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They Made History

The Dadis’ fascination with Hollywood’s rewriting of history and the influence of such cinematic readings on the public’s perception of great political figures and events is reflected in They Made History, a series of light-boxes, each displaying a computer-manipulated portrait of a historically significant non-western character. The faces of Geronimo, Zapata, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Genghis Khan, the Empress of China, the Mahdi of Sudan and the King of Siam – set against appropriately transcendent backgrounds of sunsets, cascading waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and infinite space – illuminate the world with rays of visionary light. Closer inspection, however, reveals a charade: it is the image of Denzel Washington – not the real Malcolm X – that glows before us; the King of Siam turns out to be Yul Brynner in The King and I; and there’s Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, Chuck Connors as Geronimo and John Wayne’s Genghis Khan. Suggesting that ‘it is impossible to think of great personalities without being haunted by filmic narratives – the events of history are recuperated most effectively in the imagery of the electronic media’, the Dadis play on our inability to differentiate fact from fiction. They contest the way the media frames trivialise the past and, in actively appropriating these popular western representations, they recuperate suppressed histories and suggest alternative readings. Bryan Biggs

Project Credits Courtesy the artists Supported by the Canadian High Commission and presented in association with Visiting Arts. With thanks to: Alan Dunn

Date

14 September – 24 November 2002

Location

Bluecoat 
School Lane
Liverpool
L1 3BX

www.thebluecoat.org.uk