Positions #3Rossella Biscotti, Duncan Campbell, Maryam Jafri, Natasja Kensmil
Positions #3 presents new and existing work by Rossella Biscotti, Duncan Campbell, Maryam Jafri and Natasja Kensmil. Each of the artists draws on extensive research, translating empirical data through different modes of story telling, image making and historicization. They often deploy a rich selection of archival material and historical analyses evoking different economic, political, and social associations in the process. The resulting manifestations sit at the intersection of cultural anthropology and conceptual practice whilst drawing on a range of visual languages.
Rossella Biscotti (born Molfetta, Italy, 1978) focuses on forgotten social and political events in her work. Following meticulous preliminary research she re-circulates these stories in her reconstructions. Biscotti won the Premio Michelangelo in 2010. The prize, the choice of a marble block from the Carrara quarry in Italy, is used as the starting point for a new work: The Journey (2016). Biscotti dropped the marble block into the Mediterranean Sea. Inspired by scientific research and oceanography, she will identify the blocks new location through analyzing the environmental complexity of the Sicilian canal. She will overlap maps that trace historical commercial routes, migrant routes, artefacts and military deposit, analyzing the morphology of the seabed in the international water between Italy, Libya and Tunisia.
The second new work in Positions #3 is called Clara (2016), an installation around the rhinoceros, who became famous during 17 years of touring Europe in the mid-18th century and was transported to Europe by the VOC.
Video: Rossella Biscotti on The Journey
The films of Duncan Campbell (born Dublin, Ireland, 1972) consist of a collage of archive recordings, documentary material and fictional film excerpts. The films question the validity of documentary form as historical representation, blurring fact , and fiction, recording and interpretation. In Positions #3 Campbell will show Arbeit (2011), the story of the German economist Hans Tietmeyer, one of the bureaucrats behind the European monetary union. A new commission - The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy (2016) - on the remote Irish village of Dun Chaoin in Kerry is also on view. The film focuses on two American anthropologists and their interest in individual subjectivity; and the pragmatic, deferential, and conservatively Catholic perspective of the people they are studying. This film is commissioned by the Irish Museum of Modern Art with co-commissioners Van Abbemuseum and Western Front, Vancouver.
Video: Duncan Campbell on The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy
Maryam Jafri (born Karachi, Pakistan, 1972) frames her subjects meticulously, composing them afresh, renaming them and placing them in dialogue with each other. She questions the market orientation of our everyday lives. This can concern our food production and marketing, as in the installations Product Recall: An Index of Innovation (2014-15), Generic Corner (2015) and the video Mouthfeel (2014). The mixed-media installation Product Recall, for example, displays products that were withdrawn from the market. In some cases, products were recalled due to an unfortunate coincidence – as with Ayds diet cookies, whose sales plummeted with the advent of AIDS. In this way, Product Recall highlights the kind of ‘spells’ cast on products by marketing strategists and food designers in their attempts to generate demand. Independence Day 1934-1975 (2009 - ongoing) categorises found images on the independence of former colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Analysing these photos shows how quickly these young nations assimilated to the norms of the colonial state.
Video: Maryam Jafri on Product Recall and Generic Corner.
Natasja Kensmil (Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1973) uses moments from (art) history to highlight the relationship between present and past. The movement of the Anabaptists has a central place in a number of her portraits and other history paintings. In her new silkscreens Martyrs Mirror (2016), she incorporates fragments of their executions, depicted in numerous prints by the 17th-century graphic artist Jan Luyken. Kensmil structures and interweaves her extensive archive of (art) historical imagery to compose new, dynamic and rhizomatic stories. She does not propose solutions or adopt a specific standpoint. Rather, she creates insights by discovering and evoking relationships and historical lines. She often uses barbaric images culled from mysticism and religion due to their lyrical power. With this, she makes past rituals, metaphors and symbols accessible to us in the present.
Video: Natasja Kensmil on Martyrs Mirror
Positions #1 and #2
In 2014 the Van Abbemuseum started the exhibition series Positions, that sets a series of projects in dialogue with one another in the ten galleries of the museum's old building. Positions explores different tones of contemporary artistic voices. The artists in Positions #1 (2014) were Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Céline Condorelli, Bouchra Khalili, Charles van Otterdijk, and Koki Tanaka. In Positions #2 (2015) the works of Anna Boghiguian, Chia-Wei Hsu, Nástio Mosquito, and Sarah Pierce were on show.