The Same River Twice

Part 1

The Same River Twice explores a prominent theme for art in the new millennium—historical reenactment. The artists featured have all contributed substantially to this idea—remaking history with a twist. In various ways they demonstrate the absurdity—and impossibility—of returning to the past.

Art Exhibition previously on at IMA - Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane precinct, Queensland, Australia.
From Saturday 06 December 2008 to Saturday 28 February 2009

The Battle of Orgreave image

Published by Institute of Modern Art on Wednesday 11 March 2009.
Contact the publisher.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously observed that, ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.’ On 6 December the IMA celebrates the dynamism and depth of contemporary art by opening part one of a new two-part exhibition.

The Third Memory, an iconic video installation by Pierre Huyghe (France), explores an interplay of fact and fiction. Huyghe interviews bank robber John Wojtowicz, who was immortalised by Al Pacino in the film Dog Day Afternoon. Not only has Wojtowicz’s memory of the notorious robbery been shaped by the subsequent film, we discover Al Pacino inspired his bank-robber style in the first place.

Irish artist Gerard Byrne’s three-monitor video installation restages a 1973 Playboy roundtable on ‘new sexual lifestyles’ which featured leading academics and notorious porn star Linda Lovelace. Byrne reorganises the discussion, opening up gaps between current and past values and behaviours.

Jeremy Deller (England) films a spectacular reenactment of The Battle of Orgreave, a 1984 confrontation between striking miners and police. This influential film, which Deller made with famous film director Mike Figgis, explores collective memory. Some striking miners from the original battle are coopted to play the police they originally fought with.

Thomas Demand (Germany) remakes scenes from media photographs as paper sculptures and photographs them. At first glance Demand’s depopulated images can seem banal and affectless, but they come freighted with politics. Two major Demand works are on loan from the renowned Kaldor Collection. An image of an airplane gangway is derived from a news photo of the Pope visiting Berlin. Another was inspired by photographs of Adolf Hitler and his architect Albert Speer examining the model for the German Pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition.

The Melbourne/Berlin collective Slave Pianos—Danius Kesminas, Michael Stevenson, Rohan Drape, and Neil Kelly—interprets art history. Slave Pianos translates artists’ experimental sound and music recordings into standard music notation. As if seeking to make the hermetic world of the avant-garde accessible, they have these scores performed by a robot piano player, a ‘slave piano’. In an updated version of their work, Pianology: A Schema & Historo-Materialist Pro-gnostic, a grand piano sits in a giant, arcing, Warholian electric chair, ‘executing’ its covers.

Set to be a highlight of the IMA’s 2008/9 program, The Same River Twice has been curated by Queensland Art Gallery curator Angela Goddard and IMA Director Robert Leonard. Angela Goddard says, ‘What goes around comes around. Historical reenactment—it’s become something of a mini-genre in art recently. It’s a symptom of the moment. The same but different.’

The Same River Twice: Part 2 (7 March – 25 April 2009) extends the enquiry and features Omer Fast (USA), Emma Kay (Britain), and Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy (USA). A publication will be launched at the opening of Part 2, which will explore the development of this intriguing genre of contemporary art. More on that instalment in an upcoming release.