May 1968 is usually associated with uprisings and the student riots in Paris. Yet there was much more going on, and not only in the West. Protests were erupting all over the world, like a polyphonic scream that things must change. A ‘revolution’ was needed and one of the most striking voices belonged to the Situationists. This international avant-garde movement was strongly opposed to the prevailing consumer society and used all kinds of propagandistic strategies such as manifestos, pamphlets, films, slogans and public actions to ignite that revolution. Vincent Meessen and Samson Kambalu bring the movement’s approach and its resonance in contemporary society together in History Without A Past. The seed for this exhibition was planted – unconsciously – during the Venice Biennale of 2015, in which both artists presented work inspired by this international avant-garde movement.
Samson Kambalu is a researcher, author, filmmaker and above all a visual artist. His films and installations reveal a profound interest in mixing and blurring different cultures and histories. With his multidisciplinary installations and videos, Vincent Meessen aims to feed our Eurocentric view of history with new and polyphonic insights. In History Without A Past, they both gather stories that originated in the margins. History is usually written by victors. What is handed down is a mere construction, based on selection and interpretation. The position of the historian holding the pen is of equal importance. The past isn’t something that we leave behind. Its interpretation, however, is a task that lies before us. Here, too, several histories emerge that are usually told in isolation. Meessen and Kambalu invite us to wander through the past and to feed it back into the present. Along the way we become acquainted with a number of fascinating figures, whose significance is rewritten according to the dialogue they enter into with each other and also with us, the visitors.