24.01.2017 - 29.07.2017
The Islamic State is the most successful terrorist group in human history. They receive global recognition through their smart use of social media, which results in many young people joining ISIS in order to take part in the Jihad. The propaganda videos show very graphically the execution of their prisoners and enemies and shock repeatedly the world. Those professionally well made clips draw especially our attention because of the familiar look we know from Hollywood movies and TV series. It happens vice versa when we try to cope with the shown cruelty: We reference pop culture when we watch those videos. As long as we think these atrocities could be fiction, the whole content remains digestible and can easily be transformed into entertainment. The smallest unit of entertainment is a joke - one central piece in the exhibition “Erase / Rewind“ - found in the commentary section of an ISIS article posted by the avant-garde blog gawker.com.
Gawker.com hosts also an article which became infamous in 2011. Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, was glorified as “A Rose in the Desert“ in a long article originally published by the magazine Vogue, right before the civil war started and the situation for millions of Syrian citizens escalated. Not only the wife as a fashion icon was subject of the article, but also Syria’s exemplary role in the Middle East: The Peacemaker! A couple of weeks later, it was revealed that the article was financed and commissioned by the Assads to promote their country, as well as to distract from their vicious style of government, which lead to the initial protests - as part of the Arab spring - and to the ongoing civil war which still keeps the world in suspense. After the article was pulled from the Vogue’s website, it can only be found in the hard copy of the March Issue of 2011, on gawker.com and the pro-Assad website presidentassad.net: As a masterpiece of propaganda!
The Assads are passionate users of Instagram - another channel for their propaganda. One post shows a picture promoting a flag contest for the Syrian Independence Day in 2014, for which you could submit your self-drawn flag of Syria. The example drawing in the photograph was made by one of the Assads’ children with color pencils. It is striking how the Syrian regime exploits social media (and even their own kids) in a similar smart way like ISIS does. The images are touching in their kindness and appeal successfully to our sentiment. Without saying, the staged photos contradict many facts and the Assads fictionalize successively real life.
In the exhibition “Erase / Rewind“ the artists Christian Weidner and Lukas Kaufmann operate like a watch group: Within the ephemeral world of the internet and media coverage, digital information can be forgotten very quickly and in terms of emotional response, can make us look like fools very easily. The hard copy in the form of painting and object witnesses irrevocably the present time and functions as physical evidence against the lies of any oppressor. By layering the propaganda and anti-propaganda material mentioned above, a new method of infiltration is created. The exhibition “Erase / Rewind“ envisions a future, which mistakes reality for fiction: “This is how you can have peace!” (Bashar al-Assad in “A Rose in the Desert“)