NOWs: Welcome to the Jungle

03 March - 21 May 2018 / Nows

Alvaro Urbano: Office (detail), 2017-18

Welcome to the Jungle

Kunsthalle Düsseldorf

Opening: 2 March 2018, 8 pm

Works by Jonathas de Andrade, Kristina Buch, Oto Hudec, Laura Lima, Cinthia Marcelle, Mario Pfeifer, Liu Shiyuan, Kota Takeuchi, Alvaro Urbano

Un­der the ti­tle Wel­come to the Jun­gle, the Kun­sthalle Düssel­dorf will bring to­geth­er a se­lec­tion of in­ter­na­tion­al works that crit­i­cal­ly, re­flec­tive­ly, and of­ten hu­mor­ous­ly, yet with­out moral­is­tic fin­ger-point­ing, re­fer to those con­di­tions and para­dox­es in which we be­come en­tan­gled while at­tempt­ing to do the right thing. For in­stance, there is a ten­den­cy to­day to re­volt against cir­cum­stances in which, through our de­ci­sions, we im­plic­it­ly al­low en­trepreneuri­al, so­cial, and re­source-re­lat­ed prac­tices to take place which we would re­ject in spe­cif­ic cas­es when, for ex­am­ple, hu­man be­ings and na­ture suf­fer as a re­sult. This man­i­fests it­self in the form of con­scious con­sumer choic­es in food, cloth­ing, and trav­el, or the sim­ple ques­tion of which top­ics and voic­es we lend our time and at­ten­tion to. From car­bon foot­prints to sus­tain­able fi­nan­cial in­vest­ments, from cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of the pro­duc­tion chain—in prac­tice, the den­si­ty of in­for­ma­tion is tak­ing on jun­gle-like pro­por­tions. Yet it is of­ten not clear what fits best with our own be­liefs or which path would the­o­ret­i­cal­ly be the right one. It is an at­tempt to ori­ent our­selves amid the noise and thick­ets of the jun­gle and to dis­cern the big pic­ture from the lo­cal per­spec­tive. Col­lec­tive move­ments emerge and con­dense. In­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism and vi­ral nar­ra­tives share the band­width with pro­fes­sion­al im­age cam­paigns and dig­i­tal smoke­screens. Qual­i­ty seals for fair trade or or­gan­ic pro­duc­tion in­creas­ing­ly work like brands, and ways of life de­vot­ed to sus­tain­abil­i­ty can be adapt­ed from mag­a­zines in the vi­su­al lan­guage of the fash­ion and lifestyle in­dus­try. Thus, the jun­gle is al­so a sym­bol of dis­ori­en­ta­tion and over­load, a place where no one di­rec­tion looks more promis­ing than any oth­er. Each new po­si­tion ap­pears like an ar­bi­trary se­lec­tion of those al­ready avail­able. Ev­ery new nar­ra­tive is al­ready part of a larg­er nar­ra­tive in which fic­tion and en­light­en­ment merge.

Whether on a broad scale and on the macroe­co­nom­ic lev­el the in­di­vid­u­al ques­tion “How do I want to live?” will lead to a crit­i­cal po­ten­tial and, as a con­se­quence, so­lu­tions for the so­cial and eco­log­i­cal prob­lems of mankind can be found is cer­tain­ly one of the ex­cit­ing ques­tions with which we are faced. Yet for the in­di­vid­u­al, the dilem­ma re­mains: Do I mea­sure my­self against a hy­po­thet­i­cal suc­cess of my de­ci­sions and re­sults (and am I on a con­stant search for new in­sights, since this morn­ing’s in­for­ma­tion is al­ready out­dat­ed), or can at­ti­tude, in­ten­tion, and in­tegri­ty with­in my in­di­vid­u­al life cir­cum­stances re­main valid stan­dards? The vi­su­al arts al­so ad­dress ques­tions that ex­plic­it­ly deal with these top­ics. The fo­cus of the ex­hi­bi­tion is on such artis­tic prac­tices that con­cen­trate on the aes­thet­ic di­men­sion of art in or­der to sharp­en our aware­ness of these states and pro­cess­es, para­dox­es and con­tra­dic­tions in the ev­ery­day jun­gle of in­for­ma­tion, wis­dom, half-truths, prej­u­dices, and rules. The se­lect­ed works do not so much spec­i­fy a con­crete path or paint an apoc­a­lyp­tic pic­ture, but in­stead se­ri­ous­ly and whole­heart­ed­ly ex­am­ine the re­al­i­ties of the jun­gle and ul­ti­mate­ly en­cour­age the view­er to pur­sue stim­u­lat­ing ques­tions and ex­plore new ap­proach­es or po­et­ic and ab­surd paths in an en­cour­ag­ing and hu­mor­ous at­mo­sphere.

The artists who were in­vit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the ex­hi­bi­tion are dis­tin­guished by the fact that they use their own spe­cif­ic ap­proach to me­dia to cre­ate cap­ti­vat­ing pic­tures and sto­ries that are per­sua­sive due to their choice of themes and their aes­thet­ics. Many of the se­lect­ed works deal with con­crete sit­u­a­tions and de­vel­op­ments that they ob­serve and in which they (aes­thet­i­cal­ly) in­ter­vene. Be­yond a pure­ly doc­u­men­tary ap­proach and at­ti­tude of en­light­en­ment, the works deal with the strate­gies of the doc­u­men­tary and ul­ti­mate­ly al­so the unattain­abil­i­ty of the one sole truth or the one right path. For in­stance, some of the artists work with doc­u­men­tary prac­tices, but con­tin­u­al­ly un­der­mine them by re­vers­ing the role of the ob­serv­er and the ob­served, punc­tu­at­ing it with the aes­thet­ics of mu­sic videos, or mak­ing the vis­i­bil­i­ty of a sub­ject pos­si­ble by stag­ing a doc­u­men­tary set­ting. Even those artis­tic prac­tices that ap­proach these themes through spe­cif­ic cul­tur­al sub­jects ul­ti­mate­ly cre­ate a uni­ver­sal va­lid­i­ty by means of their aes­thet­ics. An­oth­er ap­proach that con­nects the in­di­vid­u­al po­sitions is the re­course to phys­i­cal and per­for­ma­tive el­e­ments through which ab­stract pro­cess­es be­come vis­i­ble and tan­gi­ble in a par­tic­u­lar way. The ex­hi­bi­tion brings to­geth­er video in­stal­la­tions, per­for­mances, large-scale pro­duc­tions, and site-spe­cif­ic works by in­ter­na­tion­al artists. They are main­ly the works and per­spec­tives of a younger gen­er­a­tion.

Cu­rat­ed by Jas­mi­na Merz and An­na Lena Seis­er