T.S. Eliot has aptly noted how we sense the presence of the past in every moment. History makes itself known in all of our urban landscapes – acting as buildings, town and street names, including monuments. Many of these architectures not only bear witness to historical experiences but also convey collective narratives and identity-enhancing memories, laid down for future generations.
In her exhibition, The Palace – Then and Now at LORIS, Ulrike Hannemann investigates the current relationship with the chequered history of the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This enormous building complex was designed by Ngô Viết Thụ as a synthesis of classical and modern Vietnamese architecture and built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, completed in 1966. The building then served as the home and office of the President of South Vietnam, until 1975, when it was stormed by North Vietnamese troops. Following the global coverage and iconic photograph depicting a tank bulldozing through the main gate in 1976 – marking the official end of the Vietnam War – the building was honoured as a historic monument of national significance.
Ulrike Hannemann visited the palace at varying intervals and numerous times and approaches this historical location through photographs, collaged elements and an in-depth view at existing furniture, furnishings and fixtures. Playing on reality and fiction, selected photographs are printed in varying sizes and individual structures are cropped out and rearranged on coloured backgrounds to be re-photographed. Hannemann also practically reproduced images she’d made on previous visits in black and white, in order to merge the past with the present.
Ulrike Hannemann’s works are less inclined to depict an accurate rendition of found reality, and instead always additionally investigate the conditions and possibilities of photography. Her work cycle, The Palace – Then and Now proposes suggestions for reinventing the past and offers up a new perspective in relation to historical evidence.