MoMA's "Performing Histories (1)" focuses on set of works that challenge and engage with history

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MoMA's "Performing Histories (1)" focuses on set of works that challenge and engage with history
Andrea Fraser. Soldadera (Scenes from Un banquete en Tetlapayac, a film by Olivier Debroise). 1998/2001. Two-channel video installation (color, sound), 5-page facsimile letter from Frances Flynn Paine to Mrs. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Committee on Media and Performance Art Funds. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Installation view, Modernologies, MACBA, 2009. © Photographer: Tony Coll. Courtesy of Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA).

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art presents Performing Histories (1), the first of a two-part exhibition of media artworks that engage with history in various ways, from September 12, 2012, to March 11, 2013, in the Yoshiko and Akio Morita Gallery. Bringing together nine works which have recently entered the Museum’s collection of Media and Performance Art, the exhibition reflects the variety of the artists’ practices, perspectives, and backgrounds, and raises questions about how the past is constructed and how it can inform the present and the future. Featured in the exhibition are works by Kader Attia (French, b. 1970), Andrea Fraser (American, b. 1965), Ion Grigorescu (Romanian, b. 1945), Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970), Dorit Margreiter (Austrian, b. 1967), Deimantas Narkevičius (Lithuanian, b. 1964), and Martha Rosler (American, b. 1943). Performing Histories (1) is organized by Sabine Breitwieser, Chief Curator, with Martin Hartung, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art.

The practices exemplified in the works on view, which include revisiting existing narratives and examining one’s own cultural, social, and personal history, are not bound to a specific medium. They are part of a critical artistic practice in which artists have a general interest in revealing unknown aspects or even constructing new perspectives on history. In recent decades, artists have increasingly employed a performative approach in dialogue with cinematic and photographic mediums, such as film, slide projection, video, and photography to provide new readings of history and open it to a multitude of narratives.

Among the works on view is Kader Attia’s Open Your Eyes (2010), a double slide projection based on extensive research undertaken by the artist on the notion of modern Western aesthetics. Attia addresses the subject through the issue of repair to the human body, which he compares to the evolution of repair in the non-Occidental world via photographs of objects and documents at the storage facilities of museums like the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C., and various military museums in Europe. This work was the initial project for Attia’s large-scale installation The Repair (2012) on view at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany. Deimantas Narkevičius’ film Once in the XX Century (2004) and Dorit Margreiter’s film installation zentrum (2004-11) explore the role of film as both document and medium involved in history in controversial ways. In Once in the XX Century, Narkevičius manipulates existing television footage that documents the action of the Lithuanian people taking down a sculpture of Lenin in 1991, so that it looks as if the crowd is preparing and then celebrating the erection of the sculpture. The artist’s historical reversal ironically points to other scenes in history with regard to the longing for or denial of political and economic systems. Margreiter’s zentrum is a filmic reconstruction and performance featuring a broken neon sign in Leipzig in the former German Democratic Republic. The work reflects on modernity’s relationship with the moving image, design, and politics, situating the aesthetics of socialist modernism in the 21st-century.

Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu employed film to create intimate experimentations staged secretly in his home using his own body within the context of an imploding nation. Andrea Fraser’s split-screen video installation Soldadera (Scenes from Un Banquete en Tetlapayac, a film by Olivier Debroise) (1998/2001), in which the artist performs a double role, represents a splitting within the structure of the artistic field that becomes a framework for examining the fate of certain radical utopian and revolutionary impulses in 20th-century art. In Sharon Hayes’ installation The Interpreter Project (2001), the artist “re-interprets” actual tours through the historic houses of four prominent American women pointing to the specificity and particularity of the construction of a “feminized” historical narrative.

Another noted work is Martha Rosler’s She Sees in Herself a New Woman Every Day (1976), which is composed of 12 color photographs of a woman’s shoes and legs arranged in a grid on the floor, accompanied by an audiotape of a woman having an imaginary talk with her mother. Rosler uses the combination of her narration and the images of her own body to critically examine perceptions of female identity, in a way that is at once personal and universal.

Exploring social and political conditions and reconsidering their own personal pasts, the participating artists in Performing Histories (1) have deconstructed, reassembled, and reperformed histories, focusing on the ambiguity of history and the impact of ideologies on individual and collective consciousness.

Performing Histories (2) will present works by Wael Shawky (Egypt, b. 1971) and Chen Shaoxiong (China, b. 1962), and the exhibition will take place in the Media Gallery from April to October 2013.

Along with the exhibition, a series of live performances under the title Performing Histories will be held in the Museum galleries. A special section in the MoMA Media Lounge will also be dedicated to videos related to the exhibition.

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