Exhibition Review: The Struggle of Memory II

Memory has become a keyword in the arts, the social sciences and the humanities when addressing the past and its legacies. To remember is an individual faculty but, as individuals normally remember as members of social groups, also a collective faculty. Individual and collective memories do not always coincide; in different social groups, individuals remember differently what seems to be the same event. Likewise, personal memories and official narratives are not always identical. Indeed, there is often a profound tension between what individuals remember and what they are required to remember according to official narratives. Insisting on individual memories can put people at risk. Memory is never fixed, it is always emerging, shaped in light of and adapted to present requirements.  

Part II of The Struggle of Memory “presents artworks which highlight the traces of history that exist all around us” – the continuation of the past in the present and the continuous colonization of the past by the present – “see[king] to honor the beauty and resilience of the earth and humankind while acknowledging the ongoing impact of centuries of injustice and exploitation.”

Part 2 focuses on how memories are inscribed, featuring artworks that explore in different ways the traces of history all around us while proposing alternative, sometimes subversive strategies of looking at the past. Many of the artists exploit the gap between personal and official narratives, grappling with the precarity of memory and unreliability of history. Drawing our attention to the overlooked, collapsing time through montage, employing humour, dabbling with the absurd, stressing the importance of language in remembering and resisting, and encouraging us to employ all our senses to experience and recall, they explore the slippages between fact and fiction, imaginatively reconstructing connections to the past in the void left by History.

Decolonizing memories requires identification of the strategies the colonizers applied to legitimize their activities but also emergence of counter-memories based, for example, on narratives of resistance, as in Dineo Seshee Bopape’s work alluding in a mixed media installation to African acts of resistance with which many exhibition visitors are likely to be unfamiliar. The Struggle of Memory, therefore, visualizes mnemonic agency and asks viewers to reflect upon their own habits of seeing and meaning making when confronted with testimonies of lives and living conditions other than, but inescapably linked to, their own.  

From the exhibition:

Exhibition view showing artworks by Jo Ractliffe (left and right) and Zohra Opoku (center)
Sammy Baloji, Untitled (2018), Mortar shells and indoor plants
Dineo Seshee Bopape, Lerole: footnotes (The struggle of memory against forgetting), 2017, Mixed media
Wong Hoy Cheong, Studies for Colonies Bite Back (2001), Termite eaten book pages

The Struggle of Memory, Part 2:
Paulo Nazareth
Sammy Baloji
Jo Ractliffe
Zohra Opoku
Lubaina Himid
Yto Barrada
Alberta Whittle
Wong Hoy Cheong
Dineo Seshee Bopape

The Struggle of Memory, Part II is at Deutsche Bank Collection, PalaisPopulaire, Unter den Linden 5, Berlin, October 20, 2023 – March 11, 2024

More information can be found here.

You can find the review of the first part of the exhibition here.

Photography (c) Frank Möller

Photographs taken at the exhibition for strictly non-commercial purpose.