9TH TRIENNIAL OF CONTEMPORARY ART U3 | Dead and Alive
10 October 2019 — 12 January 2020
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Dead and Alive 

9th Triennial of Contemporary Art U3

 

Moderna galerija, Ljubljana, 10 October 2019 – 12 January 2020

Opening: Thursday, 10 October 2019, at 8 p.m.

 

Urška Aplinc, Nika Autor, Živa Božičnik Rebec, Mateja Bučar, Vuk Ćosić, Lenka Đorojević, Ryuzo Fukuhara, Marina Gržinić & Aina Šmid, Đejmi Hadrović, Borut Hlupič, Ištvan Išt Huzjan, Stane Klančnik, Barbora Kleinhamplová, Alexey Klyuykov & Vasil Artamonov, Lene Lekše, Iza Pavlina, Franz Purg, Peter Rauch, Edvard Ravnikar, Teja Reba, Maruša Sagadin, Maja Smrekar, Andrej Škufca, Aleksandra Vajd, Otty Widasari, Dalibor Bori Zupančič

 

Curator: Vit Havránek

 

What is the avant-garde in Slovenia concerned with today? The question sounds simple, almost banal, but it brings two subjects back into the realm of debate – the existence of the avant-garde and contemporaneity. First of all, let’s ask whether the avant-garde in Slovenia is alive or dead. What the curator has found in his field research is that it is both – it is alive and dead at the same time. The unsettling statement about the “superposition” of the states of the avant-garde (living and dead at the same time) can only be explained by quantum physics, a science that observes such states in reality and produces theories that correlate with relativistic and classical laws of the universe. The paradox of Schrödinger’s cat is a mental experiment described by Schrödinger in 1935 about a cat in a box that is both dead and alive at the same time. What brings about the “collapse” of one of the two states of the avant-garde is not a law of nature or culture as we might intuitively expect, but the act of observation.

 

Nevertheless, the aim of the observation instigated by U3 is neither to kill the avant-garde nor to display it for the sake of an exhibition, but to simulate, for you, an experiment of parallel esthetic universes. An experiment where the properties of and correlations between the artworks are not established according to linear time (which is but a human illusion), but through the act of observation, with the visitor (observer) providing the final, fateful report. Simulating a meeting of earlier artworks with a concept of time hypothesized by physics may sound ahistorical. But in physics, everything is entirely historical – the universe (expanding and aging every second since the Big Bang), matter (tending to higher entropy) as well as the evolving scientific knowledge and methods of physics. One could pose the question the other way around: isn’t it ahistorical for art history to ignore two paradigmatic discoveries (relativity and quantum theory) that have changed our intuitive notion of time as a string holding the narrative of its own subject together?

 

Liquid bricks
Certain works on display mark a (still) ongoing shift from the solid to liquid organization of matter that runs parallel to the transformation of industrial to cognitive capitalism. The paradigm of liquid materials is replacing the old “analog” components of the last century, such as brick. The brick was a key element of 19th century modern organization, a critical subject of paintings (French realism), as well as a medium of minimalist sculpture (Carl Andre), and ultimately an iconic object of public protest. The marketing pitch for the game of Tetris reads: “Tetris® is the addictive puzzle game that started it all, embracing our universal desire to create order out of chaos.” In my view it is rather a fulfillment of an old modernist desire that Tetris® took out of the hands of engineers and masons and put on the screens of early computer users in 1984. Like Solitaire, another early game still popular today, it is now played on screens composed of liquid crystals, still with the aim to “create order out of chaos”, whereas non-cultural matter (in open systems) continues to evolve toward higher entropy in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. Here is the big clash that marks the Anthropocene – the narrative of human progress directly contradicts the laws of thermodynamics. The attention (sometimes affective, sometimes post-human) that contemporary art pays to the choice and organization of matter (and to its forms) expresses the desire to understand human concepts of interaction in relation to the material interactions observed by physics. The devastating effects of industry and technology, climate change and  refugee crises compel artists to engage in cultural tectonics of planetary scope in order to forge a post-national perspective based on the common ownership of natural resources in order to make the survival of humankind and other species viable.

 

Technology (contrary to Realpolitik) is a field that instigates rich prognostic fantasies and utopias. Let us mention two scenarios: One sees technology rerouted in the future, hacked so to allow the establishment of an equal and respectful order of humans, cyborgs and non-humans, with robots in algorithmic networks in 4.0 industry working tirelessly to allow people to devote themselves to time-consuming activities, such as caring for all members of human and non-human kinds, developing photographs, building sculptures, training the physical body to adjust to implants, organizing big happenings, practicing permaculture gardening. According to the other scenario, the technological revolution could lead to a dystopia in which all the means of technology are only used to boost productivity, to increase profits for the owners.

 

A dead and living being
A new political attitude that could be called visceral (according to Achille Mbembe) has emerged out of the dilemma that gives rise to the anxiety of survival as human bodies oppressed by power and normative identity. And it is no coincidence that it is creating new links between the formerly socialist and the formerly colonial territories. The democratic subjectification of politics is based on a process of negotiation between the pleasure principle of self-realization and the rational demand for universal equality. Visceral politics, taking into account unequal or unjust initial conditions on the subjective and universal levels, is expressed by multitudes on a planetary scale. It sees the current world of exploitation and imposed fixed identities as substantially ill, as real madness, as necropolitics. It does not allow acting with a view to creating balance, but expresses itself through disgust, obscenity, and unspeakable gestures in “dialogue” with a death drive that prevents the political on a planetary scale.

 

Being alive and dead at the same time, as the state of the avant-garde in Slovenia is described, is not only an ontological state of dealing with form, matter and the past, but on the level of social reality (lived social relations), a matter of material conditions. Potential artists are only able to work as artists (where their working time is covered by production centers, art residencies or museums, and where they are often asked to work for free) for just a fraction of the time; they devote far more time to doing non-artistic work in order to survive. The observation of such a reality that only allows them to devote themselves to artistic work for short periods of time renders the “dead” state of the avant-garde true. The post-socialist transformation of material conditions of cultural workers, followed by a wave of neoliberal commercialization of the art system (with a limited art market and systemic aid to artists stagnating since roughly 2000) have created a dead spin in 2019, especially for the younger and upcoming generations. It is an issue that U3 will articulate in a collective manner under the title “Towards a Collective Skin”.

 

Let us return to the concept of contemporaneity in the contemporary arts. Since the decline of post-conceptual art, contemporaneity has been construed by various movements as a dismissal of any kinship with both the historical avant-garde and its postwar neo-avant-garde renaissance. Certain artists take inspiration for authenticity and originality in the history of applied arts, fashion, craft, preindustrial craftsmanship, shamanism… or at the opposite pole, in hacking all kinds of anonymous hardware, consumer software, algorithms and applications in order to finally return to altered material objects again. The 9th edition of U3 seeks to liberate the category of contemporaneity, replacing esthetical identification (with the new) with esthetical entanglement (with the other). It restages parallel esthetic universes from the time prior to the decline of post-conceptual art. “Entangled particles” observed by quantum physicists interact in a specific way – the quantum state of each cannot be described independently of the state of the others. “The spin measurement affects the system, causing the set of probabilities to reduce to only one of the possible values immediately after the measurement.” One of the interpretations says that the fall of a particle into one state results in a certain present, while all other possibilities exist as parallel universes. What is exciting for the curator is to engage with these parallel universes. What is new for art history here is that artworks “may not have definite properties prior to being measured”; speaking about physicality, and less about meaning. Perception reduces the set of probable properties of an artwork to a single entity. Further on, art historical observation makes other entangled movements (they may be competing, contradictory movements) immediately collapse into an opposite state. Repairing the collapse induced by perception and interpretation is an experiment that must allow a glimpse of the artwork in an indefinite, spinning state. The past is available to the present quantum art observer of the 9th U3 not only as “full of unfulfilled historical promises”, but as an array of equal parallel universes, where the set of each work’s probabilities is preserved – dead and alive at the same time.

 

Dalibor Bori Zupančič, Untitled As Destruction 23-5-72, 1972, 120cm x 120cm, destroyed oil painting on canvas

Vuk Cosic, ASCII Raging Bull, 1998, Programming Luka Frelih, Production Ljubljana Digital Medialab

Đejmi Hadrović, Apartment 102, 2019, video still

Alexej Klyukov, Vasil Artamonov, Still life with Bricks, 2013-2014, oil painting on canvas

Barbora Kleinhamplová, Arrangements, 2019, wall installation – silicon cast, wall painting

K-9_topology: Hybrid Family, Maja Smrekar and Manuel Vason Collaboration, Berlin, 2016 (produced by Kapelica Gallery)

K-9_topology: Hybrid Family, Maja Smrekar and Manuel Vason Collaboration, Berlin, 2016 (produced by Kapelica Gallery)

Aleksandra Vajd, Collage by K. E. Graebner Nature the Unknown Acquaintance (1971) and a unit of five hand-dyed photograms titled: ‘rivalry of superior vs. inferior’, 2017