“The phrase ‘little did they know’ refers to critical moments in life, suggesting the unpredictable personal or social consequences that follow. Signalling a state of uncertainty, the phrase carries contradictory undertones: a potential failure, loss, or disaster, but also the advent of transformations that might pave the way for a new future imaginary. The phrase captures the shifting positions of individuals or groups, who are reacting to and moving away from fear and incapacitation. Their desire to shed anxiety and (re)act brings them together across different geographies, constituting an unexpected ecosystem of proximities and shared visions.
Borrowing its title from this phrase, the 39th EVA International’s Guest Programme Little did they know traced often fragmented and mostly overlooked stories from a broad range of individual or collective actions from the recent past, which challenged — and in some cases, transformed — existing conditions. The artistic responses and research-based projects had, at their core, an ambition to mobilise around the issues of ecology, self-representation, gender roles, and social injustice. While Little did they know did not introduce a guideline for surviving uncertain times, nor offer a grand proposal for the future, it did propose itself as an exercising ground, a repository of attempts, and a visual archive of anachronic interactions for today.
This publication brings together Little did they know‘s four invited research projects delivered across three phases in 2020 and 2021. Led by Asia Art Archive, Betsy Damon Archive: Keepers of the Waters (Chengdu and Lhasa) focused on raising awareness of ongoing water issues through artistic, scientific, and educational projects. The archive presented the initiative’s two public events that took place in Chengdu, Sichuan, in 1995, and Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, in 1996. Founded in 1983, the collective Derry Film and Video Workshop (DFVW) was formed around the urgency of documenting discussions on gender, class, self-representation, and resistance. The We realised the power of it presentation, composed of the newly digitised archive of the collective, was led by curator Sara Geravu in collaboration with the artist Ciara Philips. Reconciliation of Blood Feuds Campaign, 1990-1991, led by Erëmirë Krasniqi (Kosovo Oral History Initiative), captured the unique experience developed in Kosovo at the beginning of the repressive Milošević regime. Through collecting oral history records of the protagonists, the archive has given voice to various public gatherings and reconciliations, and the liberation of families from the duty of honour killings. Sexuality of A Nation: Lionel Soukaz and Liberation Politics centred on consciousness-raising sessions organised by Paul Clinton. The project concentrated on the experimental films from the 1970s and ’80s of French gay liberation pioneer Lionel Soukaz.
The adjacent publication of the 39th EVA International catalogue includes the artistic responses in Little did they know. Taking the time to interpret the past and the present, works by Benji Boyadgian, Diego Bruno, Oisín Byrne with Adam Gibbons, Yane Calovski, Jasmina Cibic, Barış Doğrusöz, Eirene Efstathiou, Minna Henriksson, Michele Horrigan, Melanie Jackson and Esther Leslie, Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho, Hana Miletić, Deidre O’Mahony, Zeyno Pekünlü, Richard Proffitt, Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings, Mario Rizzi, Aykan Safoğlu, Krista Belle Stewart, Rayna Teneva and Mustafa Emin Büyükcoşkun, Driant Zeneli and Women Artists Action Group (Archive of Pauline Cummins) offer a complex web of strategies and positions.”