ACT VII: Of Facts and Fables
13 May - 26 Sep 2010
The Worshipper, 2004
193 x 147,5 cm
oil on canvas
photo: Felix Tirry
Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
While there are certain moral principles that are usually unquestioned (the right to life, for instance), morality remains ambivalent and amorphous in terms of the principles it provides for humans acting in the world. It is these amorphous areas, these gray zones, that this project seeks to address, particularly in how they form a difficult aspect of our reality today.
Morality is an invitation to reflect and debate situations in contemporary life that refuse clear distinctions between right and wrong, what is and what ought to be. As a whole, the Morality project has been defined by a desire – inherent to contemporary art – to open spaces for active, engaged forms of spectatorship that are not pre-determined by either moral or ideological imperatives.
The year-long Morality program at Witte de With is structured as a series of interrelated acts that began in the Fall of 2009 and will run until the Fall of 2010. Online visitors may also participate by contributing to the web-platform. Beyond the final exhibitions at Witte de With, the upcoming calendar for Morality includes: Act VIII: Nether Land, a satellite exhibition curated by Monika Szewczyk and Nicolaus Schafhausen at the Dutch Culture Centre in Shanghai as part of the World Expo 2010 (19 June – 11 July 2010); Act IX: Let Us Compare Mythologies, a performance program curated by Renske Janssen and Dorothea Jendricke to be held at Witte de With and other venues in Rotterdam (18 – 20 June); Act X, a symposium with masterclasses (24 – 26 September) and Final Act, a book.
As with the preceding in-house exhibitions Act I: Beautiful From Every Point of View, Act II: From Love to Legal, and Act IV: Power Alone, the two upcoming exhibitions are structured as tentative hypotheses, casting an unusual light on important themes in contemporary political thought and realities. Act VI: Remember Humanity proposes that “humanity” has become obsolete as an ontological category, while Act VII: Of Facts and Fables sets out to look at the fictions through which moral discourses separate the natural from the human world.
Act VI: Remember Humanity
Many of the themes that have dominated contemporary political thought point to the ominous view that “humanity” has become an historical subject, no longer essential to contemporary economic and political considerations. For instance, the notion of “bare life” taken up by Giorgio Agamben, suggests a bankruptcy of the human rights charter in terms of humanity’s capacity to hold to its principles of freedom and equality. The notion of “immaterial labor,” most famously developed by Maurizio Lazzarato, indicates a further alienation of the world from its material fabric and concrete foundations. The imperative suggested in the title of this exhibition, to “remember humanity,” is therefore an allusion to a present condition in which humanity has become an historical subject rather than part of our objective reality.
The exhibition Remember Humanity starts from this hypothesis and includes the work of artists who approach “our” present as a field of fragmented existences and isolated interests. Together, these works provide a partial sense of how the construction of the world and the construction of the idea of humanity are mutually conditioned. The works here included do not set out to affirm “humanity” in a nostalgic way, or attempt to “retrieve” it from the record of lost ideas. More central to the logic of these works is an examination of how the notion of human is constructed – in opposition to the animal, to madness, to the idea of the primitive, in contraposition to War, and also in the affirmation of “labor” and “consciousness.”
Artists: Ziad Antar, Julieta Aranda, Mirosław Bałka, Milena Bonilla, Lee Bul, Luke Fowler, Minouk Lim, Goshka Macuga, Kent Monkman, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Julika Rudelius, Michael Stevenson, Rosemarie Trockel.
Act VII: Of Facts and Fables
There is a traditional distinction between the earth as the space of nature, and the world as the space of humanity. Fictions and abstractions belong to the world, as do thought and action. The fable, however, invariably returns to nature in search of motifs that are excluded from the principles and imperatives of morality: animals, plants, inanimate objects. Children are the fable’s ideal audience, and are also exempt from the sphere of morality and moral imperatives, even if only temporarily – that is, for as long as they are children or remain “child-like.” In this sense, that which is excepted from morality is susceptible to becoming an example – a negative example – of the seemingly chaotic and “anarchic” state of nature. Animal behavior, for instance, is often mobilized by moralistic discourses in order to prove that the true nature of humanity is one of uninhibited impulses that morality is designed to set right.
Of Facts and Fables brings together a selection of works that mobilize this realm of exception, presenting a critical image of the world and its fictions, operating in a space of representation that relies on fabulous motifs. History, mysticism, fiction, and scientific discourse come together in this exhibition as both outmoded forms of thought, and as potential for new kinds of speculative critique.
Artists: Saâdane Afif, Danaï Anesiadou, Mirosław Bałka, Keren Cytter, Stan Douglas, Agnès Geoffray, Erik van Lieshout, Marko Lulić, Philippe Parreno, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Luc Tuymans, Ola Vasiljeva, Danh Vo, Tris Vonna-Michell.
Curated by Juan A. Gaitán and Nicolaus Schafhausen; assisted by Amira Gad.
This exhibition is generously supported by the Mondriaan Foundation and SNS REAAL Fonds.
With thanks to the Fonds BKVB; Creative New Zealand; Cyprus Ministry of Culture; Maison Descartes and CulturesFrance.
Witte de With is funded by the City of Rotterdam and the Dutch Ministry of Culture.
Detailed program and further information available on www.wdw.nl. For press requests, please send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on + 31 (0) 10 411 01 44.