Interactions Between Representations of History

An exhibition of two adjoining shows by Slavs and Tatars and Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan is on at Kiosk, Ghent till 22 January 2012, featuring works that deal with interpretations and associations surrounding historically significant events.

Friendship of Nations: Polish-Shi’ite Showbiz by Slavs and Tatars presents a re-imagination of an Iranian Polish Solidarity. Even to an eye unfamiliar with Iranian and Polish traditions, the strong reference to craft is apparent. On entering the dome-shaped gallery, the works appear to be part of a commemoration, with large and colorful handcrafted banners and woven objects.

Installation with banners by Slavs and Tatars, 'Friendship of Nations: polish shi'ite showbiz'. Courtesy the artists, Kraupa-Tuskany, Berlin. © Yana Foque

‘Pajaks’, crafted according to local customs and hang from the ceiling, are part of an annual Polish harvest celebration. In context of local customs, several of these ‘pajaks’ are made with Christmas lights, yarn, glass balls and even a Christmas tree.

Slavs and Tatars, 'Resist resisting god', 2010. Courtesy the artists, Kraupa-Tuskany, Berlin. © Yana Foque

Mirrored mosaics were invented by the Persians in the 7th century to distinguish themselves from Arab neighbours. They are today exported by the Iranian republic as a symbol of its ideology. These are reconstructed in a recognisable form of a painting and when viewed from an angle, reveal the words “Resist Resisting God”.

Installation by Slavs and Tatars, 'Wheat Mollah', 2011. Courtesy the artists, Kraupa-Tuskany, Berlin. © Yana Foque

Copies of a newspaper, 79.89.09, are displayed in a reading area with woven carpets and cushions. 79.89.09 points to three historical dates – the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the 1989 Fall of Communism and 2009 Financial Crisis – as points to understand our world today. While drawing out influences and coincidences between Iran and Poland, 79.89.09 also sheds light on the use of crafts. Slavs and Tatars explore the values evoked through crafts as revolutionary potential, from the mysticism conveyed by the 1979 Iranian Revolution to the steady and painstaking efforts of Solidarność, the Polish movement that peacefully brought down the Communist regime.

By fusing crafts with contemporary materials such as Christmas decorations and forms of display including encasements and wall installations, the exhibition situates this revolutionary potential amidst recent and ongoing protests, provoking questions on how one could engage in movements for change.

Installation view van Brummelen & de Haan, 'Subi dura a rudibus', 2010. Courtesy the artists, Motive Gallery, Amsterdam. © Yana Foque

Located next to Friendship of Nations: Polish-Shi’ite Showbiz is Subi dura a rudibus, a film by Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan that similarly plays on interactions from representations of history. A diptych from sequential representations of the 1535 conquest of Tunis by emperor Charles V, it pairs together images of paintings by Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen who accompanied Charles V and depicted the conquest for tapestry weavers, with images of the eventual tapestries. The pairing throws into relief divergent representations, questioning if representation can be accepted as objective truth, particularly as Vermeyen himself is part of the battle scene.

Lonnie Van Brummelen & Siebren De Haan, 'Subi dura a rudibus', film still, 2010. Courtesy the artists, Motive Gallery, Amsterdam. © Yana Foque

While Subi dura a rudibus questions the prospect and possibility of truth in the wake of interpretations, Friendship of Nations: Polish-Shi’ite Showbiz harnesses the potential of imaginative interpretations to reinstate values embodied within craft and folklore, invigorating dialogue on how we can respond to present-day tensions.