Artists under the big Top: Perplexed 2018-1968 (with new films)

Fondazione Prada
Ca’ Corner della Regina
Venice, Italy
4 September – 25 November 2018

Fondazione Prada presents the film program “Artists under the big Top: Perplexed 2018-1968 (with new films)” conceived by German film director and writer Alexander Kluge on 4 September 2018. The screenings will take place from 10 am to 4.30 pm on the first floor of Ca’ Corner della Regina, in the context of the exhibition “Machines à penser”, curated by Dieter Roelstraete and currently on view until 25 November 2018. Admission to screenings is free and includes the visit to the show, exceptionally open on Tuesday 4 September from 10 am to 6 pm. The event will be introduced by Alexander Kluge at 10 am.

The first part of the program (123 minutes) titled “50 years of Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed” explores the legacy and the importance of Kluge’s film Die Artisten in der Zirkuskuppel: ratlos awarded with the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1968. The movie is interpreted by its director as “an analysis of the 1968 protest movement. The circus as medium is a metaphor of the conflict between the philosophical interpretation of the Critical Theory (‘the Marx Brothers of Frankfurt’) and the student uprising”. In the film, the main character, Leni Peikert, inherits the family circus and tries to update the show by turning it into a “reform circus,” which consists of socially-relevant entertainment. Unfortunately, it fails to attract new audience, and her circus goes bankrupt. Her efforts are then directed towards the mass medium of television. At the end of the film she declares: “With great steps we make ourselves ridiculous, but with many small steps I can become the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”. Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed is combined with five other short films realized by Kluge in 2018, in order to create a constellation of polyphonic perspectives on the issues addressed by the 1968 cinematographic work.

The second part (123 minutes) of the program includes two new filmic forms recently experimented by Alexander Kluge: the so-called “minute-films” and “minute-operas”. One minute-film pays homage to the Venetian venue of Fondazione Prada, Ca’ Corner della Regina and to the noblewoman Caterina Cornaro, who became queen of Cyprus in 1468. The minute-opera All Russia’s souls point their roots heavenwards creates a link between two musical compositions by Modest Petrovič Musorgskij and the historical figure of Ivan the Terrible’s guard. Two other films investigate the themes of pathos and learning, also in relation to the exhibition “Machines à penser” which explores the correlation between conditions of exile, escape and retreat and physical or mental places which favor reflection, thought and intellectual production, focusing on three major philosophers of the 20th century: Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). The second part will be completed by Winter of love (60 minutes) which documents the contrast between intellectuals and thinkers, such as Theodor W. Adorno and Jürgen Habermas, and the student movement in Frankfurt in 1968.

Alexander Kluge’s film program will be anticipated by two events taking place in Venice in the upcoming days. Kluge will present his new film Happy Lamento, featuring Khavn De La Cruz, on 30 August and 2 September 2018 at the Giornate degli autori during the Venice Film Festival. The event “The Snows of Venice – Theory like swimming in the storm”, devoted to Kluge’s literary and cinematographic work, will be organized by Goethe-Institut Mailand in collaboration with S.a.L.E. Docks in Venice on 3 September 2018 at 11 am. On this occasion, the book The Snows of Venice by Ben Lerner and Alexander Kluge will be launched. It originates from the collaboration between Alexander Kluge, Ben Lerner, Thomas Demand and Anna Viebrock and it is one of the results of the exhibition “The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied.”, on view at Fondazione Prada in Venice in 2017. The publication includes 21 photos by Gerhard Richter on Venice, 4 artworks by R.H. Quaytman on “the angel of history” by Walter Benjamin, and 4 photos by Thomas Demand on “the highest level of verisimilitude”.