Exhibition View: evidence raum

Large-scale series of installations showcasing the surmountable provocations of our times by Shaheen Merali and Ramesch Daha from Jun/Jul 2023

An enquiry about practices, strategies, and forums for an audience to move beyond the realm of public authority and corporate investment

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evidence raum, is a large-scale series of installations showcasing the surmountable provocations of our times. evidence raum provides a revelatory analysis of the forces of narratives that are currently both present and absent.

evidence raum refers to the interconnectedness of events seen through the modern media of communication and designed practices. By situating a combination of histories and landmark narratives from diverse sources, including cinema, exhibitions and political events, evidence raum presents popular and esoteric viewpoints from ‘high and low culture’ inclusive of northern and southern worlds which do not always find themselves on the same plane yet together make much more sense in reality. To exist side by side, in an intermediality overlapping and competing for our attention to make us question existing narratives.

Our temporal heritage is continued in the fictional task of progress, which carries its relationship to both shame and fame. We have become accustomed to partial knowledge, the other half of the story is never told. Who built the Gardens of Babylon or cleaned the roads and the parks that provided the freedom in which to express your right to demonstrate? What is unfolding is a relationship of images to narratives that had been hidden.The posters, the prints, the campaign leaflets, which collectively made us into eager participants in the marches/festivities of the street, are visual tableaux, floating through our public spaces and into our minds and heart. Yet, we now feel we have been gaslit by all histories, which were formerly divided into the ‘left’ and the ‘right’.

Each pillar in the evidence raum represents a way of working with the world and a strategy for understanding the role of culture. Together, the seven pillars present an eclectic collection of ephemeral material that has been used to coordinate events, ambitions, products, suppliers of books, records, films, exhibitions, knowledge, political change, and performances/events. Both Merali’s and Daha’s collections and ambitions are to re-represent the entangled world by reworking the dimensions and the materials’ presentation through collage or printing technologies. By presenting them on these columns, the aim is to produce an unusual meeting of attention (decolonizing and mindfulness).

This attention allows both artists to present the structural negotiations present in the graphic world, designed to distribute subversion, anti-propaganda assumptions, marginal narratives, even self-­aggrandizement. The installation argues against flattening information in the current archival turn. Here we refer to the social phenomenon of general exhibition-making that too easily categorizes ethically charged positions. Rather, the curatorial emerges as a fulcrum, stating the position mainly of those working against racial, gender, and class capitalism, yet also profiling that which remains undefined.

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Image by ©
Image by ©
Image by ©

The five columns by Shaheen Merali and to a certain extent, the OSPAAL vitrines – bring together the urgent ways that posters from vast human activity mainly in western Europe (and the southern world) are designed to propel its potential audience to rush through red traffic lights and eat good dinners in haste, not to miss the opening sequence of a film screening or to be at the head of a protest march. These events have in turn successfully made internationalists out of thousands of regionalists.

Choices made in installing are primarily intuitive but driven by challenging the perceived authority of how art found in national archives is made in the sesternised institution, operating to implement the whims of the country. In trying to interpret its violent legacy as civilizing, we remain driven by memory-obsessed times, envy spreading worldwide, and believe that the ultimate horizon is in referencing western discourses. Here we encounter the converging multiple interests that inevitably favour inequity, allowing for the continuity of sweatshop labourers and poverty wages.

We revel from below in the majesty of billboards and throughout the summer and winter months keenly seek the film trailers—the forthcoming wave of narratives that seek our attention. Disney, Nike, Toyota, Vogue and Prada have become nouns, suffixes for lifestyles; here the transmissions from the empires have become custodians of immense wealth—trusted, collected and bigger than house style as they edge towards mimical politics.

Ramesch Daha’s multi-layered memorial ­Eisenerz 1945 (art in public space project, positioned in Eisenerz, Steiermark) is dedicated to the Hungarian Jews who became victims of the Eisenerz Volkssturm on the Präbichl in Styria in April 1945. Daha approaches this historical setting in a specifically conceptual way and positions herself as the reflector of an unspeakably violent crime. By replacing the picture postcards and texts with a blueprint, both the potential and continuation of a dormant matrix as well as the history and memory of the place and its people become visible, i.e. the personal imprints of different generations as well as the clash of different realities.

Together the seven cylindrical columns present the evidence raum, as an enquiry about practices, strategies, and forums for an audience to move beyond the realm of public authority and corporate investment and to find evidence in the fragility of personal narratives and the place of collections and archives from which both artists produce and reproduce.

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Image by ©

Artists whose posters are presented:

Fundamental/Aki Nawaz, Amar Kanwar, superflex­ ­Yinka Shonibare, Mark Titchner, Chris Ofili, Hew Locke, OSPAAL, Renzo Martens, Kathrin Jakobsen, Chris Miles, Liaqut Rasul, Elizabeth Peyton, Andrew Logan, Thomas Zipp, Carey Young, Omar Victor Diop, Havy Kahraman, ­Susana Hefuna, Ras Daniel Heartman et al.

In addition, eight monitors each present one of the recordings of the online panels of pax praxis that questioned the modalities of:

performance as movement (event 1)
Vânia Gala, Choy Kai Fa, Narendra Pachkhede

the lumbung movement (event 2)
Ethel Brooks on behalf of RomaMoma, Christopher Cozier on behalf of Alice Yard, Vidisha-Fadesha and Shaunak Mahbubani on behalf of party office

the film and moving images movement (event 3) Vika Kirchenbauer and Michelle Williams ­Gamaker

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Shaheen Merali (born in Tanzania, lives in Britain) is a curator, critic, and artist of Asian ancestry. Merali is currently the Visiting professor at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. He was the curator for the inaugural Uganda Pavilion, Radiance – They Dream in Time, for the International art exhibition for the 59th Venice Biennale. At the Golden Lion Ceremony the pavilion was presented the special mention award. He was the co-curator of Berlin Heist or the enduring fascination of walled cities for the 4th Mediations Biennale, Posnan, Poland (2014) and co-curator of the 6th Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2006).

Merali was the Head of Department of Exhibition, Film and New Media at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2003-2008) where he curated several exhibitions accompanied by publications, including The Black Atlantic; Dreams and Trauma- Moving images and the Promised Lands; and Re-Imagining Asia, One Thousand years of Separation.

In 1988, Merali had co-founded the Panchayat Arts Education Resource Unit in East London. The Unit's main function was one of collecting ephemera, documents, and publications, detailing the work of political British Black artists (of Asian and African descent). In 2015 the Panchayat archival material was donated and is part of the Tate library's Special Collection in London.

Ramesch Daha (b. 1971, Tehran, Iran) lives in Vienna since 1978. Working in a wide range of media, Daha examines the disappearance of narratives and objects in moments of historic disruption, as well as family (hi)stories as reflections of larger social developments. Basing her work on extensive research, she compiles multifaceted collections of materials that endow the act of recollection with a novel physical quality. This involves extensive travelling and study visits to, among others, Vancouver, New York, London or Berlin. Ramesch Daha has met broad international recognition with her yet uncompleted series ‚Victims 9/11‘, in which she attempts to save the victims of the terrorist attack from oblivion by portraying every single one of them.

Recent exhibitions include KINDL, Berlin (2020); Index Foundation, Stockholm (2020); KUVA—Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki (2019); Konstfack, Stockholm (2019); 5th D-0 ARK Underground Biennial, Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2019); B7L9, Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunis (2019); Jüdisches Museum Augsburg (2018) and ACF, New York (2017).

Ramesch Daha is also the President of the Association of Visual Artists Vienna Secession

This exhibition is part of pax praxis:

convened/curated by Shaheen Merali, research generated as guest professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, at the invitation of Vice Rector Barbara Putz-Plecko.

The title pax praxis alludes to acts as a counterforce – framing and conceptualising de-globalisation and de-colonising understanding in the multiple locations in which art and education reside.

Enacting on the place of continuous breakdown provokes a more comprehensive reading by artists and scholars, enabling discussion of the processes of undoing and re-making, defining themselves by separation from the inherited homology.

Collectively, the talks over a period of three months, followed by the exhibition, offer a critique of sociality or the concept of living together in an organised way as a society of cultural formations, further questioning the scale of our responsibility in an era marked by self-determination.

Photos: Paul Pibernig