Kunsthalle Bern


18 Aug - 01 Oct 2006

18. August - 01. Oktober 2006
Opening: 18 August 2006, 6 pm

Christoph Büchel & Giovanni Carmine (CH), Florian Dombois (CH), Zhang Enli (CN), Kris Fierens (B), Aneta Grzeszykowska (P), Marine Hugonnier (F), Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (MEX), Camille Norment (USA), Serkan Özkaya (TR), Vanessa Van Obberghen (B)

The notion of ‘pre-emptive action’ stems from an overpowering sense of fear. Pre-emptive means ‘designed or having the power to deter or prevent an anticipated situation or occurrence’. The pre-emptive strike revived by the Republican administrations in the U.S. testifies to their fear of the unforeseen, of difference, even of freedom. It is a calculated handling of reality typical of the postcolonial era, tactics already employed under Reagan. It is a policy of fighting against the ‘multiform, manoeuvring and omnipresent’ and at the same time an affirmation of what could be called a ‘prophetic community’, i.e. a community that is built on largely irrational convictions, and on moral and religious values.

Art deals essentially with the ‘unknown’, or the ‘untranslatable’, and resists the acceptance of any monolithic interpretation of the world. But these days, even such a hypothesis might be turned into a (metaphorical) target. In this expectant state of imminent repression, if not suppression, art could find itself in something like a state of emergency, under siege in its own space, under curfew, prohibited. Surely this would not be unlike what some of us are experiencing when compelled to make the crucial decision of 'either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists' – a decision no-one can make because there really is no choice. Will art likewise be forced to abdicate its own promise and opt for such a non-choice in order to secure its present and future survival in the real world in which we have consciously given away some of our freedom and basic rights?

At the same time, in ‘critical’ art practice today we often witness an academic control from within; a kind of auto-censorship that stems from another type of fear. The fear to risk an irresponsible, reactive or even reactionary (mis)reading of the artistic propositions. So a lot of critical art-practice turned towards post-conceptual documentary strategies, avoiding ambiguity from setting in. Artworks that shun the obvious and circumvent easy interpretation seem suspect to the kind of art discourse that cherishes the political: too often we deal with mere (artistic) testimonies. Next to that the aesthetics of rebellious social movements are recuperated.

In contrast, this exhibition proposes scientific experiments with apocalyptic, macro-historical musings, entertainment as a way to invert and play with surveillance devices, figurative painting with overt and fierce loyalty to the everyday but featuring a lurking threat, abstract painting that refuses any promise, destabilizing geographical renderings, and striking examples of the transformation of everyday objects and behaviours into a new, elegantly intriguing experience.

Referring to the notion of the ‘pre-emptive’ this exhibition deals with the complex apprehension of time and the (in)credibility of prophecy. Creating a place suffused with possibilities, this show wants to be a reflection on the non-effectuation of history, an exploration of the specificity and the irrevocability of the event. It is an exhibition concerned with things that cannot be technocratically mastered, about flightlines and the difficult understanding of freedom versus continuous control. Intending to invoke a situation that ‘pre-empts’ the realization and possibility of control, maybe this exhibition steals something of this terminology back from its kidnapped use by the Republican administration of the US.

This Exhibition benefits the support from the City and the Kanton of Bern, SRG SSR idée suisse, Club15, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, Swiss Seismological Service, the Berner Fachhochschule, the Burgergemeinde Bern and TeleProgress Bern


© Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Glories of Accounting, Subsculpture 5

Tags: Christoph Büchel, Zhang Enli, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Marine Hugonnier, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Camille Norment, Vanessa van Obberghen, Serkan Özkaya, Xu Shun, O Zhang