“RESIST!” at Bozar, Brussels

Exhibition Views RESIST! Ph. © Philippe De Gobert

 

BOZAR presents a major exhibition entitled RESIST! The 1960s protests, photography and visual legacy, bringing together archive images, documentary photography, art photography and video on the theme of resistance and protest. RESIST! is one of the key events of the themed year BOZAR OCCUPIED. 50 years of cultural protest, which offers a comprehensive programme of exhibitions, concerts, discussions, workshops and conversations on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the May ’68 events.

May ’68 and revolt are also the overall theme of the Summer of Photography 2018, the biennial photography festival hosted by various Brussels partners.

RESIST! is curated by Christine Eyene and includes works by AES+F, John Akomfrah, Francis Alÿs, Bruno Barbey, Ian Berry, Ursula Biemann & Paulo Tavares, Marcelo Brodsky, René Burri, Gilles Caron, Raymond Depardon, Stan Douglas, Mounir Fatmi, Leonard Freed, Jean Gaumy, Burt Glinn, Hiroshi Hamaya, Gavin Jantjes, Josef Koudelka, Artem Loskutov, Hugo Mellaerts & Henri Storck, Gideon Mendel, Oliver Ressler, Graciela Sacco, Larissa Sansour, Steve Schapiro, Gundula Schulze-Eldowy, Bruno Serralongue, Wolfgang Tillmans, Sue Williamson, Hank Willis Thomas, Yong Xu and with archives from the Centre for Fine Arts, General Library of the University of Coimbra – Student Association Archive and Fundação Mário Soares.

The student protests in Paris in May ‘68 were a crystallisation of what was happening in Europe and the world in the 1960s. Growing protests from young people and citizens against the war in Vietnam, anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the civil rights movements in America, student movements against dictatorships in countries like Portugal, the building of the Berlin Wall and the partition of Germany, the Prague Spring, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia… all of these events shook the world to its core and left their mark on modern history.

Resist! The 1960s protests, photography and visual legacy re-examines the images that defined the 1960s. Using rare archive images, photography, mixed-media and video, the exhibition investigates this critical decade, and how the clamour for change that was started then still resonates today. The exhibition departs from the story of May ’68 to offer a broader picture of our postmodern and contemporary history. In this sense, the exhibition focuses on the fight for freedom, human rights and equality. These ideals were the subject of the protests in the 1960s and are still, in many respects, worth defending in the current social context.

Curator Christine Eyene has developed the exhibition around six chapters: Icons and Symbols, Bearing Witness, Archival Matter, Contemporary Visual Activism, Speculating on the Future and Platform for a Public Voice. 

Icons and Symbols opens the exhibition with works encapsulating symbolic acts of protest. These include 1968 : The Fire of Ideas by Marcelo Brodsky, a visual archive of the worldwide 1968 protests on which the Argentinian artist intervenes with colour and annotations commenting on these historical moments. Likewise, Graciela Sacco’s emblematic Stone Thrower from her Perpetual Combat series represents a universal image in scenes of confrontation between demonstrators and authorities.

Bearing Witness gathers work by photographers who documented the protest movements of the ’60s. Their visual testimonies canonised images of protests and marches that are now part of our collective memory. This section consists of iconic images by photographers such as Bruno Barbey (protests in Paris and Japan), Gilles Caron (protests in Paris and ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland), Joseph Koudelka (Prague), Steve Schapiro (civil rights movements in the United States).

Archival Matter looks at work by photographers and artists who use archive as a material and aesthetics. The works in this section push the boundaries of photography as a medium and consist of techniques and experiments with negatives, collage, screen print, graphic design, installation art and video. For example, the film Handsworth Songs by John Akomfrah, highlighting the stigmatisation of black youth in Britain during the Thatcher era, combines archive material including news footage, still photographs and sound.

The last sections look at new forms of visual activism, through photography, video, mixed media and digital technologies. The importance of being aware of history and what can happen if people remain silent when their rights and liberties are under threat is central. In this section, the 2016 anti-Brexit campaign by Wolfgang Tillmans is an eye-catcher. Tillmans’s involvement goes much further than purely artistic practice: he campaigned for Europe via adverts, posters and T-shirts. The mixed-media installation Forest Law by Ursula Biemann and Paolo Tavares concerns the resistance of indigenous peoples in the Amazon to the growth of oil extraction and mining in their natural region. The Green Line by Francis Alÿs shows the artist walking along the border between Palestine and Israel with green paint dripping from a can, a poetic gesture that literally marks out the artificial border.

To this day, May 1968 is still regarded as a cultural turning point, a symbol of freedom and revolt against old mores and institutions. Fifty years ago, the Centre for Fine Arts was the hotbed of artistic activism in Brussels. From 28 May until 8 June of that year, artists and students occupied the central hall. Instead of waxing nostalgic about this contestation, BOZAR chooses to take stock of the global resistance movement in the sixties and look ahead. Which forms of cultural protest make a difference today? How can a cultural institution like BOZAR open up even more to the city and civil society? And which role do artists play in this?

BOZAR is handing all power to the imagination this year, with a comprehensive programme of exhibitions, concerts, debates, workshops and planned and unplanned encounters.

 

Exhibition Views RESIST! Ph. © Philippe De Gobert

 

Exhibition Views RESIST! Ph. © Philippe De Gobert

 

Exhibition Views RESIST! Ph. © Philippe De Gobert

 

Exhibition Views RESIST! Ph. © Philippe De Gobert

 

Exhibition Views RESIST! Ph. © Philippe De Gobert

 

Exhibition Views RESIST! Ph. © Philippe De Gobert

 

Exhibition Views RESIST! Ph. © Philippe De Gobert

 

 

RESIST!
The 1960s protests, photography and visual legacy
27 June–26 August 2018

BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts | Rue Ravensteinstraat 23, Brussels
Opening times: Tue–Sun, 10am–6pm; Thu, 10am–9pm
+32 (0)2 507 82 00
info@bozar.be
www.bozar.be