March 26, 2014 - Kunst Raum Riehen - Perpetually transient
March 26, 2014

Perpetually transient

Basim Magdy, A 240 second analysis of failure and hopefulness (detail), 2012. Courtesy of the artist and artSümer Gallery, Istanbul.

Anahita Razmi, Basim Magdy, Florian Graf and Bernd Behr
Perpetually transient

29 March–4 May 2014

Opening: 28 March 2014, 7pm

Kunst Raum Riehen
Baselstrasse 71
4125 Riehen/Basel/CH
Hours: Wednesday–Friday 1–6pm, 
Saturday–Sunday 11am–6pm

Curated by Heidi Brunnschweiler

The feeling of living in contradictory times and ambiguous places, as we see today, leads to fear and uncertainty. However, ambiguity can be used as a creative force, and ambiguous spaces used for cultural production. In this context, the idea of “places in between” as fluid spaces of imagination emerged in the cultural theory of the 1990s. With “Third Space,” or more recently with “global doubt,” Homi Bhabha described alternatives to the binary order of modernity and its reverberation in the post-postcolonial situation. Edward Soja conceptualised the “Third Space” as a new urban space design that accomplished a critical exchange between as yet incompatible elements and actors. The exhibition Perpetually Transient examines ambivalent constellations in contemporary artistic works and understands the exhibition itself as a space of ambiguity and contradiction. More than a decade after Bhabha’s and Soja’s plea for an emancipatory use of ambiguity, the limits of concepts of ambivalence also become evident in the process. 

For the exhibition Perpetual transient, Florian Graf (*1980, lives and works in Basel) has developed a sculptural intervention that queries the atrium of the Kunst Raum as an intermediate space in its ambivalence and potentiality. On the one hand the work invites the visitor to the exhibition as a “gesture.” On the other hand it asks for his/her response as the staging of an ambiguous in-between. Graf uses the interrogation of a specific situation on site to test strategies of artistic interventions and to explore acute questions of inherent and socially relevant aspects of art. In the interior, the tension between thought and complexity is reflected on another level with the help of Graf’s books that are displayed on the first floor. In the border area between an artist’s book, diary and sketchbook, they mostly contain drawings that span the ambiguous space between thought and materialisation. 

In the video installation, Tale of Tehrangeles (2013), Anahita Razmi (*1981, lives and works in Berlin and Zürich) juxtaposes everyday scenes which she filmed in Tehran and Los Angeles on two opposite screens. Acting as a newscaster, in monotonous repetition she reads out Charles Dickens’ hard diagnosis of the times from A Tale of Two Cities. Thus the work creates a space in between for the viewer, where contradictory and ambiguous cultural levels relate to each other. Here ambivalence shows itself positively by questioning too simplistic fixations and notions of progress and backwardness. In her new work, Domino Dancing (2014), reminiscent of Phil Collins’ They shoot horses, the artist explores the dance party as a contradictory embodiment of individual freedom. The prohibited dance marathon, which the artist had performed with her friends in a private apartment in Tehran and captured on camera, is a sign of protest, such as the insistence on self-determination. The repetitive body movements to the same old refrain, however, also have a relation to religious rituals, which counteracts the disco dance as the epitome of individual, Western freedom

Basim Magdy (*1978, lives and works in Cairo and Basel) deals with the question of whether and how future is possible. Given the confusion and contradictory entanglement after the promising renewal in Egypt, the effectiveness of revolutionary impulses and faith in linear progress appear questionable. The double slide projection A 240 second analysis of failure and hopefulness (2012) revolves around the indistinguishability of world creation and decay based on the images of the demolition and construction of the fair building in Basel. By randomly putting together these scenes, the artist brings home the vague process of a transformation without comprehensible purpose. The cross-fading of the two projections creates a motific void that briefly interrupts the endless irrational movement of construction and deconstruction. In this in-between space where new colour shades emerge, a vague hope seems to take root. The ambiguous places in Basim Magdy’s work as entropic constellations refer to the destructive dimension of ambivalence that makes it impossible to articulate one’s claims and engage in the negotiation of the world.

In his new installation Bernd Behr (*1976, lives and works in London) explores the connection between film and artificial landscape through their common origin, in the simultaneous appearance of a rotating camera and a shotcrete gun. Both had been invented around 1900 by Carl E. Akeley, the taxidermist and gorilla researcher in Congo, to optimise realistic dioramas at the Natural History Museum in Chicago. Led by Andre Bazin’s idea that photography and taxidermy conserve time as indices, the artist visualises from this interconnection an extrapolated future by constructing a visual and physical landscape. The film conceptualises an ambiguous, contradictory space of reality experience in the ambivalent and atmospheric image of the terrain, which appears as sprayed concrete and photographic emulsion. In this way, the work simulates the ambivalence described by Helmut Draxler as radical, which has abandoned its connection to a polar system, by which Homi Bhabha’s approach was still distinguished, and loses its ambivalent character as an absolute principle.

Thursday 3 April, 7pm, Anahita Razmi in conversation with Heidi Brunnschweiler, curator of the exhibtion
Wednesday 9 April, 7pm, Basim Magdy, screening and talk, moderated by Susanne Leeb, University of Basel
Thursday 29 April, 7pm, Florian Graf in conversation with Samuel Leuenberger, SALTS Birsfelden/CH
Thursday 23 October, 7pm, Book launch, in relation to the exhibition a reader with comprehensive text by Bassam El Baroni, Heidi Brunnschweiler, Toni Hildebrandt, Elena Zanichelli et. al. will be pubished. 

Florian Grafʼs work was made possible through Erna und Curt Burgauer Stiftung, Zürich; Bernd Behrʼs work was supported by Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart.

Kunst Raum Riehen
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