The exhibition sets out on a memory-aided journey to the future, to face works of art which expose us to images delved from the archives of repression and denial of fears and anxieties from our past experiences.
The exhibition sets out on a memory-aided journey to the future, to face works of art which expose us to images delved from the archives of repression and denial of fears and anxieties from our past experiences. It attempts to examine through them future scenarios awaiting us and to learn from them how to avoid repeating past mistakes. Themistocles, who lived in the 5th century B.C., deliberated his desire to learn the art of forgetting rather than the art of memory; “I remember things I wish to forget,” he said’ “and cannot forget things I wish to remember.” These words express the desire to be relieved of the burden of memories, weighing heavily upon and imposing responsibilities on the individual and on society wishing to confront them.
Many philosophers have attempted to understand the value and meaning of memory, attempts which have resulted in more questions than answers, leaving us and the generations to come in a state of contemplation and deliberation.
However, the archives do not hush. We will never know how the various holocausts which humankind experienced, the numerous wars, the acts of terror or the atomic bombs which put an end to World War II affected the archives of the sub-conscious. Undoubtedly, the outcome of a bloody history, pain and mutual violence has been the development of fear, suspicion and a catastrophic view of our very existence. The public discourse and the prevailing atmosphere affected by the apocalyptic anxiety demonstrate the feeling of uncertainty regarding the unpredictable destiny awaiting humankind.
A sense of urgency calls for a universal action aimed at preventing the horrific end, and the prediction of world-wide catastrophe is reflected from the works at the exhibition, threatening us double fold, as if ratifying our fears from the eminent destruction.
The visual protest was particularly powerful in the expressionist art prior to World War I, and in the period between the two wars in Germany, shortly before the Nazis took power. Artists like George Grosz, Otto Dix, Ludwig Kirchner, K. Rottluff, Erich Heckel, Max Pechstein, Otto Müller and Max Beckmann, and later on Marcel Duchamp and the artists of the Dada Movement, who caution against the chaos while at the same time undertaking to describe the absurd, and the spread of anarchism, social decadence and deteriorating morality.
Picasso’s work “Guernica” and Juan Miro’s “The Harvester”, both of which were displayed in the Spanish pavilion at the international exhibition in Paris in 1937, on the eve of World War II, undoubtedly represented art’s protest against the human brutality which the world had experienced as well as a fear from the future, and neo-expressionist artists like Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer, who faced the post-war reality and the open wounds, and through their intensive works continued to describe the destructive nature of Man and the depression he has left behind him, with a growing involvement in their contemporary politics.
But the biggest contribution should be attributed to the documentary camera, which left the world dumbstruck facing the images the Nazi monster recorded in the concentration camps, of the greatest crime committed by one human being against a fellow human being.
No work of art could ever compete with the hair-raising visual expression of the horrors documented by the camera there. Theodor Adorno, one of the most prominent and influential theoreticians who dealt with the history of the European Jewry Holocaust, took this view a further step, stating that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.
Adorno expresses the weakness of man facing the extent of catastrophe of the Holocaust, the feeling that a disaster of such immensity cannot be represented, neither rationally nor aesthetically-artistically.
The exhibition “Beyond Memory” is another attempt to raise the questions, not by way of browsing through picture albums of the events and horrors, and without animating the problematic images stored in the memory reservoirs and in humanity’s consciousness, but rather “in an effort to cleanse dangerous sentiments” as Aristotle defined the role of art.
The curatorial work focused on reaching the viewer’s sub-conscience through metaphoric images beyond memory, rather than through the documents stored in it. Before it is too late. In such a reality, in which doubt and fear are deeper than certainty, it is not surprising that civilization which rushed to announce the death of God, now repents, and the worldwide trends of religious awakening are a sign of an upcoming new era of remorse and faith. The universe’s inclination to foresee its imminent end is reflected in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all of which warned their believers from the inevitable Day of Judgment.
Today we once again face warnings, no less serious and critical than those of the past. Scientists and environmentalists warn us from the potential destruction of nature as a result of Man’s disrespect towards it. Economists caution against possible unprecedented eras of depression, even worse than those that brought forth the world wars.
And above all hover a nuclear catastrophe, religious and ideological wars and mega-terrorist acts motivated by human ego considerations. All those threaten us on all sides and open an abyss at the foot of humanity. It is a catastrophe sevenfold more dangerous than past prophecies. No more promises of Paradise and Providential salvation with the victory of Good on Evil, following the bitter end; this time it will be the total destruction of the world.
We are currently witnessing the world being carried away in a cycle of terror and violence, and are called upon to take personal responsibility. Not to immerse in the currents of division, differences and disagreement, but rather to aspire towards a common understanding and to join forces in making decisions from a point of view of human understanding and solidarity and a global perspective of the world’s good. The solution lies in our attempt to understand what awaits us in the future. And this can be achieved if we arouse in ourselves the memories and do not ignore past mistakes.
Curator, Raphie Etgar
Christian Boltanski, France
Adrian Paci, Albania
Shilpa Gupta, India
Bill Viola, U.S.A.
Thomas Ruff, Germany
Andres Serrano, U.S.A.
Lida Abdul, Afghanistan
Thomas Zipp, Germany
Wim Wenders, Germany
Samuel Rousseau, France
Erez Israeli, Israel
Valérie Favre, Switzerland
Tacita Dean, England
Leiko Ikemura, Germany
Rui Toscano, Portugal
Moshe Gershuni, Israel
Ervin Babic, Bosnia
Christiane Baumgartner, Germany
Ran Slavin, Israel
Christian Boltanski, France
Cyprien Gaillard, France
Mounir Fatmi, France / Morocco
Gilad Ophir, Israel
Shilpa Gupta, India
Djamel Kokene, France / Algiers
Raphie Etgar, Israel