October 14, 2014 - Museu Coleção Berardo - The Reluctant Narrator
October 14, 2014

The Reluctant Narrator

John Smith, Blight (still), 1996. Film transferred to standard definition video. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin.

The Reluctant Narrator
A survey of narrative practices across media

October 15, 2014–January 11, 2015

Opening: Wednesday, October 15, 7pm

Museu Coleção Berardo
Praça do Império, 1449-003 Lisbon
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–7pm 
Free admission

T +351 213 612 878 
F +351 213 612 570
museuberardo [​at​] museuberardo.pt

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There is no such thing as a real story. Stories are not lived, they are told; to paraphrase American historian Hayden White, a real story is an oxymoron. Likewise, history is a problem, not a puzzle whose pieces only need proper grouping. History—as Roland Barthes famously said—is hysterical; it is constituted only if we look at it, which is not to say historical events never happened or are devoid of reality, but rather that the very notion of history is a distinctive discursive practice, a particular modality of representation, predicated on narrative. 

Though modernist critics berated narration, the end of the 20th century witnessed an explosion of interest in narrative practices. Often referred to as “the narrative turn,” this new field of inquiry originated in French structuralism’s general approach to language, and more explicitly from Tzvetan Todorov’s passion for what he termed “a science of narrative,” la narratologie, premised on the notion that life is inherently storied, or—as French philosopher Jacques Rancière put it—that the real must be fictionalized in order to be thought. Postmodernism itself was described as a narrative impulse, in which a rekindled interest in the fictive, the chronicle, and the anecdotal upstaged the symbolic unity of high modernism. As Susan Buck-Morss noted, however, modernism and postmodernism are not historical moments, but political positions: two poles of a recurring movement, expressing the contradictions inherent to the industrial mode of production in the identity and non-identity between social function and aesthetic form. Rather than opposing a myriad of micro-narratives to the grand narrative of modernism, The Reluctant Narrator maps the migration of narrative modes across several media, bringing together works that intertwine personal biography with collective history, or that deal with stories that have fallen through the crevices of history. The exhibition’s title refers to the literary trope of the unreliable narrator, a compromised or otherwise deluded storyteller. This figure is juxtaposed against what is known as the aporia of narration—the stories which most need telling are the ones that can never be told—in order to point out that narrative doesn’t merely mean continuity in change or change in continuity but is, instead, a constant negotiation between partial truths, able to sustain an agonistic unity and to express the irreducibility of the social. 

Curated by Ana Teixeira Pinto.

Julieta Aranda, Armando Andrade Tudela, Leonor Antunes, Kader Attia, Nina Beier, Derek Boshier, Aleksandra Domanović, Dani Gal, Karl Holmqvist, Christoph Keller, David Levine, Amalia Pica, Bojan Šarčević, John Smith, Hito Steyerl, Stephen Sutcliffe, Andreas Töpfer, Gernot Wieland

Co-published by the Museu Coleção Berardo and Sternberg Press, The Reluctant Narrator‘s exhibition catalogue includes contributions from all participating artists as well as essays by Erika Balsom, Sladja Blazan, Kerstin Stakemeier, and Ana Teixeira Pinto. The catalogue will be published in English and Portuguese.


Museu Coleção Berardo presents The Reluctant Narrator
Museu Coleção Berardo
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