The Serpentine Gallery’s new series of monthly screenings of artists’ films in a cinema context. The series began with the London premiere of Declan Clarke’s new films alongside a rare screening from Derek Jarman’s archive.
Derek Jarman: Journey to Avebury (1971, 10 mins)
Recently transferred to DVD from 16mm, Jarman’s imagistic film disrupts the hierarchies of both medium and narrative.
Declan Clarke: We Missed Out On a Lot (2009, 2 mins)
After this screening, Clarke discusses the appearance of the Molotov cocktail in films including Jean-Luc Godard’s Wind from the East, 1969
Declan Clarke: Loneliness in West Germany (2009, 16 mins)
This film marks out a lineage of violence and uprising in Germany, from the police killing of student Benno Ohnesorg in Berlin in 1967 to the present-day erasure of past political structures. In the first part of the film, the names of those killed and injured during this tumultuous period are juxtaposed with a hand flicking through old newspapers and contemplative shots of the sites of such events in the present day: the empty car park where Ohnesorg was killed or the cracked pavement where Josef Bachmann attempted to murder the left-wing student-movement spokesperson Rudi Dutschke. A transcribed interview with an ex-member of the June 2nd Movement reflects on the failures of their actions and ideology to change the world while reflecting on advice for future revolutionaries. The last images represent the ability to construct and reconstruct history in the edifices that surround us. The structural erasing of complex histories to present a clear trajectory conceals the complexity of the past.
In his work Clarke shows a captivation with the consequential and apparently inconsequential, and the interstices between the two. Turning to history, he intertwines personal subjectivities and actions with grand narratives and the edifices of power, which can never be entirely separate. It is the remnants of the past within the present and an assertion of the haphazard nature and incompatibility of hindsight that are referenced in his work. Like the history teacher Gabi Teichert in Alexander Kluge’s The Patriot (1979), who digs deeper and deeper into the ground in an attempt ‘to put things into perspective’. The apparent absurdity of this action is contrasted with the intangible task of understanding all. In previous films Clarke has analysed the difference and similarities of the process of history, interweaving personal and historical trajectories. In an earlier work, Mine Are of Trouble (2006), he recounts in a clear-cut calm manner the correlation between the life and work of socialist Rosa Luxemburg and how his interest in her legacy has spilled into his own life.
Declan Clarke was born in 1974 and studied at NCAD and Chelsea College of Art, London. Recent solo exhibitions include Loneliness in West Germany, Goethe-Institut, Dublin, 2009; Nothing Human is Alien to Me, Pierogi, Leipzig, 2008; Mine are of Trouble, Four Gallery, Dublin, Trauma and Romance Gallery 3 off-site project, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Mine Are of Trouble, Art Now Lightbox, Tate Britain, all 2006. Recent group exhibitions include If You Could Change the World at Last, Goethe-Institut, Dublin; 10,000 to 50, Irish Museum of Modern Art; Through the Lens, Beijing Art Museum of Imperial City, Beijing, China, 2008; Left Pop, Second Moscow Biennial, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2007; Enthusiasm, Frieze Projects, Frieze Art Fair London, 2006.