Exhibition History Will Repeat Itself

Presented by Goethe-Institut Hongkong, in collaboration with Hong Kong Film Archive and Videotage

With 'History Will Repeat Itself - Strategies of re-enactment in contemporary (media) art and performance’ the Goethe-Institut Hongkong follows a two-part project. The first part, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Film Archive and Videotage, takes place from June 20 to July 20 in 2008, the second being in exactly one year, in the summer of 2009.

The first part shown in this summer undertakes a slightly-modified version of the exhibition under the same title that was curated by Inke Arns from Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund and Gabriele Horn from KW Kunst-Werke – Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. The exhibition was last shown at the KW in Berlin (November 18, 2007 – January 13, 2008).

In general, the term re-enactment is used to describe a historically correct recreation of socially relevant events. In a re-enactment, the audience, which normally remains passive or at a certain distance from the documented event, either becomes immediate witness of a (repeated historical) event that unfolds in front of its eyes, or even protagonist in an action in which it actively participates. The re-creation of historical events seems to exert a fascination particularly because they provide the opportunity to gain a different entry into history by re-experiencing it. Because history and memory are seldom directly experienced but more often mediated through media, re-enactments also represent an artistic scrutinization of media images. They do not naively ask what really happened beyond the representations of the historical events. Rather, they replace these media based images with a direct and often physical experience and at the same time point out the way in which our collective memory is based on media.

Different to the version shown in Germany, the exhibition in Hong Kong takes up an accent with a strong emphasis on the events in Asia. The focus here, among other things, is the Vietnam War. Whoever sees the photo Napalm by Zbigniew Libera is immediately reminded of the My Lai Massacre and the absolutely helpless female victim Kim Phúc, who was exposed to the violent force of the bombs – an original published photo which stays in our minds since then. Yet Libera’s photo is only a kind of reconstruction of the scene in the form of a beach party. This kind of weird return to the place of disaster is a typical approach of the works that we present in this exhibition.

The second part searches for Asian answers on the concept of re-enactment. It will be additionally curated to look into its correspondence with Asia. It will be shown in the summer of 2009.

The Institut sees interest in two layers: in the first layer it is the treatment of a historical event transmitted through the media, in the second layer the event is now taken by the artist who created something that makes us curious about. The works on display show traces of the constitution of the artistic subject. In this respect, the show ‘History Will Repeat Itself’ combines history with contemporary art.

A systematic approach to the topic with a list of the exhibited works is provided by a catalogue that could work as a manual to the exhibition.

The exhibition is accompanied by a three-day film programme from June 20 to 23, 2008.

Film screenings at Hong Kong Film Archive:
21.6.2008 (Sat)
9:30pm Selected Works from 'History Will Repeat Itself' 100mins
22.6.2008 (Sun)
7:45pm Special evening on Harun Farocki 91mins
23.6.2008 (Mon)
7:30pm Shoah 90mins
9:30pm The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine 101mins

Film critics or historians will be present at the screenings to lead audience discussions. Tickets at $40 available at all URBTIX outlets now.

The exhibition was originally shown at the Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin and made possible by the support of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes/ German Federal Cultural Foundation.

Concept: Inke Arns
Curators: Inke Arns and Gabriele Horn
Co-Curator: Katharina Fichtner

Installation at the three exhibition venues in Hong Kong designed by: MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valerie Portefaix)

Actual installation at the Goethe-Institut Hongkong:

Actual installation at the Hong Kong Film Archive:

Actual installation at Videotage: