June 5, 2008 - The Power Plant - Not Quite How I Remember It
June 5, 2008

Not Quite How I Remember It

Walid Raad
Untitled (1982-2007), Beirut/New York, 2008
19 inkjet prints
Courtesy the artist and
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Not Quite How I Remember It
7 June – 1 September 2008

Diane Borsato / Gerard Byrne / Nancy Davenport / Felix Gmelin / Sharon Hayes / Mary Kelly / Nestor Krüger / Michael Maranda / Olivia Plender / Walid Raad / Dario Robleto / Michael Stevenson / Kelley Walker / Lee Walton

Curated by Senior Curator of Programs, Helena Reckitt


Highlighting forms of re-enactment and reconstruction, ‘Not Quite How I Remember It’ explores events, narratives and artifacts from the recent past. Through montage, sampling and remixing, artists examine how the past haunts the present. Neither wistful about bygone days nor deluded about their ability to reconstruct earlier times, artists mobilize history to understand contemporary reality. Recognizing the instability of memory and narration, their works illuminate issues of authorship, ownership, subjectivity, identification, influence, and collectivity.

While building on appropriation tactics, most artists’ approaches differ from the laconic pillaging strategies of the late 1970s ‘Pictures’ generation. Instead they take paradoxically embodied and labour-intensive attitudes to repetition. Drawing on Fluxus ideas about art as instruction, they treat iconic artworks as scripts to improvise upon. Active and recuperative, these gestures valorize collectivity and gift economies above private ownership, fulfilling Roland Barthes’ notion that “a text’s unity lies not in its origin but its destination.” Discussing his use of candy wrappers from a Felix Gonzalez-Torres installation in one of his works, Dario Robleto wonders, “Can a creative gesture begun by one artist be passed like a baton through the years to be continued or completed by another artist in another time so that it never has to end but fulfils Gonzalez-Torres’ ambition to become ‘endless copies’?”

By re-enacting public events, artists also focus on vanquished figures and peripheral narratives instead of heroes and conquerors. In this context, restaging buoys up individuals and groups who rarely see themselves in mainstream histories. While remaining skeptical about easy forms of ‘taking to the streets,’ these projects hold out the promise that revisiting the past might transform us from witnesses into creative participants. Conscious that history is as unstable as the archives that we use to record it, the question of how to bequeath utopian and progressive legacies to subsequent generations underscores the work of several artists. Others share an interest in how to represent political dissent in our media-saturated era. Depicting activist events with a sense of distance in contrast to their original urgency, they recycle footage made famous through media representations. If an event is not recorded and replayed, these projects suggest, it might as well have
never happened.

Distinguishing between history as the study of occurrences and poetry as the imagining of possibilities, Aristotle assigned poetry the higher place. In attending to the unrealized potential of the past, or what Sharon Hayes terms “pending or hypothetical events,” the artists in ‘Not Quite How I Remember It’ collapse the two. They treat the past as a work-in-progress and prompt us to wonder: What time is it? or, When are we? This sense of layered time reverberates with Walter Benjamin’s idea that outdated aesthetic objects make time appear. Interpreting these projects sharpens our awareness of historical place and perhaps prompts questions about how future generations will represent us.

A catalogue with essays by art historian Johanna Burton and curator Helena Reckitt accompanies
the exhibition.

‘Not Quite How I Remember It’ is generously supported by Exhibition Donors Gail Drummond & Robert Dorrance, Liza Mauer, Margaret McNee, Gerald Sheff & Shanitha Kachan, and Nancy Beal Young.

Forum: 7 June
Let’s Do It Again: Contemporary Art and Remaking
With artists and critics including Amelia Jones, Dario Robleto, and Jan Verwoert.

Film: 25 June, 9 July, 15 August
Am I Repeating Yourself?
Features films by John Baldessari, Magnus Bärtas, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, Felix Gmelin, Mike Kelley/Paul McCarthy, Jill Godmillow, A S M Kobayashi, Anri Sala, Elisabeth Subrin, and T. R. Uthco and Ant Farm.

The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West
Toronto ON Canada M5J 2G8


The Power Plant
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