When the present is history

Group show
MOMus-Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (GR)

Eirene Efstathiou

The exhibition “When the Present is History”, curated by Daphne Vitali will be presented in MOMus-Museum of Contemporary Art-Macedonian Museum of Contemporary, Thessaloniki Greece, from May 21 till September 12, 2021. “When the Present is History” is focusing on the ways in which artists look at the past in order to engage with diverse social and political problems of today through works of art concerned with historical records that cross over not only with memory and the past, but also the present experience. A large number of artists today, acting as archivists, archeologists or editors, have used different methods of searching, selecting and appropriating existing images and documents.

The exhibition features artists from different geographies who use, appropriate and reshape historical archival material, such as photographs, texts, objects, as well as audio, film and television footage, to create works that unsettle established narratives and suggest alternative readings and new interpretations. The artists’ starting point is often rooted in their countries history in order to speak about broader social, political and economic issues, contributing to broader discussions about history, remembrance and collective memory. The artworks deal with issues such as: labor movements, terrorist organizations, totalitarian, communist and socialist regimes, the relationship between Europe and the Middle East but also America and Europe, the politics of fear, the concept of confinement and imprisonment and others that currently are very topical and burning.

The title of the exhibition refers on the one hand to the present’s interrelation with the past, but also to the way history is always present and continues to influence and shape the way we perceive our world now. The exhibition brings together major and minor histories, well known or lesser known past events with contemporary issues through the works of 17 international visual

artists from Turkey, Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Serbia, Lithuania, Holland, Belgium and the US, creating direct correlations between the works as well as open narratives. How to re-interpret and re-tell history? How to use and read historical images? What is the power of the still and moving documentary image?

The exhibition which was first presented in Istanbul (2019) aspired to examine contemporary issues that cannot be decontextualized from the specific exhibition time and venue for which it was conceived. One year and a half after its first presentation, the exhibition moves to Thessaloniki. What can we learn today, in post-Covid-19 era, from history and the present about the future? How can we use the past to attain a more sustainable world?

The exhibition was produced by DEPO, Istanbul and was part of the parallel program of the 16th Istanbul Biennale in 2019. The exhibition is re-organized and presented by MOMus-Museum of Contemporary Art-Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art and State Museum of Contemporary Art Collections, with the support of the Outset Contemporary Art Fund (Greece), Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki and Istituto Italiano di Cultura Atene, while it is part of the program of parallel events of the 23rd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.

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