Margret Eicher, Heroes 2, 2012, Digital Montage / Jacquard, 295 x 330 cm, Installation view at the Möllerei, Esch Belval, Luxembourg (Photo: Éric Chenal)
Hacking Identity — Dancing Diversity
27 February—15 May 2022
Esch2022 – European Capital of Culture
3 avenue des Hauts-Fourneaux
The exhibition looks at the mediatisation of phenomena related to the dissolution, transformation, and duplication of identity in the 21st century. Its layout and route draw a connecting line through a number of contemporary artistic approaches, from atmospheric media installations to politically motivated found-footage videos, from participative narration and internet-based live projection to grotesque pop fable; from textile media collage and sculptural objects to electronic composition. This inaugural exhibition in the new Möllerei pursues the idea of hacking and in doing so diversifies the original industrial identity of the Möllerei, a disused storage for iron ores at the heart of the former steel plant of Esch-Belval. As a historically listed site and exhibition space, the Möllerei represents the cultural transformation from the 20th to the 21st century.
Image of this tapestry shows the figure of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Gulliver-like dimensions. Consistent with the imagery surrounding him, in a bucolic pose, he looks pensively at the small group of shepherds who are part of the staffage of Josef Anton Koch’s 1805 painting Heroic Landscape with Rainbow.
In Khodorkovsky’s field of vision, and in the foreground of the image, lies an oversized golden hammer-andsickle symbol as if it had fallen from the sky. In the twentieth century, Russia suffered a loss of values and identity not once but twice: in 1917 and again in 1991.
Khodorkovsky, the former oligarch and present-day dissident, is a figure torn between three identities: capitalist icon, enemy of the state and political philosopher. And the campaign of terror against him draws a line to the power posturing of tsarism.
While the heroic landscape serves as a metaphor of ideal human existence, Khodorkovsky exemplifies just like the other contemporary protagonist, Lara Crofta social as well as personal identity of crisis. Based on their scale, Mikhail is related to Lara and a slight tension suggests imminent departure... Lara Croft is not who she appears to be: hiding behind the sexist, martial fa.ade is a defender of the humanistically educated bourgeoisie against a post-human world of global crime. The character profile in both the game plot and the films endows the figure with an elite social background, moral integrity, self-reliance and an uncompromising spirit in the fight for her (moral) goals. Yet another protagonist is Cuddles, a boisterously anarchic, yellow rabbit wearing pink bunny slippers from Happy Tree Friends, the animated video series making waves for its at times disturbing mix of cute design and excessive violence.
In a putti-like function here, Cuddlesunderscores the discrepancy between a utopian, ideal society and the real violence in the midst of Europe’s civil societies.
The inclusion of a computer game’s menu bar at the bottom defines the image as a virtual game scene, a meta level beyond reality suggesting play, stage, fight, victory and defeat.
Text: Margret Eicher