NEW TRAIL, OLD STORIES
IVY KALUNGI @ OUTPUT GALLERY
KALUNGI'S installation is perfect for the small space of Output Gallery. Even as you go in, seeing the red of the room begins to set you up for an immersive and powerful (empowering?) exhibition. Kalungi's exhibition here is an installation she developed during her residency at FACT, which she did shortly after graduating from Hope University. Making your way around the central platform, you have the chance to watch videos of the village of Kalerwe, outside of Uganda's capital Kampala, and its surrounding areas, to glimpse into Kalungi's own background and history. Kalungi herself states that this work is about collective memory, and reflects her position in the African diaspora. The various frames through which, if you stand at the right angle, you can watch her videos reflect her theme of transitional space(s) - both for herself as she reflects on her African heritage through her British education, and to the audience, who are invited to peer through the window from their own lives into one quite different, but that has been going on and continues to go on as we live and work, and is going on as we leave the gallery and the exhibition. Kalungi has created a virtual archive, which is really both a window and a frame - allowing us to preserve and appreciate history, as well as to enter it.
This exhibition prompted me to go back and look at my undergrad dissertation on identity and archive because it so perfectly captures the importance of memory - not just for our own sense of identity, but as a collective record. This is especially relevant for Britain - which always threatens to silence colonial memory in favour of Imperial History. Erasing the human story in favour of a white-washed history, aka Legacy, and disconnecting the past from the present. Becuase archive lives in the current, even as it projects us into the past. We see it from our standpoint at this moment in time. Perspective has everything to do with archive - the material reality of it as situated in the present makes it vulnerable to manipulation. In this installation, Kalungi shows us that the human story, the familial and communal memory, is just as valid as the official record. She invites you into her personal archive and encourages you to reflect on your position outside of it. Unless we look at the past in the context of the present and unless we open our minds to all persepctive, all records, we are left with an incomplete and hollow record.