 2006

Michael Blum & Omer Fast / Mercury in Retrograde

Michael Blum & Omer Fast

Mercury in Retrograde at De Appel
April 8 – June 4, 2006

Mercury in Retrograde is an exhibition of twisted timelines, hallucinated futures, and historical chain reactions. It is an experiment from which to launch expeditions into vanished histories - a momentary repository for new thoughts gleaned from sedimentary deposits in time. Mercury in Retrograde cracks open the notion of authorized collective histories, with examples that explode and decipher the codes of our constructed reality.

In a spirit of exchange with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a prized selection of 16th century objects excavated from the ice of Nova Zembla is presented at De Appel. The myth of the collective wintering of Dutch explorers in the severe Polar environment has been subject of study to generations of writers, archaeologists, adventurers, and explorers. Select navigational tools are accompanied by Sven Johne’s double images that tell the stories of people whose various endeavors ran aground on the tiny Baltic island of Vinta.

Many of the new commissions and presented works at Mercury in Retrograde remain haunted by past narratives, connected only by collisions, with unexpected outcomes, coincidences, aliases, ghosts, and disappearances.

An untapped history of the building of De Appel is unearthed in an installation by Michael Blum, re-staging the established bank Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co., bequeathing a potent, and valuable story back into the Dutch contemporary discourse. Mariana Castillo Deball traces colonial history, and inserts the story of the relocation of the giant stone of the God Tlaloc in an audio piece, as the listener weaves through the antique shops of Amsterdam.

Omer Fast implodes viewer’s definition of time with his re-sampled interviews with living-history museum interpreters, while Missingbooks revive the story of the disappearance of radical Argentine intellectual Rodolfo Walsh, and the subsequent eradication of his subversive short story. Aurélien Froment’s trompe-l'œil constructions set the stage for a guided tour through a mysterious landscape, while Ohad Meromi proposes the Moon a new set for fiction. David Maljkovic revisits cultural heritage by alighting from the future, and excavating a monument.

Exposing production of myth and reality and challenging the re-writable nature of history through time, the exhibition ranges from Fernando Sánchez Castillo’s operatic saga of an allegorical and “standardized” coup d’état to Khalil Rabah’s investigative re-appropriation of the tulip that traces the origin of the flower to Palestine, and from Dmitry Gutov’s poetic criticism of Western art history with the activities of the Lifshitz-Institute to the incongruous mix of authority and popular imagination in Tilmann Meyer-Faje's publication on the occasion of the 400th birth anniversary of Rembrandt. Stephan Dillemuth’s explorations of 19th century reform movements look into the archives of Dutch social visionary Frederik van Eeden. Throughout the exhibition emerge the still unopened envelopes from1983/84, of Johan Cornelissen’s journey along the ever elusive line of the equator.

Michael Blum / Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co.

A Jewish bank by the name of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. had been trading at 6-8 Nieuwe Spiegelstraat from 1859 until 1968, now the current de Appel building. The Nazis used the name of the well-established bank when setting up a counterfeit branch in the Sarphatistraat, in order to convince people that their possessions were safe in the vaults. In 1941 and 1942, Dutch Jewish citizens were forced to hand over their securities, cash, bank holdings, art objects, precious metals and jewels to Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co. Sarphatistraat. Apart from the name, the two banks had almost nothing in common, and were administered quite separately. Artist Michael Blum unfolds some of the layers of the haunted building, by means of both documentation and speculation.

Omer Fast / Godville

Godville is a 50 minute, two-channel video edited from interviews with eighteenth-century character interpreters in Colonial Williamsburg, a living-history museum in Virginia, U.S.A. The interviews begin in the past and in character, but deliberately jump to the present and back. By further cutting and pasting interview segments, often splicing together new phrases and words, the two biographies of each speaker are blended into a seemingly fluent if rambling whole. It tells the story of a town whose residents are unmoored and floating somewhere in America, between the past and the present, between re-enactment, fiction and life.

Godville @ Postmasters Gallery / The Brooklyn Rail

Americans’ relationship to American history has always been personal, ambivalent, nostalgic, and prone to delusional fantasy. When Cotton Mather, infamous for his pivotal role in the Salem witch trials, sat down to write biographies of the early Massachusetts Colony patriarchs, he did not write about the daily struggles of men in a then remote and often embattled settlement, but about how the course of their lives conformed to Biblical types. And when Thomas Jefferson wrote his Notes on the State of Virginia, he was not only replying to the great French natural historian George de Buffon’s claim that the flora and fauna of North America are inferior to those native to Europe because of the New World’s distance in time and place from where Noah’s Ark finally ran aground, but he was also arguing for the singular character of America. America’s conception of itself is about renewal, reinvention, and redemption, and this has been further promoted by the dominance of forms of Protestantism that emphasize a visionary and sometimes ecstatic relationship to Jesus. America is a heretical religious concept, not so much part of secular history, as its shining exception and terminus.... {FULL REVIEW}