Double Wall of Silence
19. 12. 2019 - 16. 1. 2020


You are kindly invited to the exhibition opening this Thursday at 7 pm!

Artists: Daniel García Andújar, Louis-Cyprien Rials, Driton Selmani, Ariel Schlesinger, Vangjush Vellahu

Curators: Anja Obradović and Hana Ostan Ožbolt

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Exhibition events:

19. 12. at 6:30 pm Guided tour with the artists Daniel García Andújar, Louis-Cyprien Rials, Driton Selmani,  Vangjush Vellahu and curators Anja Obradović and Hana Ostan Ožbolt

9. 1. at 6 pm Guided tour

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The starting point of the group exhibition Double Wall of Silence is a field of tension between the spoken and the unspoken, between the muted and the forgotten, between the individual and the collective. Migration as a dominant theme in recent years has sparked discussions about national borders, refugees, minorities, loss of identity, “them” and “us”, danger and trauma. The power of recording experiences and memories poses questions about the forms of narrative, one of them being: who is the speaker and who is the listener? How much time – and silence – does it take for the nameless to become a speaker, and how much for the listener to be able to fully hear the undesirable testimony? When is dialogue even possible, and what happens if what is said remains unheard? Through a selection of works by five artists who explore or play with presence and absence, existence and non-existence, the exhibition focuses on the silenced and the power of the unspoken; on silence as a form of language and narrative.

Israeli psychologist Dan Bar-On, in his work Legacy of Silence (1994),[1] analyses in detail the expression “double wall of silence” in relation to the history of the Holocaust. The term was recently recontextualised by linguist Aleida Assmann, whose writing marked our way of thinking as we prepared this exhibition. “Traumatic memory returns in leaps, after periods of silence in which it is preserved in a state of latency”.[2] This period of silence may be longer or shorter, its duration depending on the moment at which two walls collapse: the one erected by the traumatized for protection from their own experiences, therefore survival; the other one erected by the rest of society to protect itself from the undesirable truth. Hence, the divide between the non-speaker and non-listener exists because there is a double wall of silence between them. In the works presented the artists dismantle this wall, each in their own exceptionally elaborated poetic.

The works of Louis-Cyprien Rials and Ariel Schlesinger establish a narrative that confronts the conundrum of how to verbalise by means of a tacit representation; how to translate or convey silently through visual language. In his poetical and sophisticated interventions, carrying an element of surprise onto everyday objects, Ariel Schlesinger (1980, Jerusalem) flirts with the element of fire, having become a recognizable trait of his artistic practice. His works, dealing with collective traumas, fears and the subjective/objective dimensions of catastrophism on several levels, are sculptures in duration. Visitors who engage with them find themselves in a sort of intermediate state of tension difficult to verbalise; the initial enchantment is replaced by an awareness of the potential danger, which through its non-realisation, becomes the “state of affairs”: At arm’s length (2017), Objet trouvé (Head) (2017), After ‘All Red’ (2017).

Something similar may also come from untitled (Mogadishu, Somalia) (2019). While looking at the frames of sandy beaches, the sound of the sea and the wind, nothing in particular happens that helps us locate the scenery the artist is observing. Through the tension between image and sound, featuring no analysis of what is being seen and heard, the video is only a discreet testimony to a landscape marked by violence. The invitation instead is to investigate the causes outside the framework of the film by Louis-Cyprien Rials (1981, France). Another work, untitled (2019), is a series of postcards with different motives. Some of them are challenging the viewer to imagine the territory, painted in black 2.0 they allude to the impossibility of representation by the Sunni Muslims, while their location is elusive by the titles found on their reverse. Those with flags represent different entities, which are competing for independence and territory, giving a vexillological character to the whole. The originals from the colonialist times (titled in Italian and English) reflect the landscapes of the already forgotten “happier” times.

In contrast, Vangjush Vellahu (1987, Albania) in his series Fragments I, directly situates us and informs us about what and where he is filming. The verbal dialogues he engages in with the inhabitants serve as testimonies of a hidden reality, not so present in our everyday media. Documenting the current situation of six unrecognised (or only partially recognised) countries through random encounters along the way in his curious travels, the multifaceted history of these forgotten entities is suggested and brought to light. Their existence or non-existence is influenced by international actors whose activity or passivity marks them, frozen in a kind of interim, non-belonging, misplacement. The list of unrecognised countries is long, making the work a “prologue that will have to be continued”, as the artist states. His installation gives an insight into Abkhazia, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabakh, Trans’nistria, Kosovo, and South Ossetia.

This in-betweenness, as the place where dialogue can be established, is also the position from which Driton Selmani (1987, Kosovo) acts.  In the recent period, he has taken every opportunity to convey his playful, ironic and often confessional messages, whether in the use of everyday objects or interventions in public space. His one-sentence pronouncements or seemingly fleeting jokes, scream for attention and reveal constant doubt. They represent hopes and fears, collective and intimate, heavily marked by the country in which he grew up: Only Time Will Tell (2019), reads an inscription glowing in the inner courtyard of the gallery.

Daniel García Andújar (1966, Spain), an artist and art theorist, critically confronts prevailing ideologies in his projects. By revealing the dominant operating system, exposing its flaws, hacking it, using it critically, he opens up spaces of resistance to the standardising of language through which the world is created. As he puts it: ¨to democratize democracy is to crack the code”. The exhibition presents two of his works. Soy Gitano / Echastrí 14 (I am Gipsy / Article 14) (1992) is a record of the Article 14 (from the 1978 Spanish Constitution) on Human Rights in the Roma language. By writing it on the wall in a language of an ethnic minority spread around Europe, the artist puts emphasis on the act´s call for protection against discrimination. Worth mentioning, the work has also been shown as a series of posters, murals, and interventions in the public space as part of a larger group of his projects from the 1990s. At that time and in the rise of anthropological and sociological studies (“the artist as a visual anthropologist”) projects sought to approach the “other”, but through dealing with this “otherness” they often discriminated even more. The work is a commentary on it and it reverses this ideology. Albatera Concentration Camp (2019), combines a drone’s view and the narration of a verse to confront the traumatic history of a concentration camp in the artist’s home province of Alicante. Yet another story completely absent, rather than erased, from the contemporary history books in schools across Spain. This concentration camp and what it encompassed is and has been unknown to many, as much as is the voice of Miguel Hernández present in the video, a people’s poet, silenced by the majestuous figure of the better known Federico García Lorca.

[1] Dan Bar-On, Legacy of Silence (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).

[2] Aleida Assmann, »Silence as the Form of Language«, v: Aslan Gaisumov. Keicheyuhea (Sternberg Press, 2019).

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Image: Louis-Cyprien Rials, Untitled (Mogadishu, Somalia), 2019. Courtesy of the artist & Eric Mouchet Gallery, Paris.
Exhibition view: Klemen Ilovar