SHEFFIELD, UK.- Site Gallery - Centre for Contemporary Art presents Johanna Billing, Omer Fast, Felix Gmelin, Clemens von Wedemeyer, on view through April 28. An exhibition of works that explore the re-presentation of historical and filmic events and in some cases the conflation of the two. The works are testament to the idea that 'the most relevant prefix for contemporary practice is ‘re-‘, re-cycle, re-look, re-stage, rebuild, return, re-make, re-wind, revolution, re-evaluate, re-charge, re-invention, repetition'*
The remaking of an event or filmic narrative will inevitably allow the perspective of the intervening years to creep into the new interpretation whilst also manipulating or collapsing this temporal and contextual wormhole. Offering a commentary on the original, the new instance or the changes effected in the intervening years, the technique can offer the possibility of redeeming history or breaking out of a cycle of nostalgic eternal return by creating a new and personal context.
Johanna Billing's Project for a Revolution was inspired by Michelangelo Antonio's classic film, Zabriskie Point (1973). In it she shows a group of young students who passively take part in something that recalls a mass-meeting at a university. The ennui demonstrated is in direct contrast to the revolutionary fervour of the original film and the video's looped eternity of inactivity questions the possibilities for social engagement, protest and revolt in contemporary culture.
Felix Gmelin's restaged & refilmed version of a revolutionary relay race through the streets of Berlin – Colour Test, The Red Flag No.2 - raises a similar question. The original was shot by Gerd Conradt in 1968 and featured Gmelin's father. In Conradt's film the young revolutionaries arrive at Berlin's city hall, the last runner enters the building and arrives on the balcony and the red flag triumphantly announces the beginning of a new era. In Gmelin's generational time-lapse film, the denouement is significantly different.
Clemens von Wedemeyer's works allude to cinema classics as well as socio-critical topics and historical events. Big Business (2002) is von Wedemeyer's eponymous remake of the 1929 Laurel and Hardy slapstick classic based around a fight over the sale of a Christmas tree in the middle of August by the end of which a home is demolished and a car is shredded with bare hands. An additional video:The Making of Big Business, reveals the context of the film's production: the Waldheim detention center, an institution where the prisoners occupy their time by first building and then destroying model houses,. This video explores aspects of prison life and elucidates how construction and subsequently, demolishing model houses function as occupational therapy for the prisoners.
Omer Fast's two channel video Spielberg's List is constructed from the experiences of extras in Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List. Using two screens to cut, mix and juxtapose footage of the Plaszow film set with its neighboring Plaszow camp site, interviews with extras who recall scenes from the film and events from their lives, as well as clips shot on the “Schindler's List Tours,” the video deliberately mishandles its material, showing how notions of memory and place are both expanded and put under duress when history turns into film. The past is concertinaed into the present, fact into fiction, as the piece moves between history, filmed narrative and contemporary experience and the work is subject to a series of filters and echoes, of our memories of the film and those of the extras who appeared in it. Subtitles are manipulated with identical images subtitled with subtly different texts, one referring to actual events in the 1940s and one to the film, further compounding the confusion between history, its filmic representation and re-presentation.