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From the Hugh Lane Gallery Exhibition Archive 2016 #flashbackfriday returns to: Sven Augustijnen, ‘The Metronome Bursts of Automatic Fire Seep Through the Dawn Mist Like Muffled Drums and We Know It for What It Is’
In a week that sees the repeat tragedy of police brutality against black citizens we return to Belgium artist Sven Augustijnen’s powerful testament about a world which repeats the same mistakes, creates the same human tragedies, in pursuit of power and domination.
Entitled 'The Metronome Bursts of Automatic Fire...' at the Hugh Lane Gallery, it was Augustijnen’s first solo exhibition in Ireland. The exhibition was part of our 2016 'Artist as Witness' programme which marked the centenary of the Easter Rising. I was researching for material on Sir Roger Casement and his work in the Belgium Congo when he was recommended to me by artist Linda Quinlan from our Sleepwalker programme. Augustijnen was enthusiastic from the start about showing in Ireland and we developed a project that would be both local and global in theme. In extending beyond any single reading of recent history, the installation examined our post-colonial identity in relation to events on the world stage.
'The Metronome Bursts of Automatic Fire...' centred on the politics of firearms and in particular the FN FAL (Fabrique Nationale, Fusil Automatique Léger), a light automatic rifle manufactured by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, in Belgium. During the Cold War the FAL rifle was the most distributed weapon in non-communist countries, nicknamed the "right arm of the free world". The weapon was adopted by the armies of more than 70 countries and produced under license in a dozen, including the U.K., Israel, South Africa, India, Brazil and Argentina, and was depicted in the various conflicts around the world as reported by the famous 'Paris Match' and 'LIFE' and magazines.
For the installation Augustijnen carefully selected ‘TIME' and ‘LIFE’ magazines dated from 1959 to 1985 with supplementary film material from the RTÉ archives that evoked how both weapons and journalism have been entangled in the fabric of our histories. In our Galleries 14 - 17 over 300 magazines were laid out on tables; histories, politics, revolutions, counter-insurgences and assassinations cut and weaved through the pages of the installation. The events were neither condensed nor edited for political clarity or official archiving but were laid out in silent witness to the reoccurring tragic global events.
In the adjacent room there was a screening of RTÉ footage of British troops in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1973 and brought the static articles in the magazines to life, the associations to the weapon much closer to home. The exhibition title was taken from one of the Life magazine’s articles on display by journalist John Saar and referred to the production of the riffle. (‘Hunting for Mukti Bahini Behind the Lines’, Life magazine, 10 December 1971, p.34)
In conjunction with the exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery there was also a screening in the IFI, Dublin of Augustijnene’s internationally acclaimed feature-length film, 'Spectres' (2011), which presented the reverberations of colonialism in present-day Europe. The film recalled one of the darkest chapters in the decolonisation of the Belgian Congo and the events which lead to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Congo‘s first democratically elected prime minister. 'Spectres' won the Public Libraries Prize and GNCR Prize. Further information can be found here.
Sven Augustijnen (b.1970) lives and works in Brussels. He had solo-shows at Wiels, Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels; de Appel, arts centre, Amsterdam; Malmö Konsthall; Vox, Centre pour l'Image contemporaine, Montréal; CCS Bard, Annandale-on-Hudson. Upcoming group-shows include The Unfinshed Conversation: Encoding/Decoding, Museu Colecção Berardo, Lissabon, and Gestures and archives of the present, genealogies of the future, Taipei Biennale.
For further information please visit https://www.hughlane.ie/past/1464-sven-augustijnen
A publication was produced for the exhibition and included essays by Mihnea Mircan and Colin Graham.