Positions #5 Telling Untold Stories
For the fifth edition of the exhibition series Positions, the Van Abbemuseum includes new and recent work by five artists living and working in the Netherlands. These solo presentations, shown in dialogue with one another, constitute some of the most compelling artistic practices being made in the country today. With Mounira al Solh, Mercedes Azpilicueta, Anna Dasović, Em’kal Eyongakpa and Quinsy Gario. Having presented their work abroad, they are now making their museum solo debuts in the Netherlands.
The artists in Positions #5 work with different forms of storytelling, witnessing and giving testimony. They do this in relation to forgotten, marginalised or silenced histories. These stories span nineteenth-century novels in Argentina, voices from the rivers of Cameroon or the 1969 uprisings in Curaçao. They range from deeply personal accounts to classified state documents. The stories the artist's work with are mediated through diverse and imaginative formats. Tapestries, embroidery, hand-crafted dolls and sound compositions can all be seen, heard and felt throughout the series of exhibitions. Taken together Positions #5: Telling Untold Stories invites visitors to experience and encounter stories in myriad ways.
Mounira Al Solh
Encounters and conversations with others form the starting point for Mounira Al Solh's work. Since 2012 Al Solh (Lebanon, 1978) has been drawing portraits of people forced to leave their homes due to conflict, based on the extensive conversations she has had with them. The press called the project I strongly believe in our right to be frivolous one of the high points of Documenta 14, after which there was a solo in the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018. There are also a number of embroidery works to be seen, made partly in collaboration with Stichting Ik Wil from Eindhoven (a foundation committed to an inclusive society). The film Freedom is a habit I am trying to learn is a new work. Al Solh spent 24 hours with each of four women - Rogin, Waad, Hanin and Zeina - in the cities to which they moved from Lebanon and Syria (Zutphen, Washington DC, Oslo and Sharjah).
The starting point for Mercedes Azpilicueta’s presentation is the legend of Lucìa Miranda, as recorded by the 19th century female author Eduarda Mansilla. It inspired Azpilicueta (Argentina, 1981) to produce new work consisting of sound, video, costumes and tapestries. Miranda was the first Cautiva, a European woman captured by the indigenous people on her arrival in 16th century Argentina. Mansilla wrote a version of the story which emphasised the strength of both the indigenous people and Miranda in their resistance to domination. The tapestries, woven in the TextielLab in Tilburg, and costumes are inspired by the era in which Mansilla lived. The videos and sounds refer to characters from Mansilla's books. Azpilicueta recently had her European solo debut with an exhibition in CentroCentro in Madrid.
An ongoing body of work by Anna Dasović’s (The Netherlands, 1982) centres on the decision by the Dutch government to send Dutch Blue Helmets to Srebrenica, declared a 'safe haven' by the UN, in the east of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to protect the area. Following the fall of the enclave in July of 1995, 8,372 people were murdered. The way in which these events were remembered, or rather concealed, in the Netherlands was the motive for Anna Dasović's ongoing research into the language and images used to describe and contextualise 'Srebenica', before and after the fall of the enclave. For the first time, in Positions #5, various works are presented together, composed of images, video material and documents from the archives of the Dutch Ministry of Defence, obtained by the artist by invoking the WOB (the Dutch Freedom of Information Act).
Em’kal Eyongakpa's (Cameroon, 1981) large-scale installation is a part of the project sǒ bàtú, on which the artist has been working since 2015. The title means 'bath for the ears' in Kenyang, a language spoken in Manyu (Cameroon). Using water and sound as major elements, Eyongakpa creates an alternative environment within the museum. It forms a connection with Cameroon folk tales, in which 'other worlds' arise in caves when vulnerable groups of people retreat into them in times of peril. Sound recordings of nature, which Eyongakpa made in the forests of South Cameroon, merge with the sounds of Cameroon poems being read aloud and the intercepted messages of political prisoners and prisoners of war from all over the world. Last October a solo exhibition of Eyongakpa's work opened in The Showroom in London.
In Positions #5, Quinsy Gario (Dutch Antilles, 1984) shows a series of works about the recent history of the former Dutch colony the Dutch Antilles. Gario visited the island of Sint Maarten with his mother, Glenda Martinus, in the summer of 2019. There, Gario made an 8 mm film, based on the locations shot in a film produced in 1947 by the RVD (Netherlands Government Information Service). A maquette, made by Gario’s mother, paintings by his uncle, Rudsel Martinus and great uncle, Mauricio Onofra, dolls made by his aunt, Gala Martinus, music by his cousins Quinton and Shaquire Martinus and a poem by his brother Jörgen Gario are a personal way of reporting the uprising on Curaçao in 1969. Also exhibited is Bevrijdingskunst, a work consisting of 200 slides from the archives of the Ons Suriname Association in Amsterdam. Gario's floor installation Black, Basically A Genealogical Materialist Analysis, which consists of small black objects, provokes questions about the significations of the colour black and what it means to be black.
Below an overview of performances, activities and events (some in Dutch).
The exhibition has been made possible in part by the Ammodo Foundation and the projects in the exhibition were realised thanks to the Mondriaan Fund and in collaboration with: TextielLab, Tilburg (Mercedes Azpilicueta); Framer Framed, Amsterdam (Anna Dasović); Stichting Ik Wil, Eindhoven; If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, Amsterdam, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah (all Mounira Al Solh) and the University of Sint Maarten; Ons Suriname Association, Amsterdam and Wereldmuseum Rotterdam (all Quinsy Gario).