UGM | Maribor Art Gallery presents the international group exhibition No Looking Back, Okay?. Based on a wide variety of different media, such as installations, photography, painting, video, film, and participatory art, exhibition inquiries into the potentials of the past—translated and experienced through memories and histories—of connecting us stronger to our present realities and offering alternative imaginings of the future.
The obsession with the past and memory is a significant symptom of our cultural present and is conditioned by contemporary ways of reproduction and communication. The way in which we think about the past today is increasingly becoming a memory without national boundaries.
The horizon of time and space has spread over the local and the national. At the same time, abundant discourses about memory and remembrance, which characterize the new millennium, seem to replace the activist enthusiasm about the promises of the future that were characteristic of the last century.
Past fantasies of globalisation and continuous development are now considered archival material belonging to the cabinet of disillusions. However, in order to articulate our political and cultural discontent with the present world, we want to imagine alternative futures even today. Discourses about memory enable us to imagine them.
Simona Vidmar, senior curator at UGM, explains: “We should not perceive the past as a concluded story, but as a field of possible new experiences, which requires from us a contribution of creative and critical responsibility. The time has come to remember the future!”
The exhibition wonders about the role of art in this complex and paradoxical process, which seemingly rather relates to the past than to the future. It presents the very practices within contemporary art production that approach remembrance and deconstruction of history boldly; the practices that through uncompromising actions confront individual memories with conflicts of historisation; and, finally, the practices which in their desire to break conventions carry within themselves disobedience and rebellion next to a formally convincing language of humour, absurdity, poetics, or reduction.
No Looking Back, Okay? reflects on the question of whether a look back can at last offer us a new beginning? UGM brings together 40 works/series, with artworks by Francis Alÿs, Sarah Abu Abdallah and Nina Mangalanayagam, who apply semi-autobiographic approach to explore themes of belonging, shifting identity, or political disillusionment.
Morten Barker, Cao Fei and Massinissa Selmani take popular images of our mediated or fictional (recent) past and examine conflicting or fragmented landscapes, urban unrests as well as our obsession with the contemporary. Works by Hrair Sarkissian, Ana Dana Beroš and Nika Autor talk about conflicts and migrations as the most defining element of past and present (European) societies.
Past utopias, political ideologies, authoritarian structures, and the notion of iconoclasms in art and architecture are, for instance, addressed in the works of Allora & Calzadilla, Mounira Al Solh, Jasmina Cibic and Tanja Lažetić—while the spectrum of (art) resistance is shown in the works of Adel Abdessemed and Agnieszka Polska & Witek Orski.
Finally, artists like Emeka Ogboh, Vadim Fiškin and Nataša Berk translate all-encompassing stories from our collective memories and histories into comprehensive installations—be it sound installation, performative/participatory works or low-tech art works.