Remember Revolution: 68 at 40

Remember Revolution: 68 at 40

Nottingham Contemporary

May 18, 2008

Remember Revolution: 68 at 40
Exhibition, films, talks, happenings
1st – 31st May 2008

By asking people to Remember Revolution we are not mourning the death of radical political possibility. Rather we are asking how the events of ’68 inform our own forms of protest. While interest in traditional democracy is waning can the past help activate new forms of political participation? What alternatives exist to the global dominance of the ‘Neo-Liberal’ economy, whose freedoms keep two-thirds of the world’s population in poverty and threaten the survival of the planet? If power is increasingly immaterial and beyond the grasp of nation states, what strategies have been developed to counter it?

Nottingham Contemporary is examining these and other questions with a season to commemorate May ’68, the month when a million people took over the streets of Paris.

Italy in the 1970s, where ’68 lasted for the next ten years, is the starting point of Disobedience, a remarkable archive curated by Marco Scotini and shown for the first time in the UK. An atlas of political resistance played out around the world, the exhibition offers close-up encounters with six movements, 1977: the Italian Exit, Reclaim the Street, Disobedience East, Argentina Fabrica Social, Protesting Capitalist Globalisation and Disobedience and the Society of Control.

The archive charts the relationship between recent art, film, critical media practices and political activism. “Can we retain a clear separation between intellectual production, political action and culture,” asks Scotini. Increasingly the answer is no.

Artist Luca Frei has created Untitled (Interferences), a striking sculpture/design for Disobedience in Nottingham. For Frei, making art is part of public life. He explores the potential of social change by inviting involvement and creating conditions for active learning.

Disobedience is complemented by a retrospective of the work of Peter Watkins, Britain’s most uncompromising political filmmaker. In collaboration with Broadway Cinema, Nottingham Contemporary will be showing many of his most important films. Pivotal conflicts, such as the Paris Commune, the Hungarian Uprising and the Battle of Culloden are restaged using amateurs. These “histories from below”, told from the perspective of the ordinary majority, are presented as events unfolding in the present tense. Culloden (1964) alludes to television reporting of the developing war in Vietnam, for instance.

His films expose the way political events are framed and distorted by the mass media. We see the events of the 1871 Commune in Paris through the anachronistic television cameras of two news crews, for instance, one supporting the Versailles regime, the other the popular uprising. In The War Game, commissioned by the BBC, his astonishing realism was applied to events that could have plausibly occurred in the near future. Its depiction of nuclear war breaking out in Kent, extrapolated from the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was so shocking that the Government covertly forced the BBC to ban it, Watkins says.

Watkins’ work has been a reference point for many international artists who have been developing participatory, political forms of art during the past ten years. We are highlighting this by showing The Battle of Orgreave, a pivotal event in the 1984 Miners’ strike restaged 17 years later by Turner Prize Winner Jeremy Deller and filmed by Mike Figgis.

Disobedience is at ‘Beatties’, Mount Street, Nottingham, 1- 31st May, Mon-Fri 10am – 6 pm, Sat 10am – 1 pm. Closed Monday 26th May. Free.

Peter Watkins Retrospective is at Broadway Cinema, Broad Street, Nottingham, Fri 30th May – Sun 1st June. For times and ticket prices see

Nottingham Contemporary is currently under construction in the city’s historic Lace Market. Designed by the acclaimed architects Caruso St John, it will open to the public in spring 2009.

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Nottingham Contemporary
May 18, 2008

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