Oct 2003 – Mar 2004

written by Gilane Tawadros


Most people have an archive of some description: photographs, letters, papers that record personal histories. Mining the archive and retrieving histories have increasingly become the mainstay of many museums and galleries. Contemporary art organisations, curators and critics are also delving deep into the archive of post-war contemporary culture to reclaim ‘lost’ artists and art histories. But reviving the past is full of pitfalls. It is easy to romanticise the past and gaze back through rose-tinted spectacles or to ‘put a spin’ on past episodes only to serve current political ends. Our view of the past is inevitably shaped by present concerns and perspectives but is it possible to re-shape the present by re-examining our histories? Can a search through the archive be more than a nostalgic rummage through historical events? Can looking back critically at past episodes make a difference to our future?

inIVA’s new archive season brings together exhibitions, talks and film screenings which re-tell forgotten histories in a way that casts a different light not only on the past but equally on the present. They recount stories that are often incomplete, fragmentary or unfinished but which are tied together by a common theme of struggle. The unfinished events encompassed by this season include Palestine, Lebanon, the Caribbean, Uganda, the Congo and Pakistan.

In the spaces left by the narrow focus of the world’s global media, a plethora of independent television stations and internet sites are springing up. Media 19, a Norwegian arts and media charity, is now establishing a unique archive of independent media. In one of their first archive projects, they brought about an extraordinary collaboration between Norwegian film-makers and Al-Rouah TV, an independent television company in Bethlehem. In October, we are proud to present Line Halvorsen’s A Stone’s Throw Away, an award-winning documentary film that follows the everyday experiences of a group of young Palestinian teenage boys, living under siege in a refugee camp outside Bethlehem. Also in October, we present Alia Syed’s poetic and compelling new film Eating Grass, co-commissioned by inIVA and Film London Artists’ Film and Video Awards. Shot in London, Karachi and Lahore, the film explores the overlap between times, places and memories, recounting five different stories that relate to the five times of day for Muslim prayer. In November, in collaboration with the Whitechapel, we host a special Chat Room event with the internationally acclaimed artist Janine Antoni who reflects on her own archive of artistic practice and the ways in which she deploys performance and sculpture to recast the aesthetic and cultural meanings of sexual difference. In December, we host the UK premiere of a new film on John La Rose by distinguished photographer and film-maker Horace Ové. An activist, publisher and writer, John La Rose has been instrumental in building a living archive of the ideas and experiences of black communities in Britain and the Caribbean through vehicles such as New Beacon Books, the Caribbean Artists’ Movement and the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books. To mark the end of the year on a more playful note, inIVA returns to the sporting motif explored by us in past projects such as Offside! and Boxer, to bring you the first table football tournament to be staged with competing teams from London’s contemporary artworld. The winners of the inIVA Art Cup will go home with a special trophy designed by artist Hew Locke and co-commissioned by inIVA and The Guardian newspaper.

In January, we shall be screening Lumumba, a landmark film by talented Haitian film-maker Raoul Peck. The film’s screenings will be complemented by a discussion on the relationship between history and representation with a rare line-up of speakers including Ludo de Witte, author of the controversial history of Congo’s first prime minister; the painter Luc Tuymans; and artist and film-maker John Akomfrah. Also in January, we shall be showing Zarina Bhimji’s eloquent triptych of light boxes, which were made over a period of five years and result from three return trips to Uganda. In March, artist, writer and film-maker Renée Green completes an x-space commission; historically her practice investigates the archive-based systems we invent in an attempt to understand more about life. To conclude the season we shall be hosting a residency by The Atlas Group, whose new body of work re-constructs an alternative history of Lebanon through a minute and comprehensive history of the car bomb. To accompany the residency, inIVA will be hosting a discussion entitled Fact or Fiction which looks at the construction of history through the media, art and archaeology, examining the overlaps and cross-overs between these different areas.

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