In This Colony/In Deze Kolonie

Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen, 8 May - 26 June 2005

Co-curated by Maxine Kopsa and Sven Lütticken

Participating artists: Danai Anesiadou and Alexandra Bachzetsis, Sven Augustijnen, Maria Barnas and Germaine Kruip, Stan Douglas, Chris Evans, Andrea Fraser, Ryan Gander, Laura Horelli, Twan Janssen, Krijn de Koning, Gabriel Kuri, Sean Snyder, Roy Villevoye, and Barbara Visser.

The Kunstfort bij Vijfhuizen, near Amsterdam, is a former army barracks—an early concrete construction from the beginning of the twentieth century that had just been renovated.

Even while participating in the rampant transformation of non-art sites into spaces for artistic representation, In This Colony seeks to question such process of decontextualisation and abstraction, which turn history into decor.

2007 Postscript:

In June 2007, Barbara Visser's former assistant received an e-mail from a Mr Wilmink, working at the Cruquiusgemaal, a nineteenth-century pumping station which is now a historicial monument and museum. Visser's series of postcards De Groeten uit Vijfhuizen, which display alternative uses for the fort, and which were diplayed in card racks in the central hall during the run of the exhibition, contains a photomontage of a fictitious theme park, "Mini Haarlemmermeer", in which a small replica of the building is situated right in front of the Fort. The real De Cruquius is situated in the vicinity of the musuem; both buildings stand at the edge of the Haarlemmermeer, a former inland lake reclaimed in the nineteenth century through use of the Cruquiusgemaal and other pumping stations. Mr Wilmink complained that Museum De Cruquius had not been contacted in order to clear any copyright issues, before moving on to trying to bully Visser into donating cards to the museum:

Recentelijk viel mijn oog op een ansichtkaart, die een foto-montage toont van fort Vijfhuizen en De Cruquius. Op zich een goede zaak, dat Museum De Cruquius opduikt in het werk van een kunstenaar; maar anderzijds vind ik het wel jammer dat drukker of uitgever van de ansichtkaart nooit heeft geïnformeerd naar het gebruik van het beeldmerk van v.m. stoomgemaal De Cruquius. Uiteraard wil ik niet lastig doen, want in zekere zin is de kaart een promotiemiddel voor het museum. Wel stellen wij het op prijs, indien deze ansichtkaart tegen kostprijs ter beschikking gesteld zou kunnen worden aan onze museumwinkel. Indien u meer werk heeft waarop De Cruquius prijkt, hebben wij hier mogelijk ook belangstelling voor.
Well, Mr Wilmink, one would assume that in so far as there still is a public domain to speak of, this nineteenth-century structure falls well within it, and there is little to stop Barbara Visser from integrating a photo she took into this montage. As pathetic as this little incident is, it is nonetheless indicative of the increasing legal constrains imposed on artists in a culture in which the notion of "intellectual property" is given an ever more ridig and fundamentalist interpretation, usually in the interest of those who can retain the services of expensive legal teams.
Images: exhibition poster using a still from a video by Sven Augustijnen; Barbara Visser, Groeten uit Vijfhuizen (2005), one postcard from a set of five.

Stan Douglas: Inconsolable Memories

The catalogue Stan Douglas: Inconsolable Memories accompanies the 2005 touring exhibition of Stan Douglas' film Inconsolable Memories and the accompanying photographs. Apart from the photographs, the film script, and a text by Philip Monk, the publication also contains my essay Media Memories (pp. 123-134).

Life, Once More: Forms of reenactment in contemporary art

Life, Once More: Forms of Reenactment in Contemporary Art, Witte de With, Rotterdam, January 27 to March 27, 2005.

Participating artists: Mike Bidlo, Bik Van der Pol, Rod Dickinson, Omer Fast, Andrea Fraser, Robert Longo, Eran Schaerf, Catherine Sullivan, and Barbara Visser.

Life, Once More presents artistic approaches to reenactment, in particular new versions of performances by artists from the 1950s and 1960s, in the context of popular historical (war) reenactments—that contemporary form of historicism in action, in which the works in the exhibition intervene in one way or another.

Jackson Pollock already had the feeling that his existential “act” for the painting session filmed by Hans Namuth degenerated into “acting“ in the sense of theatrical performance – something he found insufferable. His filmed act has since been reenacted, in the film Pollock as well as by artists. In the realm of reenactment, media images and live performance are inextricably entangled. This is true as well for reenactments outside the art context. Fanatical hobby reenactors, who stage World War I or World War II Battles, are often critical of Hollywood’s depictions of history and of media representations in general. However, not only do reenactors make photos and videos during their staged battles, and appear as extras in Hollywood films, they are also thoroughly influenced by the films they watch. In an attempt to fight repetition with repetition, to break open and activate the past, Life, One More couples examples of artistic reflection on such historical reenactments with (registrations of) reenactments of performances.

The exhibition takes up the top floor of Witte de With. While the works to the left of the entrance/staircase engage in a dialogue with this most visible form of reenactment, those on the right-hand side reenact performances (though not always "official" art performances) by artists from the past few decades. This, to be sure, is just a rough and insufficient division; the interplay between the various pieces is not necessarily constrained by it. A central corridor cutting through both parts contains photographs, single-channel videos and a video game as documentary supplements.

The accompanying publication contains texts by Jennifer Allen, Peggy Phelan, Eran Schaerf, Barbara Visser and myself. It seems the book is no longer available on Amazon; however, I do think there are still some copies left, so if you are interested, I suggest contacting Witte de With.

For more attention on the exhibition and the participating artists, see

2009 postscript: Perhaps the attempt to posit certain art practices as (potentially) critical interventions in our neo-historicist spectacle lead to an all too rhetorical opposition between "mainstream" and art reenactments, which could be misread as a conservative glorification of high art as a privileged realm of rarefied experience; apart from this, I think that Life, Once More was a good first attempt at showing and analyzing various forms of artistic reenactment in relation to a wider cultural context. After a cooling-off period of a number of years, during which others have merrily reenacted the exhibition, I am now ready to reinvestigate this field. More specifically, I am working on an essay that will be part of a projected book tentatively titled History in Motion, which brings together a number of studies on the representation and presence of history in the age of moving images.

Images from top to bottom: installation view of Bik Van der Pol, Past Imperfect (2005); installation view with Full Metal Jacket film stills and video game; installation view of Eran Schaerf, Scenario Data # 39 (2005).