Project 6

To Brush Against the Grain of History

October 26th - November 23rd 2018 - HANS & FRITZ CONTEMPORARY LAB, Barcelona.

In collaboration with HANS & FRITZ CONTEMPORARY and LOOP City Screen, Tangent Projects presented “To Brush Against the Grain of History”, an exhibition that scrutinises history and in particular, the production of history.

The title, “To Brush Against the Grain of History”, is the ultimate line from chapter seven of Walter Benjamin’s final work “On the Concept of History”. In which, Benjamin correlates history to the spoils of the war victorious – a past that is empathetic to the victors and their heirs, handed down from one to the next without a great deal of debate.

For this exhibition, we showed video works by artists Eli Cortiñas (Spain – based in Berlin), Christopher Kline (USA – based in Berlin) and Katy B Plummer (USA – based in Sydney), that seek to remedy this by asking us to listen to new narratives and in turn, produce alternative stories – sometimes personal and sometimes even with song!

Quella Che Cammina - Eli Cortiñas
Eli Cortiñas' Quella Che Cammina is a video montage consisting of various visual sources as well as linguistic elements such as voiceover and off-voices in French, Italian and Spanish. A segment of the neo-realistic episode film L’amore in città (1953) mixes with outdoor recordings depicting the views of the artist’s everyday life as well as with recordings of sculptural works, which were created during her scholarship inside the studio of the German Academy Rome Villa Massimo.

Using off-voices in French and Italian, the narrator deals with her own identity as woman and daughter. The inner monologue revolves around the perception of one's ego in the dilemma between imposed conventions and the desire for the satisfaction of personal freedom and is finally interrupted by the voiceover of Cortiñas’ mother, who appears as Vali, one of the prostitutes interviewed in Lizzani’s Amore che si paga (which is one of the segments of L’amore in città). Cortiñas' mother whispers in Spanish to us talking about art, about her daughter's life as an artist, her oeuvre and its contextualization. At the end she reveals that her words are from a script, a script obviously written by the artist herself, writing about the artist figure and its different terms of production.

Quella Che Cammina is a multi-layered video about the interdependence of art and the artist persona, emphasizing its production depending on different expectations - be it on a socioeconomic, political or artistic level. Quella Che Cammina also reveals the possibilities of manipulation and staging through the use of video collage. 

Eli Cortiñas - Quella Che Cammina (2014)

Eli Cortiñas - Quella Che Cammina (2014)

Born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain in 1979 but lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Cortiñas has been a guest professor at the Art Academy Kassel (2015 -2017) and the Art Academy Mainz (2015. She has been awarded with grants and fellowships from Fundación Botín (2018 – 2019), Goethe Institut, La Paz, Bolivia (2019), Rupert Residency, Vilnius, Lithuania (2018), Berlin Senate Film-Video Grant (2017), Villa Sträuli, Winterthur, Switzerland (2017), Kunstfonds (2016), Goethe Institute, Torino (2015), Villa Massimo, Rome (2014), Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft (2012- 2014), Shortlist Award for Film Art, Freunde der Nationalgalerie/ Filmakademie (2011), Kölnischer Kunstverein (2010) et al.

Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in venues such as Museum Ludwig, Kunsthalle Budapest, Museum Marta Herford, Museum of Modern Art Moscow, Kunstraum Innsbruck, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Centre Pompidou and MUSAC, as well as in international Biennales and festivals such as the Riga Biennale, Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Mardin Biennale, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, International Curtas Vila Do Conde and Nashville Film Festival among others. Her video work will be in shortly focus of the International Film Festival Gijón and solo exhibitions at Contemporary Art Center Vilnius, Lithuania and in Convent Space for Contemporary Art Ghent, Belgium will follow.

The Many Ghosts of Martin Van Buren - Christopher Kline
Based around the song “My Memoirs” this video work, by Christopher Kline, features a puppet of an elderly Martin Van Buren (8th President of the USA) sitting down to pen his autobiography when he is unexpectedly paid a visit by ghosts from his political past. Joseph Cinqué, leader of the famed Amistad slave mutiny, together with “a stereotype of a Cherokee brave” confront Van Buren about his support of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, as well as for his political opposition to the abolition of slavery during his presidential tenure.

The two apparitions call upon Van Buren to do the right thing and include them in history. However, in the 820 long and boring pages of his biography, Van Buren gives no mention to the Amistad case, indeed there is minimal reference to slavery, Indian Removal, the Trail of Tears or even American Indians at all. Given our contemporary understanding of Human Rights and the flagrant violation of said rights, such issues are now widely seen as having been central concerns during the era of his presidency. By omitting their narratives from his version of the past, it very much seems like an attempt to silence or at least quieten their histories - as his puppet says "History is written by those in the land of the living, and those with written languages..."

The Many Ghosts of Martin Van Buren (2017) - Christopher Kline

The Many Ghosts of Martin Van Buren (2017) - Christopher Kline

Born in 1982 in Kinderhook, NY but based in Berlin, Christopher Kline has for some years made works that explore the history of his little known hometown. This includes O.K. - The Musical, an evolving community theatre musical based around the history and lore of Kinderhook. While the project remains in flux, expanding across various iterations which focus on different elements of Kinderhook’s past and present, the musical is oriented around the propagation of the word “O.K.” and its associations with Old Kinderhook. This gives the project the potential to take many different forms including that of exhibitions, performances, community projects, videos and publications. 

Christopher Kline is also Co-Director of Kinderhook & Caracas project space in Berlin and Co-Producer of CONGLOMERATE artists TV network. He has exhibited extensively in both solo and group exhibitions including in the Tate Liverpool, Tenderpixel London, 1646 The Hague, Centre For Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle Warsaw, KW Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin and Arken Museum of Modern Art Denmark to name just a few. 

An insurrectionary sheep, bewigged and fancy, sings a song to the busts of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It is an emotional song, describing all of the saddest things, big and small, that have ever happened in the world. After she finishes singing, she lovingly beheads them with a hacksaw.

HISTORY WILL MAKE WRECKAGE OF US asserts, unapologetically, that campy high drama is a legitimate strategy for the containment of traumatic memory, both personal and political. It simultaneously imagines the actors of history as mythic symbols, and as messy individuals tangling on a gut level, intimately tied together forever by the violence they enact upon each other.

History writes itself, swallowing our joys and heartbreaks, extruding them as narratives ripe for mythic consumption.


Born in 1972 in Denver, Colorado, Katy B Plummer lives and works in Sydney. She is a multi-media artist, working across video, textile, sculpture and installation. She likes ladycrafts, historical costumes and can often be found disguised as some kind of animal. She works in the interface between the real and imaginary, all the while telling complicated stories about love and revolution.

Katy B Plummer has a BFA from the University of New South Wales and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has shown in many solo and group exhibitions including in Galerie Pompom Sydney, AIRspace Projects Sydney, Incinerator Art Space  Willoughby, Borderline Art Space Iasi, PS122 New York and Bien Cuadrado Barcelona to name a few. Some of her video works were shown in the Play section of Fair., the alternative non-commercial women artists art fair, at Miami art week in December 2017. More recently, together with the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, she collaborated with Sydney Story Factory on their Unmapping Education Program.