Archaelogies of the future, sala rekalde, 2007

Martin Beck, "An Image guide...", foto: Begoña Zubero

Mathias Poledna, "Untitled", "Version", foto: Begoña Zubero

Archaeologies of the Future
Martin Beck / Carol Bove / Dora García / Mathias Poledna / Pia Rönicke

Curator: Peio Aguirre
sala rekalde, Bilbao, 27 September to 2 December 2007

This exhibition revolves around an archaeology of different historical aesthetic forms coexisting at the heart of recent artistic practices. Rather than starting out from this vast storehouse-cum-archive of forms that is History, understood as a linear narrative that stretches from the ‘past’ to the present day, the exhibition focuses on examples and cases from ‘now’ that use different forms of historicity and/or historicism. Archaeology, as everyone knows, centres on research into history and is a discipline based on strict methods of chronological dating, period, epoch, style, school, etc. Only after archaeological analysis of material signs and remains is it possible to enter into anthropological studies on who made what, why and to what end.

One of the underlying intentions of this group exhibition of work by five artists is to reflect on the sedimentation of time in highly codified cultural forms that range from the realm of everyday objects to the configuration of the environment around us, including the formation of artworks. Architecture, design, the moving image and popular culture all intermingle in an X-ray of the cultural present with one eye on yesterday.

There are few cultural productions that transmit as much codified information to us as the cutting edges of image, art and design. The diagnosis of the present is stratified to the extent that “one day we’ll need archaeologists to help us guess the original storylines of even classic films” (William Gibson, Pattern Recognition, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2003). This sci-fi novel about the advent of new modes of consumption makes its appearance here like a reference. In a pop-cultural context, what we tend towards is the recognition of forms, patterns and models. In identifying ourselves with aesthetic elements, we mould subjectivities. What is going on here is a contradictory balance between the standardisation of ways of life and the need for their continual singularisation: a “mirror-world” in which everything is recognisable without being alike, in which everything looks like everything else but is different.

The artistic practices of Martin Beck, Carol Bove, Dora García, Mathias Poledna and Pia Rönicke share this analytical sensitivity towards the artificial constructs that intersect historical memory with mass culture, and are part of a tradition of critique that has continued to question the universal concepts of the aesthetic experience of high modernism through to the present day. It is in the form, the style and the language that the differences between the projections of the Sixties to the present are visible. Style (as residue) in this context is a carrier of the ideology of the times, dissolving the historical within the aesthetic, midway between timelessness and periodization.
This exhibition borrows its name from Fredric Jameson’s book, Archaeologies of the Future: the Desire called Utopia and other Science Fictions (Verso, 2005), a title that is an entire programme in itself. Nevertheless, its origin lies in the conclusion of the author’s previous book on modernity and modernism, A Singular Modernity (Verso, 2000), when he writes that “Ontologies of the present demand archaeologies of the future, not forecasts of the past”.

This exhibition as a visual essay is an attempt to short-circuit the archaeologies of the past (those of modernity) with a scenario of historicism close to science-fiction.
Another of the notable features lies in the methods used by all the artists, which include appropriation, quotation, re-contextualisation, revision, design, reference and self-reference, and manipulations of style, with culture being read as a second nature.

Pia Ronicke, "Whithout a Name", foto: Begoña Zubero