“Political Populism” at Kunsthalle Wien
“Political Populism” is the extremely populist title for an exhibition which aims to critically question this phenomenon through artistic means. The exhibition was not designed to present a picture of the cultural and historical development of populist tendencies but instead gathers over twenty international artists’ works and showcases them according to diverse topics. In this way, the exhibition reveals a variety of artistic reactions to different strands of populist argumentation, illustrating how, since the turn of the millennium, the use of pop culture, artistic methods and aesthetics has substantially increased in comparison to earlier years.
The works can be viewed as a commentary on the subject, a subversive second level, an analysis, or a footnote. Above all, they reveal how omnipresent political populism has become.
Social media, advertising aesthetics and media production put forward political contents and slogans with a progressive appearance often by the means of artistic, art historical references. Rapping politicians, YouTube clips aimed specifically at young people, TV formats or pop concerts, present political issues and make prejudice socially acceptable–and belong as much to modern media life.
The exhibition “Political Populism” challenges us to comprehend the tensions inherent in a simplified populist worldview and to consider artistic articulations of this phenomenon. Many of the works show the complexity of issues involved and slow down developments which are handled as populist in the public debate. The exhibition questions our relation to populism, and proposes counterarguments to the populist usurpation of important social issues.
Edward Snowden and Wikileaks have demonstrated how pervasive the surveillance of citizens has become in the digital age. Following his contribution to the current Venice Biennale, a work which drew considerable attention, Simon Denny’s new work Secret Power Highlighted also deals with documents from the NSA. By referencing leaked secret documents that disclose international surveillance strategies with images and symbols of the power of the state, Denny calls attention to the politics of images and to the changed relation of public and private life. In his works, photographer, journalist, and activist Trevor Paglen also addresses the issue of surveillance by revealing its technical structures, making things visible that are supposed to be invisible – secret prisons, drones, monitoring stations. He persistently looks for traces of even the most secret of things, thereby twisting the logic of the surveillance system.
We are all faced with the question of migration and asylum–on a global level. Right- wing slogans fuel insecurity and increase fear which are at once turned into political capital. As a seismograph of societal development, artists are addressing the issue.
In his installation Dog (2015), Erik Van Lieshout demonstrates the consequences the European refugee policy had in the case of Russian rocket scientist and opposition politician Aleksandr Dolmatov. Having sought asylum in the Netherlands, Dolmatov committed suicide in a reception camp in 2013 after his asylum appeal was dismissed. It later transpired that the dismissal was due to a computer error. Artist Flaka Haliti from Kosovo addresses issues of flight and migration and the meaning of borders for mobility and freedom. Bags filled with blue sand stand for uprooting and the loss of possession, both consequences of flight. The blue sand can be seen as a metaphor for the horizon where hope and limitation collide. Ahmet Ö?üt deals with eviction through gentrification. For the exhibition, the artist will produce two new installations entitled Nail Houses. The term “nail house” originates from the Chinese neologism and describes buildings whose residents refuse to leave in order to make way for construction or modernization. The buildings are the symbol and result of the individual’s resistance against powerful elites. In addition to images and icons populist argumentation makes use of slogans and simplified rhetorical language. In his performances, Christian Falsnaes tests collective obedience by giving instructions to his audience which surprisingly readily obeys. Falsnaes’ performances are social experiments that demonstrate how easily an initially hesitant audience can, through the artist’s instructions and through group dynamics,
be moved to euphoric exuberance. In his work, Lawrence Abu Hamdan also examines linguistic dimensions of political leadership. He is especially interested in which manner the voice represents truth and what significance a lie holds in today’s society. His installation Contra Diction (Speech Against Itself) (2015) deals with the Taqiyya, a form of religious lie in Shia Islam, whereby an individual can deny his faith in the case of danger.
Curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen. Curatorial Assistants: Juliane Bischoff, Eleanor Taylor.
Participating artists: Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Saâdane Afif, Darren Bader, Keren Cytter, Simon Denny, Christian Falsnaes, Evgeny Granilshchikov, Flaka Haliti, Rosemary Heather, Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, Anna Jermolaewa, Johanna Kandl, Erik van Lieshout, Minouk Lim, Goshka Macuga, Jumana Manna, Mián Mián, Marcel Odenbach, Ahmet Ö?üt, Trevor Paglen, Hito Steyerl, Jun Yang.
at Kunsthalle Wien
until 7 February 2016
Above: Simon Denny, Secret Power Highlighted, 2015
Jun Yang, Goldenes Zimmer, 2015, Eat Drink Art Business, 2015; Paris Syndrome (Indoor Plants), 2007–ongoing; Wiener Paravent, 2015; Wiener Sitzgruppe, 2015
Goshka Macuga, Model for a Sculpture (Family), 2011; Of what is, that it is; Of what is not, that it is not 1, 2012. Jun Yang, Goldenes Zimmer, 2015; Eat Drink Art Business, 2015; Paris Syndrome (Indoor Plants), 2007–ongoing; Wiener Sitzgruppe, 2015; Becoming European or How I grew up with Wiener Schnitzel, 2015
Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, The Incidental Insurgents, Part 3: When the fall of the dictionary leaves all words lying in the street, 2015
Marcel Odenbach, Stadt der Helden, 2015; Ich bin ein Berliner, 2013; Deutsches Symbol (Reichskriegsflagge), 1994; Deutsches Symbol (VW), 1994
Goshka Macuga, Model for a Sculpture (Family), 2011
Ahmet Ö?üt, Pleasure Places of All Kinds; Yichang, 2015
Johanna Kandl, O. T. (Who’s got the big Picture?), 2006; O. T. (it’s the economy, stupid!), 2002; O. T. (modernize or die), 200; O.T. (success in global …), 2002; O.T. (this ambitious …), 2001
“Political Populism” installation views at Kunsthalle Wien, 2016.
Courtesy: the artists and Kunsthalle Wien. Photo: David Avazzadeh, Stephan Wyckoff