press release

Highlighting forms of re-enactment and reconstruction, ‘Not Quite How I Remember It’ explores events, narratives and artifacts from the recent past. Through montage, sampling and remixing, artists examine how the past haunts the present. Neither wistful about bygone days nor deluded about their ability to reconstruct earlier times, artists mobilize history to understand contemporary reality. Recognizing the instability of memory and narration, their works illuminate issues of authorship, ownership, subjectivity, identification, influence, and collectivity.

While building on appropriation tactics, most artists’ approaches differ from the laconic pillaging strategies of the late 1970s ‘Pictures’ generation. Instead they take paradoxically embodied and labour-intensive attitudes to repetition. Drawing on Fluxus ideas about art as instruction, they treat iconic artworks as scripts to improvise upon. Active and recuperative, these gestures valorize collectivity and gift economies above private ownership, fulfilling Roland Barthes’ notion that "a text's unity lies not in its origin but its destination.” Discussing his use of candy wrappers from a Felix Gonzalez-Torres installation in one of his works, Dario Robleto wonders, “Can a creative gesture begun by one artist be passed like a baton through the years to be continued or completed by another artist in another time so that it never has to end but fulfils Gonzalez-Torres’ ambition to become ‘endless copies’?”

By re-enacting public events, artists also focus on vanquished figures and peripheral narratives instead of heroes and conquerors. In this context, restaging buoys up individuals and groups who rarely see themselves in mainstream histories. While remaining skeptical about easy forms of ‘taking to the streets,’ these projects hold out the promise that revisiting the past might transform us from witnesses into creative participants. Conscious that history is as unstable as the archives that we use to record it, the question of how to bequeath utopian and progressive legacies to subsequent generations underscores the work of several artists. Others share an interest in how to represent political dissent in our media-saturated era. Depicting activist events with a sense of distance in contrast to their original urgency, they recycle footage made famous through media representations. If an event is not recorded and replayed, these projects suggest, it might as well have never happened.

Distinguishing between history as the study of occurrences and poetry as the imagining of possibilities, Aristotle assigned poetry the higher place. In attending to the unrealized potential of the past, or what Sharon Hayes terms “pending or hypothetical events,” the artists in ‘Not Quite How I Remember It’ collapse the two. They treat the past as a work-in-progress and prompt us to wonder: What time is it? or, When are we? This sense of layered time reverberates with Walter Benjamin’s idea that outdated aesthetic objects make time appear. Interpreting these projects sharpens our awareness of historical place and perhaps prompts questions about how future generations will represent us.

A catalogue with essays by art historian Johanna Burton and curator Helena Reckitt accompanies the exhibition.

‘Not Quite How I Remember It’ is generously supported by Exhibition Donors Gail Drummond & Robert Dorrance, Liza Mauer, Margaret McNee, Gerald Sheff & Shanitha Kachan, and Nancy Beal Young.

artists: Diane Borsato / Gerard Byrne / Nancy Davenport / Felix Gmelin / Sharon Hayes / Mary Kelly / Nestor Krüger / Michael Maranda / Olivia Plender / Walid Raad / Dario Robleto / Michael Stevenson / Kelley Walker / Lee Walton Curated by Senior Curator of Programs, Helena Reckitt

Not Quite How I Remember It

Kurator: Helena Reckitt

Künstler: Diane Borsato, Gerard Byrne, Nancy Davenport, Felix Gmelin, Sharon Hayes, Mary Kelly, Nestor Krüger, Michael Maranda, Olivia Plender, Walid Ra´ad, Dario Robleto, Michael Stevenson, Kelley Walker, Lee Walton