Friday, May 04, 2007

Scene for New Heritage Trilogy

Brochures for Scene for New Heritage Trilogy; photo by Val PhoenixDavid Maljkovic
Scene for New Heritage Trilogy
Whitechapel Laboratory
Until 6 May

DVD, colour, sound 2004-2006

Passing by the Whitechapel Gallery on a sunny Friday, I thought I would pop in and see what's showing. The venerable institution is undergoing refurbishment, having swallowed up the former Whitechapel Library (RIP) next door. Hence, there isn't a Whitechapel Gallery until 2008 or possibly 2009 and it is currently trading as a much-reduced-in-size Whitechapel Laboratory, with a hidden entrance in the alarmingly narrow Angel Alley around the corner from Whitechapel Road.

On show in the auditiorium is Croat artist David Maljkovic's first solo UK exhibition, the DVD installation Scene for New Heritage Trilogy. Knowing nothing of his work, I was intrigued by the three short films linked by subtitles and fades to black. Maljkovic draws on Croatian history to project some fifty years into the future, imagining groups of young people visiting an abandoned building and wondering as to its meaning. In this case, the building is the Petrova Gora Memorial Park, a startling silver undulating building constructed under Tito's regime as a memorial to fallen Partizan soldiers and required viewing for schoolchildren until the fall of communism.

Maljkovic seems to be warning against being too in thrall to history and memory. Given Croatia's fragmented history, it is a poignant warning. The three films are linked by the visits to the site by young people, the first arriving in a silver-foil car, the second a boy with a silver-foil football and the third large groups of people standing around silver-foiled cars. All of them are puzzled by the space, wondering about its meaning and in the last group, waiting for something to happen. The sound design creates an undercurrent of menace to what are quite ordinary visuals. I quite enjoyed it but it does require some knowledge of Croatian history (helpfully provided by the Whitechapel's notes) to be really appreciated.

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