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Sven Johne / Jumana Manna: The Doubt of the Stage Prompter

19 February 2015 - 19 April 2015

The title of this dual exhibition by Sven Johne and Jumana Manna evokes an image just like a haunting cinematographic icon: a stage prompter sitting in a claustrophobic box in front of and slightly below the theater stage. A small desk lamp casts light onto the page he is staring at while the reflection from the paper illuminates his troubled face. Something in the script is not quite right. Something is missing and the causal connections between events and characters seem out of joint, forging skepticism towards the coming pages...

The prompters' doubt as to the accuracy of the given script-a theater piece in its master narrative totality-is mirrored in the artistic practices of both Manna and Johne. This elementary doubt, fuelled by inquisitive curiosity, is that which gives way alternate stories, opening up a space where history can be retold.

JUMANA MANNA: A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch's Last Masquerade), 12 min HD video, 2013


The Doubt of the Stage Prompter is the first comprehensive exhibition of selected video works by the artists, whose inventive languages engage in dialogue on storytelling, as well as the relation between history and fiction. Their works broadly question the construction of history; often an incomplete history missing countless voices and pages from the script.

Both Jumana Manna and Sven Johne are enthralling storytellers with exacting skill to unravel expansive plots from within the tiniest of narrative details. "The anachronistic re-introduction of the story as both the carrier of larger historical narratives as well as a means for the construction of contemporaneity" is a central artistic ploy from both Manna and Johne in the way they work with history, alluding to Peter Osborne's concept of the contemporary as a globally transnational notion predicated on voices of narrative authority, sometimes even fictional ones.

SVEN JOHNE: Some Engels, 27min HD video, 2013

The passion and dedication to the way history is narrated is further driven by their particular biographical perspectives.

Besides the general interest of Sven Johne and Jumana Manna in the relation of ideological constructs to history and its contemporary relevance, afforded through their personal backgrounds, there is another methodological notion that brings the moving-image oeuvre of both artists in dialogue. Both share an enthusiasm for exploring a variety of cinematic, theatrical and even television techniques in the unfolding of narrative. They investigate the potentials of a casting interview as a frame, the illusion of intimacy provided by a documentary interview, the imagination opened up by a group portrait, the awkward strength of a filmic monologue or the confessional speech. These formal devices provide a structured way through which their stories cascade, and multiple layers of meaning are introduced by referring to these conventions.

surface are telling opening images unraveling a story revealing the ambiguity of the powerful, and an adored male coach in the lives of the female athletes within their most formative years.

Johne and Manna are meticulously searching for precise moments in history that alter the way we imagine things. Nevertheless they avoid the fetishism or the nostalgia for lost details, but focus, rather, on their recollection to use them for a better understanding of the present.

As the master of the ceremony from Sven Johne's video Greatest Show on Earth concludes: "She is still circulating above us: Nadjeshda, the great hope. The Soviet space probe once destined to reach Mars, but it remained in earth's orbit. General Gorodki, its engineer, lost his position back then. Tonight he is with you. He will try, live from this stage, to establish contact to Nadjeshda. What will the two of them have to say to each other?"


Sponsored by

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art, Katharinenstraße 23, D-26121 Oldenburg, Tel.: +49(0)441/235-3208, Fax.: +49(0)441/235-2161
Opening Hours: Tuesday - Friday 14:00 -18:00, Saturday - Sunday 11:00 - 18:00, Monday closed
Ein Ausstellungshaus der
Stadt Oldenburg