The Collective Man in Montreal

(Installation documentation by Paul Litherland)

The Collective Man, an exhibition by Tehnica Schweiz (Budapest, Berlin)
in MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels)

01.11.  — 06.12.2014

curated by Katja Melzer (Montréal)

Curatorial text:

The archivization produces as much as it records the event
Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever, 1995

When looking at archives, the question of absence is as intrinsic as is one of presence. By including certain documents and records for future reference, others are being simultaneously excluded. The Collective Man examines the sociopolitical relevance of archives and the creative potential of their deconstruction while unfolding the power dynamics between archivist, reader/viewer and subject(s) of the archive.

Between 2008 and 2010, artist collective Tehnica Schweiz conducted an extensive research into the 60-year history of the Yad Hanna Kibbutz in Israel. A kibbutz (“gathering, clustering”) is a communal settlement typically built on agriculture, where everything is shared collectively according to individual abilities and needs. Yad Hanna was founded in 1950 by a group of young Hungarian Holocaust survivors. Over the years, the formerly communist kibbutz slowly transformed into a privatized suburb, which ultimately resulted in its disintegration and almost complete alienation of its inhabitants and core values.

Tehnica Schweiz started their investigation on the complexity of social engineering and collectivism by building an archive of photographs from the founders, second and third generation kibbutzniks and volunteers. They were particularly interested in community matters such as agriculture, buildings and celebrations. During several visits, the artists recorded the sites, and conducted video interviews with the present day inhabitants. Both the archiving and the documentation became tools towards gaining a comprehensive insight into, and understanding of the stories and people from the former kibbutz. Inspired by those stories, the artists developed a play which was influenced by the aesthetics of the Purim play, humoristic dramatizations performed during Jewish carnival celebrations. The play consists of seven sketches and has been adapted for an audio-drama and a theatrical play performed by amateur actors.

In the present exhibition, still and moving images of original sites are displayed next to images of stage settings and costumes and dialogues of the play’s characters are audible next to video interviews with inhabitants of Yad Hanna. The collective story told in the audio-drama is being supported or scrutinized by the video projections, which give individuals a voice and provide visual references. By integrating the project’s theatrical aspects as equal parts of the overall archive, the lines between documentation, performance and imagination begin to blur. The verbal and visual micro-stories are being detached from their original geopolitical location, thereby enabling the creation of a larger narrative about the clash of utopian concepts and the challenges of communal life.

As in many of their works, Tehnica Schweiz are using archival references and sources to discuss the role of archives in the formation of canons, perceptions of the past and normative historical narratives. Considering the communal both as the instrument and the objective, their process-based projects regularly work around the themes of community and collaboration. For the artists, the legacy of socialism gives an unavoidable framework to every socially-aware action and the position of the artist in our society today.

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