Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan: Monument to Another Man’s Fatherland.
Forget everything you learned. All masters are suppressors.
The dictum still resonates in the clouds of oblivion.
Triggered by the invitation to make new work for Project Art Centre in Dublin, Van Brummelen & De Haan followed the trail of a Celtic Tiger to Berlin. On Museuminsel, a Hellenist victory monument that once commemorated a battle of Pergamese and Celts in Asia Minor has been reconstructed from marble fragments; archaeological ‘finds’ from Anatolia. The historical battle is mythically represented as the struggle between gods and giants on the monument’s frieze: liminal creatures, half-human half-animal. This primordial confrontation is perceived as forerunner of dialectics. But the frieze is also the receptacle of another tale – that of nation building by cultural looting and the appropriation of cultural heritage.
When Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan invited the Pergamon Museum and Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, the current owner of the antique monument, to re-animate the classical relief by cinematically connecting it to its grounds of origin the parties refused to collaborate, citing that it ‘might stir the debate about repatriation,’ something the museum was ‘not interested in’.
As imagery of the relief circulates in many academic studies, museum guides and reference books, the artists were able to find a range of reproductions such as heliographs of the sculptural fragments before they were mounted into the museum architecture (included as illustrations in a dissertation from 1925); pictures of the gods and giants illuminated as if they were actors in a Proletkult theatre (published in 1959 by the Hermitage when the relief was in their possession after being looted in WWII by the Red Army); or large pictures of most sensational parts of the highlight (included in coffee-tabel books like Greek Sculpture, its Spirit and its Principles). Appropriating reproductions from different sources and different epochs, photographed on various locations, in diverse illumination, and printed in a range of techniques, the artists managed to piece together the entire sculptural struggle. The 35mm black and white film Revolt of the Giants slowly explores the silent surface of the cut-and-pasted battle scene.
A second film, on 16mm, interprets the revolt of the giants not as silent surface but as a series of speech acts. The artists asked Turkish migrants in the midst of preparing for their obligatory integration exam at the Goethe Institute in Istanbul, who still knew only very basic German vocabulary, to vocalize a German art historical description of the sculpted myth that traveled ahead of them about 130 years ago. In Revolt of the Giants – recited by prospective Germans the future migrants try to get their tongues around the tones and rhythms of a language they have not yet mastered.
Van Brummelen & De Haan have collaborated together since 2002, producing film installations that explore the boundaries of the public realm. Their films peruse the movements, textures and tonality of cultural and geopolitical landscapes, like Europe’s new borders (Grossraum, 2004-2005), sites of global trade (Monument of Sugar, 2007), or the non-sites of cultural heritage (Monument to Another Man’s Fatherland, 2008). Their works have recently been shown at CAC Vilnius; Project Arts Centre, Dublin; Shanghai Biennial 2008; Robert Flaherty Seminar, Hamilton; MoMA, NY; Palais de Tokyo, Paris and TPW Gallery, Toronto. Monument to Another Man’s Fatherland was commissioned and co-produced by Project Arts Centre in Dublin, and supported by Fonds BKVB, Dutch Film Fund, Platform Garanti and Goethe Institut Istanbul.
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