22 September–08 December 2023-Ongoing

To Watch the War: In Solidarity

Photo by Tom Janssen

At the moment our building itself on the Pauwstraat 13A is closed for renovations and has nothing on display. BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht therefore invites you to visit the exhibition To Watch the War, in Solidarity with works by artists Jelena JurešaAernout Mik, and Rabih Mroué. Soon, there will be more locations, artists and works revealed. So keep an eye out on our websites and our socials!

On view from 22 September 2023 until 26 November 2023
BAK at Centraal Museum (Agnietenstraat 1, Utrecht) 
and on view from 22 September 2023 until 8 December 2023
BAK at Nicolaïkerk Utrecht (Nicolaaskerkhof 8, Utrecht)
Opening hours: Tuesday till Sunday 11–17 hrs

This impromptu presentation is a part of a long-term series under the same title, related to the image forum To Watch the War: The Moving Image Amidst the Invasion of Ukraine (2014–2023) at BAK, taking place between 9 September and 29 October 2023. It mobilizes artworks from BAK’s former and future archives with the aim of appealing—with and through art—to the vital sense of solidarity with people and other-than-human subjects exposed to the war in Ukraine and the wars the world over. Driven by the concern about the lasting state of warfare that engulfs the world along with the global rise of fascist politics and the growing lust for the hegemony of forever-empires, these exhibitions want to remind us that our awareness of the current conditions and our will toward a better world must not waver.

Much like the films by Ukraine-based artists in the image forum at BAK, the artworks by Jureša, Mik, and Mroué ponder on the relationship between image production and contemporary warfare. Equally importantly, they inquire about the role of art and artists in relation to the disturbing recurrence of wars in our time, as well as in relation to war in its expanded sense: as an infrastructure of racial capitalism at the throughline of slavery, colonialism, imperialism, and oppression of all kinds.

Jureša’s film Aphasia (Act Three) – A Kid from the Neighborhood (2019) addresses collective silence on the enduring historico-political crime complex at the intersection of Belgian colonialism, Austrian anti-Semitism, and the wars in former Yugoslavia. The work centers on an infamous photograph from the war in Bosnia in which a soldier is seen kicking the head of a dead Muslim woman killed by Serbian paramilitaries. Never shown, the photograph is animated through speech and choreography, indirectly considering the role of art in relation to war as part of forensic practice aimed at truth and justice.

Raw Footage by Mik, produced in 2006 by the artist and BAK, is an edited account of documentary film material from the Yugoslav Wars (1991–2001) that the artist unearthed from the discarded media archives of Reuters and Independent Television News (ITN). Considered of no value for broadcast purposes due to their ordinary, repetitive, and non-dramatic nature, Mik edits the footage to be shown side by side on two adjacent screens to show resilience of human and nonhuman subjects coexisting with—and in spite of—the catastrophic military reality.

On the other hand, Mroué’s Images Mon Amour (2021) is a monumental, slowly ascending video projection of a collage of images showing destruction and armed conflicts in the Middle East. Beginning with the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, Rabih Mroué collected newspaper clippings and digital imagery for about 10 years so as to restlessly study the uncomfortable relationship between image, visual media, the collective memory of past and present human-made catastrophes, and one’s accountability for these.

This exhibition is generously hosted by Centraal Museum Utrecht and Nicolaïkerk, and made possible by with the financial support by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the City of Utrecht.

Opening times of the Nicolaïkerk may vary because of events and church services. Keep an eye on their agenda: nicolaikerk.nl

The project To Watch the War: The Moving Image Amidst the Invasion of Ukraine (2014–2023) is accompanied by a crowdfunding campaign in support of Freefilmers—some of its members are artists included in the exhibition and public program.

Photo by Tom Janssen

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