30th November 2017 - 4th March 2018
Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth, Germany
Artists: Raphaël Denis, Tatiana Macedo
Curators: Marta Jecu, Felicia Nitsche, Nadine Siegert
This is the second show in the larger research and exhibition project Exodus Stations that is inviting contemporary artists to work with museum collections. The project at Iwalewahaus inscribes itself into the general focus of Exodus Stations: following founding histories of museum institutions, their founding figures, the representation of their collection in documentary material and the historic display forms. The project brings into attention case studies of museums that blend artistic, ethnographical and archival material and the questions that these collections arise. After a residency period in the archives of selected European museums, the artists elaborate a critical and interpretative view on the history of the objects and the meanings with which they have been invested according to fluctuating collection strategies and ideologies embedded in the institutions.
In this current show, we take a collection of images by Ulli Beier (1922 – 2011) – the founder and first director of Iwalewahaus – as a starting point. They have been photographed in the period when Beier lived in Nigeria with the artists Susanne Wenger and Georgina Beier. Ulli Beier was an art patron of local arts and crafts in Nigeria. Iwalewahaus was then later meant to house his private collection of modern art from Africa and beyond. But is was also meant to create an transcontinental exchange platform following the practices developed in the Mbari Clubs in Nigeria, a meeting point for artists and intellectuals. The practice of experimentation – as a repository of personal experience – was an essential idea in Beier’s concept of the foundation of Iwalewahaus. The fact that he tried to avoid the model of the ‘classic’ museum is making a first statement in the direction of new museological practices and de-colonising strategies in the museums – which are intensively being elaborated today. This continues to be the orientation of museum practice of Iwalewahaus today. In these terms, we can think of Ulli Beier as both historically and conceptually a post-colonial figure, in a complex relation with the heritage of colonial Nigeria, appropriating and re-staging cultural artefacts and introducing them into a European circuit. The Beiers made African art and culture visible according to European expectation, but they were also following their personal interests and their love for the Yoruba Culture in particular.
In the workshop we will discuss and question the methodology of the Beiers. Their collections of Nigerian folk art (Ulli Beier’s collection was housed in the palace of Oshogbo and his exhibition on Yoruba Pottery was shown 1972 at the University of Ife), practices of documenting, saving, art collecting, teaching and promoting of both ‘traditional’ and modern art resulted in a diverse collection with items from geographical areas like Nigeria, India and Papua New Guinea. Today, the collection, the archives and the Beier estate of Iwalewahaus are manifold and contain painting, graphic and textile collections, ethnographical objects, a music archive and documentary material. A corpus was send to the artists as point of departure for their engagement with Iwalewahaus collections and the archive: a selection of archival photos and a film by Ulli Beier and Francis Speed shot in Oshogbo, Nigeria in 1964. From this material Beier’s role and self-presentation in Nigeria became evident. Then, Tatiana Macedo and Raphaël Denis have spent almost 2 weeks each in the collections and archive of Iwalewahaus in July and August 2017. Their video installations show new conceptual framings of the archival material.
Tatiana Macedo’s work “MIXED FEELINGS – A composition for Chamber Orchestra (Orquestra de Câmara)” brings us ambientally close to the work of Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida, ‘Cosmococa 5 Hendrix War’ – an innovative installation piece shown in 1973 which consisted of 360 degree projected slide-images, in which the audience could immerse multi-senorially on the sound track of Jimi Hendrix, comfortably installed in hammocks. In the ’70s Hélio Oiticica lived in New York and collaborated with the filmmaker Neville D’Almeida in making what they called ‘quasi-cinemas’. Not only in the formal aspect, but also conceptually, Tatiana Macedo’s piece encourages the audience of her installation to absorbe the multiplicity of her sources, to be part of an image-event and of a process of assimilation of information – same as Hélio Oiticica intended. In both of these works, we have to do with music, as an expression of creative counterculture and resistance. Not accidentally the two works bring together experimental music from the ’70s–’80s. In her installation, Tatiana searches to trace the specific energy, which these musical currents imprinted in their epoch. In Ulli Beier’s work music made an important statement: on the one hand as a response to the musical context of Bayreuth marked by the figure of Richard Wagner and on the other hand as an attempt to open this heritage of German culture to extra-European sources. He did so in initiating a transcultural music festival “49° Grenzüberschreitungen Festival” right at Bayreuth’s Margravial Opera House, under the motto: ‘A Yoruba drummer is as sophisticated as a violin player’. Tatiana Macedo’s installation composed by archival and self-shot material and spatially organized around her own tripod-camera, brings into visibility the inherent layers of any image that includes the external gaze into the constitution of the document. Superposed data-palimpsests built in tandem by the projections of the viewer and the information emanated by the historic image constitute this processual video-image. In her extensive preparatory work, Macedo has gathered research material also regarding the urban context in which Ulli Beier’s archive is located. Her way to personally approach and video-map the archive during her residency included the extension of the circle of signification from the singular document (the archival images), to the building they are housed in and further to the relation of this building to its neighbouring structures, the Wagner Opera House, the Synagogue and to various figures which traversed in the War and Post-War context Bayreuth’s 20th century history. This preparatory material can be found in her posts in the online Magazine WRONG WRONG, issue #10: “Face A”, “Face B” and “Face C”.
Raphael Denis’ installation ‘Random Memories’ is itself an archive, one that is not built on taxonomic principles but – on the contrary – on the idea of leak and fissure of any given inventory – the material which an archive expels, the content which one can find when not searching for anything in particular. In fact, these interstices of classified historic information are the ones that generate creative thinking and feed, with a discerning insight, a re-writing of history by contemporary principles. A leap into the plurality of this unknown universe of documents risks to be both fascinating and disconcerting – personal photographs of Ulli Beier shot in Nigeria that record art pieces, others documenting with an ethnographic gaze rituals and popular theatres, postcards that he collected, or documentary images with Georgina Beier’s costumes. A selection of this selection, powered by a digital principle, arrest a random image from a continuous flow of imagistic information – and projets it in Denis’ black box installation. These image-capsules that stay hermetic and show the incomprehensibility of any given document and the lived experience behind, become a surface of projection: they remain weird, extraordinary, maybe exotic, but always in transformation – they refuse an identity attribution.