1.-13. October 2020
Opening on Thursday, 1. October, 6 – 8 p.m.
12 – 6 p.m. (every day)
The performance that I am showing at The Cable Factory titled, The Power of Ontologies, on October 13th takes its inspiration from 1984 by George Orwell. I use the book to investigate how the power of ontologies influence our everyday lives. Ontology is a philosophical word for how we understand the world around us through our senses and culture. What makes ontologies interesting and difficult, is that we often remain blind to them. They are so fundamental to our understanding of the world that they do not reveal themselves until you meet another way of life. In my performance, I investigate Orwell’s blindness to his own time so that the audience can find new perspectives on their lives and futures. A large part of my work has been carried out in non-European cultures, which means that the meeting of world views and their inherent powers remain central to my practice. I have therefore chosen five books from Publics that reflect on how new, clashing or different world views can be a way to understand how power influences us in the everyday.
A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari)
No single book challenges the predominant ideas about power structures in the Western world more than “A Thousand Plateaus.” Few books have the same potential to influence our future. In it, Deleuze and Guattari attempt to imagine philosophy without philosophical idealism (the main tradition in Western philosophy since Plato) and through that how minerals, plants, animals and indigenous science affect one another on our planet. The book is a total failure. It is doomed to be so. Still it is one of the most influential books written in the 20th century as well as one of the most widely misunderstood. (Since very few people have the tenacity to really read it.)
The book turns everything we know upside down and shakes our values in their foundations. No stone is left unturned and we gradually understand that the power of the universe (and in our souls) can be found in the most unexpected places and in the most unanticipated processes. My performative interaction with 1984 would have been impossible without this book.
I started reading this book when I was living it in London in 1995. I finished it (if you can ever finish reading this book) in 2019. Some plateaus, I have read countless times while others I finally penetrated in the final read. (There are no chapters in this book. Deleuze and Guattari deemed reading a book in a specific order too top down and limiting. They therefore replaced chapters with plateaus that can be read in any order.) I often return to the book for inspiration and to have my own ideas challenged.
Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art (Sergio Bessa, et al.)
We who grow up in the bosom of European culture, tend to see ourselves as subjects and the things around us as objects. We can see this in children when they draw: This is me; this is my house. But when we dig a bit deeper, things start to become less clear cut. The air that we all breathe is shared and the oxygen atoms become integrated into our bodies. In short, the oxygen created outside by the trees becomes a part of me. Just like the trees use the Co2 that I produce, to grow.
It also applies to ideas. Here we see clearly how the subject/object divide is intimately connected to how processes of power operate in contemporary Western thinking. Last week, I read a book that changed somewhat how I see life. Yesterday, I shared some of these ideas with some friends and now the ideas are slowly part of them, and they share it with their friends and so on. When we see life, ourselves and as intertwined processes, the distinction between me, the air, the trees and ideas that circulate are maybe more porous than we like to think. (And this is exactly the power within ourselves that Brazilian artist Lygia Clark wanted to release with her art practice.) We can see how the basic (teleological) reasoning that has been prominent in European culture since classical Greece, misses the potential of feedback; a seed has the potential to become a tree. Once the sapling grows, it also offers opportunity for affecting minerals, microbes, other plants and animals around it. These again affect the small tree in an infinite web of feedback loops.
Nowhere has this been made clearer than in Clark’s work and in this book (beautifully formulated for instance in Christine Macel’s wonderful text.) Clark’s work can help us to understand ourselves and our fellow human beings as ecosystems in a vast network of interconnections, rather as individuals, which I believe is essential for a better future. Clark’s strategy to break down the boundaries between subject and object is fascinating and powerful, because it renders the philosophical idealism, that is Big Brother, The Party and O’Brien’s basis for executing power in 1984 impossible. Once the borders between subject and object are broken down, the boundaries between artwork, artist and audience are also broken down. Clark is, in my eyes, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, opening important potential for the power of artists and audiences through their future interactions. Through that, Clark is able to re-imagine the power mechanisms that surround art production and presentation in fundamental ways.
New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity (Manuel DeLanda)
This book holds a special place in my heart. It re-opened my eyes to philosophy after many years of shying away from the field. The book covers much of the same ground as A Thousand Plateaus, but in a far simpler and more accessible way (therefore also not going as deep). It reveals how Assemblage Theory can make us to think about the world differently, more creatively through a reformulation of what power, affect and agency can be. Assemblage Theory constitutes another strategy to find power to fight the idealism and straight causality that Clark, Deleuze and Guattari so poetically undermined and through that has the potential to change your future life.
Background Noise (Brandon LaBelle)
Since I work more and more with music in my performances, I have had to read up on musical theory. Sadly, it is hard to find good books about (contemporary) music written in an intelligent way. It is one of the things that I hope that our near future will bring us, since we all know how much music influences our lives. LaBelle offers an interesting contribution to the field and this is a nice book in the genre. It retells the history of contemporary music (like we have heard it many times before) but through the raster of sound art. It shows both how dead history can be when we accept it as fact and how creative we can be with it when we dive into it with curiosity and an open mind. Since music works extensively with creating and breaking expectations and work with repetition in creative ways, musicality constitutes another form of knowledge and through that another form of power that is vastly underestimated. It is interesting to see that music’s power rarely enters the arena of philosophy and still virtually no ritual (which represents the power of tradition) is carried out in silence.
I am a Curator (Per Hüttner)
Nothing has taught me more about the power of the social interactions than doing I am a Curator. Few forces than we can meet are more powerful than a crowd who knows that it is right. Overnight everyone in the art world agreed that I am a Curator was bad. Anyone could criticise it without much reflection and certainly without visiting the gallery where it was presented. (Somehow a bit similar to Hate Week in 1984.) What is interesting though, is that everybody hated the project for 5-7 years. During this time, a lot was written about it and mostly in overtly negative terms. But magically around 2010, everyone’s opinion changed. (And everyone at the same time!) Every single text about the project all of sudden expressed a deep love for I am a Curator. There is even an extensive Wikipedia page dedicated to the project which cites many of these texts. The power to attach value to and particularly agree on something’s value influences our lives more than we care to agree. If you would like to reconsider the power of agreeing, I highly recommend Brian Massumi’s, 99 Theses on the Revaluation of Value. It has the potential to greatly change your future. However, it is not in the collection of Publics (yet).