FUTURE AND BEHIND
International Art Exhibition
Detlef E. Aderhold • Tete de Alencar • Duygu Nazlı Akova • Edgar Askelovic
Eskild Beck • Christin Bolewski • Rachel Boyle • Claire Burke
Tiffany Joy Butler • Oleg Chorny • Winnie KS Hui • Benna Gaean Maris
Marie-France Giraudon & Emmanuel Avenel • Claudia-M. Grimaldi
Leo Jahaan • Sao Fan Leong • Mary M. • Jorge Mansilla • Massimo Jose Monaco
Abramo ‘Tepes’ Montini • Adrienne Outlaw • B. Quinn • RoC
Dénes Ruzsa & Fruzsina Spitzer • Elle Smith • Anne Cecile Surga • David Theobald
• Nara Walker • Jeffu Warmouth • Charles Woodman • Jody Zellen
FUTURE AND BEHIND – (un)contemporary art exhibition
5 – 25 August 2015 CON-TEMPORARY 5
Sestiere Santa Croce 1592 – Venezia
The 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia has been entitled “All the World’s Futures”, a title that perhaps would be more appropriate with an ending question mark. We live in present times characterised by agitations at a planetary level, by the fragmentation of thought, by the crumbling of ideals, where the disinterest in searching justice and respect is raging, where the past is repudiated, erased, or adjusted according to one’s own interests.
In their introductory speeches, Paolo Baratta and Okwui Enwezor, respectively President and Curator of the Biennale, clearly proved to be conscious of the no more negligible extent of social uproars, to the extent that you can feel they disguised some hesitation proposing a title so obstinately positivist and evoking hopeful prospects.
Carefully examining the reality of facts, the worrisome worldwide socio-economic lack of balance is caused by radical injustices exacerbated beyond any tolerance, and searching at any cost a way out in the prospects of future rather seems rhetoric for the last Titanic’s lifeboat.
FUTURE AND BEHIND is an exhibition aimed to answer with critical sense to the prospects hinted by the title of this Biennale. Through the artworks of the invited artists, impartially selected for the motivations on the argument, it explicates a thematic itinerary deliberately biased: starting from the concept held in the phrase “aka-ta qhipa uru”, that in the language of Aymara people means “from now to behind”, this exhibition wants to suggest that if we want to see what are the good things in our hands, from which to restart, we must inevitably look at the past.
The mentality of Aymara people is characterised by a one-of-a-kind and antithetical conception of time: unlike the contemporary man, who imagines himself transiting in the present with the future in front and the past behind, Aymaras see themselves with the past in front and the future behind.
The past is the future
The idea of FUTURE AND BEHIND was born to investigate on how human mind perceives the relationship between future and past, and how time conjecturally interfere with the actions in the present. The initiative can be considered as a due continuation of the question started with the “ecointegralist” exhibition OIKOS dedicated to the relationship between man and environment, while the title was chosen in contrast to the one of the 56th Art Biennial of Venice.
The idea was conceived as soon as the title “All the World’s Futures” for the 56th edition of the Biennale was announced, wanting to be in juxtaposition against the prospects it evoked.
In the global context we witness wide humanitarian issues, masses of people forced to migrate, harsh social injustice, prevarications, wars. We wonder: but, of which futures are we talking about? We are in the middle of a planetary disaster, into ethical decline, pollution, financial speculation and worsening of conflicts, a world at the mercy of the lowest couldn’t-care-less attitude, of mors tua vita mea, of thoughtlessness caused by cynicism and greed.
How can you look to the future, if the world where you are going to walk is already crumbling under the feet? Shall we have to climb over the corpses of the fallen ones to look beyond?
Perhaps we should instead roll up our sleeves, cure what is corrupted and strengthen what remains.
Later, during the presentation of the 56th edition, and surprisingly in contrast with the title of the Biennale, the President Paolo Baratta has proved to have a remarkable care for the memory and the past, that was expressed with the metaphor that the history is inexorably growing like a mountain, in addition to the awareness of the social turmoil by calling this epoch “Age of Anxiety.”
Therefore, FUTURE AND BEHIND is rather in harmony with these words he said, to the extent that it could be considered an external contribution composed of thirty-one voices that, for the sake of plurality, are answering to his “Parliament of Forms”, this is to say joining the voices of the one hundred thirty-six artists summoned by the Curator Okwui Enwezor, who has surely been chosen for his personal awareness about these social issues.
In the presentation of the Biennale held by Enwezor, the reference to the interpretation of Angelus Novus by Paul Klee in the theses of history of philosophy by Walter Benjamin¹ is an astounding coincidence: it may seem implausible, but the similarity to the metaphor of Aymara’s philosophy is sincerely fortuitous.
The evocation of the issues and the horrors in contemporary society done by the President of the Biennale during the presentation, albeit commendable, is limited to the mere awareness. You can comprehend that for a reality as complex as the Biennale, that has to to uphold both its own existence and the involved partners, to be exposed politically against the state of facts and interests, which go far beyond the ones of artistic cosmetics, may be difficult. You can go further than the simple tourist circumnavigation of the events, deepening the reasons, searching for the causes and possibly revealing the responsibilities.
But it is exactly the metaphor of the Angelus Novus interpretation by Benjamin that makes you perplexed indeed: why not dig your heels and oppose to that storm? Why not fight back? It can not be divine that metaphorical wind which pushes toward the future and pulls away from the past. Surely, time seems to us like a wind that is flowing always and just forward, but man has learnt to sail also against the wind, pointing where he wants, even turning back to the point from where he started, and from this point of view Art is something divine, surely.
Again in spite of the title of the Biennale, many works chosen by Enwezor look to the past, and have a humanist vocation, or humanitarian; that could not be otherwise, considering the origins of the Curator who surely knows the wounds endured by African continent, the wars, where nevertheless many populations have preserved an attachment to the nature and the rurality maintaining a high level of civilisation and respect, similarly to the peasant civilisation in the Western world. This Biennale looks like the inevitable continuation of the discussion opened by the work that we may consider the most touching, amazing and powerful of the last edition: “The Enclave” by Richard Mosse for the Irish pavilion, where the military insanity, with the lure of modernity, insinuates into the ancestral idyll of an agrestic Africa until its dramatic devastation.
The denial of the past or its demolition is a destructive behaviour, it is not by chance that Futurists were incline to war: their works today seem even antiquated, and this let us understand that everything is inevitably tied to the fleeting contemporary and it is a consequence of the past, a reaction to what happened, becoming immediately and inexorably part of the past. To believe in future is a state of agitation that, when taken to the extreme, leads to the destruction of everything in the name of nothing, because the future is just a conjecture.
But this is not pastism, not an inclination for nostalgia: to consider the past means to have the knowledge of what exists, that is the cosmos, to avoid groping around.
The future is by now a stereotype, a blind faith behind which people obstinately barricade since too much, lingering on anaesthetising slogans with no flavours done as a pretext, which look like the affected clichés flaunted in some vernissages by inconclusive protagonists in the brothel of smugness.
What is lacking in this epoch is an impulse, a logical and embraceable motivation. That impulse can not be anymore the obstinacy for the development, since we suffer exactly for an excessive growth: the production and consumerism bulimia has succeeded in plenty of ways to pour out its nefarious consequences even to contexts far away, both in space and time.
Inevitably this fast and hypertrophic development in the name of the future is crumbling for the lack of a steady base, as it happens for the speculative bubbles; you can see that in the effects of the so called economical crisis. A bursting bubble leaves no traces but a diaphanous residue, and magically reveals the only certain thing it concealed: the past, formed at slow pace, by sedimentation.
The same need from which artistic expression originates, that is materialised in the works of art, has the purpose to immortalise the prior events, to leave contemporary traces of the experience, so that they may be observed in the future, as in the attempt to mark the path that has been covered by mankind.
The works of art are at our disposal in moments of crisis, when we will find ourselves in a blind alley or the ground will be crumbling under the feet.
Let us ponder, look back to find again the way we have travelled, evaluating if it was the right one, let us understand what is the past we are from.
Even the text you have just read is a message from the past.
¹ “A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. … His face is turned toward the past. … The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, …” – Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History