Opening: 15.12.2023, 18 h

Exhibition booklet (PDF)

Language has always been at the forefront of social and political unrest. Throughout history, dominant systems of control have manipulated words and free speech. With the rise of far-right libertarian populist, authoritarian regimes, and the increasing censorship of dissident voices worldwide, acknowledging the significance of language as a tool to challenge prevailing narratives and to foster dialogue seems more pronounced than ever. Poetry, operating on the periphery of the dominant discourse and in its distilled essence, wields words with precision – a testament to truth that serves a lens through which the unspeakable is rendered utterable. Bringing together nine films by artists from different generations and points of departure, the group exhibition Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season explores the ties between poetry and moving images to ponder on the complexities of current and historical realities.

Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season is titled after the 1965 eponymous poem by Iranian filmmaker and poet Forugh Farrokhzad (1934–1967), whose writings – despite controversy and censorship – sought to articulate the sorrows and longings of Iranian women and to redefine literary as well as social conventions. Conceived as a series of screenings, each week of the exhibition is dedicated to an individual artist’s work presented in a continuous loop in Portikus’ main gallery.

The program begins with Cecilia Vicuña’s influential video What is Poetry to You? (1980), in which the artist, while in exile in Bogotá during the Chilean dictatorship, interviews passers-by about their personal relationship to poetry, unraveling its transformative potential in people’s lives. Giving a stage to marginalized voices is at the core of Trinh T. Minh-ha’s film Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) that gathers archival footage, poetry, songs, and interviews to render a portrait of the historical and contemporary roles imposed on Vietnamese women. The interplay of the temporal levels of the past, present, and future defines Alexander Kluge’s film-essay The Assault of the Present on the Rest of Time (1985), providing a multi-layered perspective on post-war Germany. In Aimé Césaire, le masque des mots (1987), Sarah Maldoror portrays the Martinican poet through his influence on the Négritude literary movement, the impact of his political engagement and struggle against racism. Highlighting the bridges between poetry and activism, Cana Bilir-Meier’s videos SEMRA ERTAN (2013) and Zwischenwelt (2022) both deal with the coping mechanisms and lived experience in a xenophobic society, whose ramifications are reflected on the racialized politics of remembrance. Meanwhile, the violence of invisible forces of control is addressed in Maryam Tafakory’s video Nazarbazi (2022), a collage of texts and found images, depicting the symbolically charged interactions between men and women in post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. Combining archival documents, written words and 16mm footage, Sky Hopinka’s film Sunflower Siege Engine (2022), tackles the complex histories of Indigenous communities in the United States through collective and personal narratives. Luiz Roque’s richly structured cinematic compositions O Novo Monumento (2013) and XXI (2022) set queer culture against the backdrop of urban and rural landscapes in South America to challenge traditional notions of monumentality, identity and body politics. At a time when his vision was impaired by AIDS, Derek Jarman aimed to convey a frank and striking portrayal of his illness and impending death with his film Blue (1993), in which poetic texts are read against the background of an unchanging blue screen.

By interweaving historical recordings and contemporary narratives, the artists’ works grant prominence to language while yielding to the poetic power of images. Inspired by Farrokhzad’s powerful verse, which combines grief with hope, Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season invites us to consider language as a catalyst for collective and personal transformation.


Screening program:

Cecilia Vicuña
What is Poetry to You?, 1980 (23:20 min)

Trinh T. Minh-ha
Surname Viet Given Name Nam, 1989 (108 min)

Alexander Kluge
The Assault of the Present on the Rest of Time, 1985 (113 min)

Sarah Maldoror
Aimé Cesaire, le masque des mots, 1987 (52 min)

Cana Bilir-Meier
SEMRA ERTAN, 2013 (7:30 min)
Zwischenwelt, 2023 (18 min)

Maryam Tafakory
Nazarbazi, 2022 (19 min)

Sky Hopinka
Sunflower Siege Engine, 2022 (12:23 min)

Luiz Roque
O Novo Monumento, 2013 (5:30 min)
XXI, 2022 (7 min)

Derek Jarman
Blue, 1993 (75 min)

Graphic design: Studio Michael Satter