Armin Medosch on Tue, 18 Mar 2014 09:24:01 +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 occasion.

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

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

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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