History Will Repeat Itself. Strategies of Re-enactment in Contemporary Art



18 November 07 – 13 January 08



In contemporary (media) art there has been an almost ‘uncanny’ longing for the performative repetition or re-creation of historical situations and events. The exhibition History Will Repeat Itself focuses on current strategies of re-enactment in contemporary (media) art and performance, and presents the positions and strategies of 30 international artists. It is a cooperation between Hartware MedienKunstVerein in Dortmund, and KW Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin, and is the first comprehensive exhibition in Germany dealing with the topic, or strategy, of re-enactment.

In general, a so-called re-enactment is a historically correct recreation of socially relevant events, such as important battles or other historical events. In a re-enactment, the audience that normally remain passive or at a certain distance of the documented event become immediate witnesses of a (repeated historical) event, which unfolds in front of their eyes, or they become participants in an action, in which they actively participate.

In contemporary art there has been an increasing number of artistic re-enactments – the performative repetition or re-creation of historical situations and events. For example, in his work "The Battle of Orgreave" (2001) the British artist Jeremy Deller had a violent clash between miners and police from the year 1984 re-enacted by ex-miners, ex-police and other re-enactors.

Unlike popular historical re-enactments, like e.g. the re-enactment of historical battles, artistic re-enactments are not performative re-stagings of historic situations and events that occurred a long time ago; rather, events (often traumatic ones) are re-enacted that are viewed as very important for the present. Artistic re-enactments are not simply affirming what has happened in the past, but rather they are questioning the present via repeating or re-enacting historical events that have left their traces in the collective memory. Re-enactments are artistic interrogations of media images that try to scrutinise the reality of the images, while at the same time pointing towards the fact that collective memory is essentially mediated memory.

In Dortmund, the exhibition will take place from June 9 - September 23, 2007 - in parallel to Documenta 12 (Kassel) and skulptur.projekte muenster - in the spectacular, 2.200 qm large PHOENIX Halle Dortmund which HMKV uses as an exhibition space since the end of 2003. PHOENIX Halle, built in 1895, is standing on the area of the former Phoenix-West steelworks in Dortmund-Hörde.


The exhibition will be on display at KW from 18 November 2007 until 13 January 2008.


Concept: Inke Arns
Curated by: Inke Arns und Gabriele Horn
Co-Curator: Katharina Fichtner


On the occasion of the exhibition a comprehensive catalogue will be published in early June 2007 by Revolver–Archiv für aktuelle Kunst: History will repeat itself. Strategies of Re-enactment in contemporary (media) art and performance, ed. by Inke Arns and Gaby Horn for Hartware MedienKunstVerein and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Revolver - Archiv für aktuelle Kunst, Frankfurt am Main 2007, 16,8 x 23,4 cm, Hardcover, many color ill., 191 pages, dt./engl., ISBN 978-3-86588-402-2


The exhibition History Will Repeat Itself is funded by
Kulturstiftung des Bundes / German Federal Cultural Foundation
Kunststiftung NRW
Der Ministerpräsident des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen
Kulturbüro Stadt Dortmund
Bundesamt für Kultur BAK (Schweiz)
NRW Kultursekretariat Wuppertal
The Henry Moore Foundation
Pro Helvetia
AFAA / Französische Botschaft
The British Council
Heinz (media partner)


We would like to thank the Bundesamt für Kultur BAK (Switzerland) for supporting the production and the presentation of the work by Frédéric Moser and Philippe Schwinger.

The program of Hartware MedienKunstVerein at PHOENIX Halle Dortmund is supported by Kulturbuero and by Wirtschaftsfoerderung der Stadt Dortmund.

The cultural programs of KW Institute for Contemporary Art are made possible thanks to the support of The Governing Mayor of Berlin - Senate Chancellery - Cultural Affairs.