Sumac Space

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Past Continuous

Places of Identity and Dilemmas of the Present

+ Exhibition text

03.12.2020 - 19.01.2021

Curated by

Katharina Ehrl & Davood Madadpoor

Memory is at the heart of the way in which most people think about personal identity. (Cultural) identity is not something given, something absolute or tangible, but rather a fluid, continuous and infinite process. 

Like its grammatical form, Past Continuous describes actions or events that started in the past and still continue even now; the artworks are simultaneously informed by the past and inherently conjoined with the present. Each of the artworks on display in Past Continuous–Places of Identity and Dilemmas of the Present both employ and deconstruct different aspects of memory and identity and the history associated with them, “from a nostalgic psychological return to the past” to “a self-identity and embodiment of cultural memory” (Hall, 1983, p.393). 

Some of the works have a sense of playfulness or share a mischievous wink in common, while others draw on history and heritage to reflect on the dilemmas of the present and the places of identity. However, a feeling of contemporaneity links all of the artworks, blurring and dissolving the borders between the past and the present.

Past Continuous–Places of Identity and Dilemmas of the Present is the second of a three-part online exhibition that brings together artists from the Middle East. Our history, identity and collective memory are built upon a collection of objects, documents, stories and experiences. What connects the works in these three exhibitions is the artistic practice that marks a tension by interrogating and recasting everyday objects and events to draw out their relationships to contemporary experience in a landscape of successive social and political change. Apart from the imminent need to consider the historical context out of which this current state of affairs has emerged, the chosen works reflect on contemporaneity as a concept that captures the frictions of the present.

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