Armin Medosch on Tue, 18 Mar 2014 00:05:01 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Fields - patterns of social, scientific, and technological transformations.

Dear Nettimers,

Being aware that this is not a list to send announcements to, I would like
to share a few thoughts with you, written today specifically for this

I would like to invite you to the exhibition Fields which will open at the
Arsenals Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art May 15  -
August 3, 2014. You can find the full announcement here:

Fields was from the start devised as a discoursive event. What I mean by
that is that, as an exhibition, it had set itself a task. It asked as a
research question

"Which expanded fields of artistic practice offer new ideas for overcoming
the crisis of the present and developing new models of a more sustainable
and imaginative way of life."

30 years ago the second half of the sentence would simply have read
"developing progressive forms of social change" or something like that. But
anything that has 'progress' included has simply become impossible. It
seems that the necessary critique of false universals of modernism now
prevents us from conceptualising anything progressive at all.

Yet the need for change is almost too obvious.

In our press release we have written:

The changing role of art in society is one where it does not just create a
new aesthetics but gets involved in patterns of social, scientific, and
technological transformations. Fields, jointly curated by Rasa Smite,
Raitis Smits and Armin Medosch, presents an inquiry into patterns of
renewal and transition.

Those "patterns of renewal and transition" are the challenge that we have
posed for ourselves with this exhibition.

We live in a world where technological systems have acquired great
importance. It is like society is hooked into them, like a life-support
system. But at the same time those systems have become the problem, not the
solution. If we look at energy, agriculture, transport, systems of
production, it is clear that the ideology of limitless expansion is driving
us straight into catastrophe. Everybody knows that, but while there are
many initiatives, mainstream society seems to be blindly following its
course, unable to change. In this situation new patterns are urgently
needed, new ways of thinking, but not just that, new ways of interacting
with the world, with technology, with nature. An ecological turn is overly
due, but to achieve this seems almost utopian within current social
relations. In this situation art can provide new models, new directions,
but those are models, like in a mini-mundus world. Art gives Form to the
imagination, Herbert Marcuse wrote. And this artistic imagination we are
talking about in Fields is involved in the construction of a new society.

Art produces projections of a different social reality, where the forces of
nature are used in new and imaginative ways and in combination with social
mechanisms which are maybe less dominated by power from above, more driven
from a power from within, from our own desires and our own potential.
Fields thus is about what Toni Negri called potenza constituente and about
an ontological inquiry. As things currently stand those activities and
propositions presented in Fields are quite marginal. However, the big hope
is that despite all the forces that are focused on preventing any real
change from happening, the power of the multitude would aggregate all those
desires and suddenly acquire critical mass, This is one of the
characteristics of network society. We don't need to ask permission to
change the world, we don't need to look to the state or corporations to do
it for us, we can start right now, through or own critical and constructive
inquiries. And if that resonates with other people it can go viral, and you
suddenly have a new movement (or at least a trending hash-tag).

I admit we are terrible optimists, we still think we can change the world,
or that at least we should try. So let me give you a few examples. On one
hand we have work in the exhibition that is critical vis-a-vis the powers
that be. However, even work that is coming more from a critical direction
is sometimes subverting power in a deluge of laughter. Think of Hayley
Newman's work for instance. She comes from a tradition of performance from
the fine arts. She made herself a 'self-appointed artist-in-residency in
the City of London', you know, the financial district where they run the
algorithms that destroy the planet. So she printed a name card and walked
into a bank branch and asked if she could do a bank rubbery. It is no
misspelling, from 'to rub a bank', make a frottage, a technique where you
put a paper over something and then rub it with a pen or piece of
graphite/chalk so that the underlying form comes through. In that way, she
has rubbed several dozens of banks and together they become a Histoire
Economique, like a natural history of the banks in the City. That's how we
will exhibit them, in vitrines, like dried plants in the natural history
museum. The artist reminds us that those banks are also just social forms
that come and go.

Another work, Kayak Libre, by Manu Luksch, is offering a ride in a water
taxi in exchange for a conversation. She calls it a temporal experimental
infrastructure. Will it solve the transport problems of the world?
Certainly not. But it allows you to explore the world in a new way, a very
slow and contemplative way, and as such it formulates a critique of the
notion of progress - a very gentle form of critique. Paris based artist duo
HeHe is doing this work with disused railways, deploying strange new
contraptions that can move on rails. To avoid asking the same rhetorical
question twice, I can say straight away that they will also not solve
pressing transport and energy issues. But what both those works do is
catapult us into a different universe, giving form to imagination, where
almost anything seems possible. And quite many works are of this more
constructive type.

For more examples I would like to refer you to the second part of the press
release  (see link above and also below) that has a lot of examples. To go
back to the more general question, if you look at those examples, you may
wonder, maybe we are stretching the envelope too far. This is a very
heterogeneous show. But this stems from the notion of Fields. We asked
which transdisciplinary combinations of Fields carry the greatest
potentials for more sustainable and imaginative ways of life. And every
work gives a different answer to that question. It is endless, the power of
the imaginative mind to create and construct the world. It is also very
political but in a very specific sense. To quote Marcuse again, 'political
art' is a monstrous term. The art shown in Fields has very little to do
with what would traditionally be conceived as political art. Political here
is this power to construct and invent the world, every day, by so many
people, from so many sources. That goes, without saying, also beyond the
notion of art as we know it. It is the 'self-creation of man' in exchange
with nature as young Marx put it. And that will never stop.

That said, I hope to see many of you in Riga in May



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