Lenin Was a Mushroom – Moving Images in the 1990s

AMVK, Aernout Mik, Amar Kanwar, Andrea Fraser, Artūras Raila, David Claerbout, Gianni Motti, Gillian Wearing, Hänzel & Gretzel, Johan Grimonprez, Nedko Solakov, Pipilotti Rist, Rosalind Nashashibi, Rosângela Rennó, Şener Özmen and Erkan Özgen, Sergey Kuryokhin and Sergey Sholokhov, Shilpa Gupta, Stan Douglas. Architectural design: Samyra Moumouh.

We can say that the 1990s were – to use three contentious terms – the era of globalisation, deregulation and democratisation. Titled after Sergey Kuryokhin and Sergey Sholokhov's absurd 1991 mockumentary from the last days of the Soviet Union, the exhibition Lenin Was a Mushroom examines the 1990s – which we might define here as the period between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the 'War on Terror’. During the transition towards a supposed unipolar world, and in simultaneity with new international attitudes in the artistic sphere, film and video art of the 1990s broadened perspectives of the visual kind.

With wider accessibility of both video hardware and editing software, the 1990s were a key period for the development and proliferation of film and video art. Lenin Was a Mushroom looks at moving images that offered reflections of the era but also new modes and means for image-making through the technological advancements adopted by artists. Video art, on the one hand derided by some at the time for facilitating a homogenous 'visual Esperanto' adopted by artists for depicting social realities globally, is on the other hand recognised for opening up new aesthetic practices, as well as display and distribution possibilities.

We can see that the influx of video art in the 1990s provided the means for broadening artistic languages, including new conceptual practices, socio-political engagement, sampling and televisual reflexivity, synthesised or 'post-media' forms – as well as for dismantling narrative structure. We can also consider some of the practices of this time for reflecting on societal transformations in telematic and mediatic consciousness that have come to dominate today's media landscape, oscillating between individual positions and mass psychology.

The eclecticism of these artistic concerns can be seen as characteristic of the post-modern condition, and given space here for critical reflection. Thus, rather than being an exhaustive survey, Lenin Was a Mushroom will present a selection of artworks that offer insights into the manifold artistic interests and modalities of the day. Instead of defining a generation, the exhibition will be deliberately inter-generational – looking at artists who were working at their artistic peak alongside others who were producing their formative works – in order to provide a unique perspective upon moving image practices in the last decade of the 20th century.

M HKA is a museum for contemporary art and for visual culture more broadly. It runs the arthouse De Cinema in the centre of Antwerp, and its collection incorporates the Vrielynck Collection of pre- and early cinema artefacts. Thus, exploring media archaeology is part of its natural consciousness. The exhibition will include several artworks from the museum's collection alongside a selection of works ranging from the lesser-known and the idiosyncratic, to classics.

Also happening at Lenin Was a Mushroom – Moving Images in the 1990s