Socialist Memory

The programme Socialist Memory features film and video works by contemporary artists that deal with the memory of the communist past in Eastern Europe. The selected films demonstrate the variety of approaches within contemporary art to the use of documentary material and techniques.

The programme includes works by Zbynek Baladran, Johanna Billing Goran Devic Arturas Raila and Anri Sala.

The screening will include a discussion with the curators Maja and Reuben Fowkes.

Socialist Memory:
Documentary Approaches in Contemporary Art

The Socialist Memory film screening features film and video works dealing with the memory of the communist past in Eastern Europe. The selected films highlight the variety of approaches within contemporary art to the use of documentary material and techniques. This screening of five short films set in Albania, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Croatia, will be introduced by the curators Maja and Reuben Fowkes. Their exhibition Revolution is not a Garden Party was on in Holden Gallery, Manchester in February 2007 and will open in the Norwich Gallery on Wednesday 21 March 2007.  


Anri Sala ( Albania )
Intervista, 1998 (25 min)

In this film, artist Anri Sala confronts his mother with her past as a communist activist. We see her talking to a journalist at a young communist congress on a soundless film dug up from the archives. Intrigued, Sala had the interview decrypted at a school for the deaf-and-mute. The deciphering of the words revealed her ideological support and unlimited enthusiasm towards the former dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. Intervista dramatically captures the moment when Anri shows his mother a video of the film again. This time, with her words recovered and subtitled on the screen, she confronts her younger self.

Anri Sala was born in 1974, in Tirana, Albania. He has had solo shows at Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna (2003), the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2004), and the Art Institute of Chicago (2004), among others. He has also participated in many group shows, including the Venice Biennial (1999, 2001, and 2003), Manifesta (2000 and 2002), Berlin Biennale (2001), São Paulo Biennial (2002), and Istanbul Biennial (2003). He lives and works in Paris.

Zbynek Baladran (Czech Republic)
Working Process, 2004 (9 min)

Zbynek Baladran collects an eclectic mix of footage from public and private archives and compiles it into documentaries. He describes the result as a kind of “non-invasive archaeology” whose documentary style is not governed by specific guidelines or strategies; rather, it generates a multi-faceted image of the past, influenced by coincidence and subjective choices. The archive materials and text segments, which are manipulated by applying the blackout technique, are used in “Working Process” to recapture lost moments of Czech history.

Zbynek Baladran was born 1973 in Prague. Zbynek Baladran studied art history at Charles University in Prague from 1992-2007 and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague from 1997. He is one of the co-founders of Display Gallery, established in Prague in 2001. He exhibited at Manifesta 5 in 2004. His installation works present animations, documentaries, found footage and propaganda films that are edited and re-assembled with vintage soundtracks and mysterious noises.

Arturas Raila (Lithuania),
The Girl is Innocent, 1999 (17 min)

Despite the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc, Soviet-era rhetoric dies hard, or at least it does at the Vilnus Secondary School of Fine Art, where Raila used to teach. (He was fired for making this piece.) The candid footage from a teachers’ conference held in 1998, captures, in his words, “entrenched anti-Western undercurrents usually withheld from public view.” Indeed, they seem to be flaunted during the student critiques where young artists are criticized, even penalized, for succumbing to the decadence of the class enemy, namely Pop art.

Arturas Raila was born in 1962 in Rainaiciai ( Lithuania) and today living in Vilnius, the artist in his complex video work reflects on the history of Lithuania, its varied history of occupation, and the behaviour of social groups. Raila focuses on the connection between historical experience and identity. He has exhibited widely, including at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin and Barbican London, and has a solo show entitled Power of Earth at the Frankfurt Kunstverein in 2006.

Goran Dević (Croatia),
Imported Crows (2004) (22 min)

Portraying an unusual event in a small town, Goran Dević enters into a polemic with the Croatian petty bourgeois mentality and creates a metaphorical image of a troubled society in which there is no identity, or where one identity is violently replaced by another. It tells the story of crows of Sisak, which were imported from abroad during communist rule and have since become unwanted, un-Croatian, and transformed into a metaphor of the Other.

Goran Devic was born in 1971 in Sisak , Croatia. He studied law and archaeology, as well as directing at the Academy of Dramatic Arts, Zagreb. His documentary films include Wrong Joint 2002 and Did I Fuck Myself Up 2003. He participated in the V Cetinje Biennial (2004) and the roaming film programme Serial Cases (2005).

Johanna Billing (Sweden)
Magical World (2005) (6.12 min)

Shot in a free after-school cultural centre in Dubrava, a suburb of Zagreb, Croatia, the work provides a glimpse of a country in transformation. Through Billing’s perspective, it is one still recovering from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, yet projected to join the EU in due time. Footage of a group of children carefully rehearsing the Rotary Connection song Magical World is interspersed with imagery from an urban environment that still bears the marks of the past..

Johanna Billing was born in 1973 and lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. Selected solo exhibitions include Index, Stockholm; Milch at Gainsborough Studios, London; Bild Museet, Umea; Moderna Museet, Oslo; and has participated in group exhibitions including Peripheries Become the Centre, Prague Biennale 1; Delays and Revolutions, Venice Biennale, Italian Pavilion, Venice; and is included in Cream 3 published by Phaidon.

The exhibition Revolution is not a Garden Party (curated by Maja and Reuben Fowkes) was on in Holden Gallery Manchester in February 2007 and will open in the Norwich Gallery on Wednesday 21 March 2007. It features the work of international artists Michael Blum, Nick Crowe, Igor Grubić, Sanja Iveković, Gergely László / Péter Rákosi, Nils Norman and Adrian Paci and is accompanied by a publication priced £12 and distributed by Cornerhouse

link to Revolution is not a Garden Party exhibition catalogue