Rozdzielona Wspólnota - The Inoperative Community II
ms², Ogrodowa 19
The exhibition focused on a period that could be described as the long 1970s (1968 – 84) – all the works were either made during this time, revisit the aesthetic debates and theoretical discourses, or reflect on the social and political movements of the era. French philosopher Alain Badiou has characterised this period as the ‘red decade’, beginning with national liberation struggles, mass student movements and workers’ revolts, and ending with the abrupt foreclosure of possibilities presented by these events by the rise and spread across Europe, both East and West, of neoliberalism.
The exhibition’s title was borrowed from the Polish translation of Jean-Luc Nancy’s 1983 essay of the same name. The exhibition’s first iteration borrowed the English translation, The Inoperative Community, which differs from both the Polish and the original French. The subtitle made explicit that this translation has a new context – one in which terms like ‘red decade’, concerning the perspective eastward from Iron Curtain, have a very different inflection.
Encompassing over sixty hours of material the exhibition was navigated by means of a programme displayed on the back of a large screening room, visible as you enter the gallery, and in the accompanying booklet. Each visitor was able to see only a fraction of the works on display, but connections could be made between works on any particular course through the varied programme of films. Within the gallery at ms², makeshift and soundproofed rooms were scattered through the space presenting the visitor with multiple options. The rooms were purposefully provisional in their construction, made of exposed plasterboard, signaling the imposition of cinematic modes of spectatorship on visitors to a museum of modern art. Within each room one film was presented, and screened a number of times during the course of each day.
A larger ‘screening room’, positioned at the centre of the gallery took a more literal approach to the exhibition’s theme and periodization. Each day of the week a different programme of films was played. The week began with films made at the end of the 1960s and concluded each Sunday with films made since 2000. Correspondences could be found between the films in the galleries and the screening room programmes, and dialogues emerged between filmmakers from different generations and disciplines.
Nancy described the experience of community as a dislocation or loss, recasting community as an ontological concept rather than a social project that could be realized. He attempted to disassociate the word from issues of identity, and described a world where the social body had become atomized into the private order of the individual. This discourse of community represents only one reference point that influenced the selection and exhibition design. Another was the relationship of narrative film and video – the diary film, essay film and political documentary – to the more formalist or ‘structural’ practices that still dominate histories of experimental film and video. Another still was an interest in modes of spectatorship of moving images now familiar to visitors of museums and galleries.
"Rozdzielona Wspólnota - The Inoperative Community II" did not propose a new theory to explain the proliferation of moving images across the institutional spaces of contemporary art and their relationship to cinema, but it provided a space to think about these migrations, and the modes of attention and distraction that dictate how these images are consumed. Artists working with film and video in the 1990s often used cinematic devices or appropriated images from Hollywood or European arthouse cinema, repurposing cinematic images and grammar. In the last ten years, however, there has been a shift away from an interest in deconstructing cinematic grammar and an increased interest in the film avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s. Crucially, this period is not viewed as dead history but as a tradition within which filmmakers and artists might operate. Whilst gallery artists have looked to the aesthetic and political preoccupations of avant-garde film of the 1970s, some filmmakers working within the cinema have started using the kinds of conceptual gestures typical of artists’ film and video made for the gallery. Whilst taking care not to make a fetish of the cinema nor encourage the kind of distracted viewing practiced by visitors to galleries, the exhibition registers these complex interchanges.
Featuring films and videos: Jane Arden, Eric Baudelaire, Ericka Beckman, Walerian Borowczyk, Věra Chytilová, Cinema Action, Lav Diaz, Mati Diop, Stephen Dwoskin, Luke Fowler, Johan Grimonprez Jean-Pierre Gorin, Marc Karlin, Laura Mulvey, Kira Muratova, Pere Portabella, Yvonne Rainer, Jackie Raynal, Ben Rivers, Ben Russell, Helke Sander, Jon Sanders, Albert Serra, Leslie Thornton, Humphry Trevelyan, James Scott, Peter Wollen, Krzysztof Zanussi, Andrzej Żuławski.
Curator: Dan Kidner
Assistant Curator: Maria Franecka
Coordination: Przemek Purtak
Architecture: Krzysztof Skoczylas