January 23, 2019 - Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art - Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani: The Active Guest
January 23, 2019

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art

Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani, Palast der Republik 2009_Eastside, 2009. Colour photograph. © the artists and VG Bild Kunst, Bonn.

Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani
The Active Guest
January 31–March 31, 2019

Artist talk by Fischer & el Sani: January 30, 6pm
Seminar Room
Opening: January 30, 7pm

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art
Katharinenstraße 23
D-26121 Oldenburg
Germany

www.edith-russ-haus.de
Facebook

Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani
The Active Guest
January 31–March 31, 2019

Artist talk by Fischer & el Sani: January 30, 6pm
Seminar Room
Opening: January 30, 7pm

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art
Katharinenstraße 23
D-26121 Oldenburg
Germany

www.edith-russ-haus.de
Facebook

The Active Guest, a solo exhibition of the Berlin-based artist duo Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani, gathers together works from the last 15 years of their career. The artists have been collaborating on their interventional and situationist art practice since 1993, and their investigations revolve around moving images as both impartial documents and involved narrations of our changing societies.

The main protagonists of their projects are often urban spaces and significant buildings that bear the burden of collective memory, upon which the forces of historical transition and turmoil have been engraved. The artists’ poetic-filmic and performative investigations of these sites tackle the idea of revisiting marginalized histories through their artistic reanimation of such places.

Be it an artificial island in Japan left abandoned after the depletion of its undersea coal resources, a fascist building erected by Benito Mussolini in Rome, or the Palace of the Republic of the former GDR in East Berlin, the artists’ revisitation of iconic sites opens up a potential space for contemplating history as imaginations of power, a commentary on failed utopias, or speculations about potential future scenarios.

Fischer & Sani’s grand-scale video installation Freedom of Movement (2017) invokes the marathon of the Rome Summer Olympics in 1960 in which Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila secured the African continent’s first gold medal while running barefoot, becoming a sports legend and a symbol of the modern-day Africa that was freeing itself from colonialism. Fischer & el Sani have recontextualized, amid Rome’s rationalist architecture, a new contest involving refugees and immigrants staking a claim to their “freedom of movement,” also understood as the possibility of being welcomed in another country.

The exhibition premieres the artists’ newest video work, The Marginalized (Die Marginalisierten) (2019), which investigates the phenomenon of the so-called "hobby Indians," an escapist movement and fringe group in the former GDR grounded in historic German enthusiasm for Native Americans, which has also been described as “Indianthusiasm.” This fascination, especially with regard to the construction of national identity, has an impressive chronology: it begins with the first-century Germanic Cherusci chieftan Arminius and stretches to the adventure novels of Karl May and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows in the 1800s, through the ethnographic exhibitions (Völkerschauen) in zoos and circuses and founding of “Indian” clubs at the turn of the twentieth century, onward to the appropriation of Indigenous identities by Nazi ideologists, up until the present day, when new right-wing groups have developed an unsettling identification with the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.

In our current times, characterized by the lack of hospitality, a possible role of the artists is as “active guests” suggested by the title of this exhibition—borrowed from Ranjit Hoskote’s theories on insurgent cosmopolitanism—enacting a notion of universal solidarity wherever they find themselves as residents. Fischer & el Sani have had the opportunity to live and work in various cultural environments, and their emotional and professional ties and relations within these communities have enabled them to delve into critical understandings of these contexts. Through detecting familiar failures and default mechanisms as active guests in these places, the artists become tender but critical narrators of our changing times, which they represent in large-scale video installations and photographic series.

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