Splendid Isolation (Umeå, 2017-10-05)
2017 (part of ongoing project)
Rakel Bergman Fröberg
and when we come home we want you to be around
Last episode from my collection of texts "Undertones... subtitled". More coming soon...
One Kid Total Equilibrium Tank (2009)
Glass, cast skeleton of a 5-yr old child, floaters, water (detail)
awareness bulletin #1
The sky can be seen from above up here.
Miss Vicc Repasi
I am so very extravagant when I am alone,
I work exclusively with lines.
Klara Bergman Fröberg
Att andas som ett undervattensdjur.
film, 0:36 sekunder
bringer of light
THE POWER OF EXHAUSTION
Sally von Rosen
WoV (watcher and violator)
Photo, digital collage
Configurations (hero pose)
C-print, 20x30 cm, 2014
Ingvild Melberg Eikeland
What could be less splendid than Trump's border barrier, the perspective of Brexit, or North Korean isolationism? At the age of globalization, planetarity, Anthropocene, acceleration or hyper-connectivity everything — from humans and other species to fluids and images to commodities and immaterial data — is subject to constant flux. However hypocritical, some of them — for instance, emigrants from the “first world” former colonies, copyrighted texts, drugs, or “infectious” microorganisms — are deprived of this opportunity. As they say in the classics, the globalized productive forces, now outsourced and decentralized, one time and again come into conflict with the existing relations of production still premised on geographically defined hierarchies. The freedom of movement, promised by the advent of neoliberal global economy, is betrayed by the new fundamentalism of embeddedness and immobility. Isolated in sterile vip-zones, know-hows, political powers, supremacies and privileges are guarded more jealously.
I am writing this, sitting alone at my family's post-socialist dacha, with a few neighbors surviving late September cold. The cutting-off of water pipes will seclude tomorrow this place into an island. Disconnected from social communication and exacerbating my loneliness, I wonder whether “becoming-an-island” (and Latin word insulatus implies this geographical condition) could be a tactic to resist this double bind of double standards. Both human and natural history teaches us that isolation, at least relative or reasonable one, does not lead to genetic disorders, economic stagnation, political suicide or artistic provincialism. So I am wondering whether the conscious withdrawal from circuits of exchange, supply, transportation or circulation — when one, of course, has something to withdraw from — could be a splendid idea?
In the chapter “Circumstances Favourable to Natural Selection” Charles Darwin insists that isolation could be a beneficiary factor. As a result of uniform organic and inorganic conditions as well as prevention of intercrossing, an oceanic island “will be left open to be filled up by the modification of the old inhabitants”, while “isolation will give time for a new variety to be improved at a slow rate.” In the end such a retreat leads to a large proportion of endemics that have been produced there and nowhere else in the world. This Darwinian “value” is tacitly accepted by art historians who turn their noses up at any biological analogies and explicitly embrace cultural exchange and hybridization.
They teach us: it is precisely the isolation of Japan that gave birth to its idiosyncratic genre of woodblock prints — Ukiyo-e, while the Meiji Restoration of 1868 that opened up Japanese borders signified the degradation of this art and unsuccessful adaptation to realist standards. In a similar fashion, L’exception culturelle française protected French culture from devastating effects of Marshall plan and it's art entire dilution in greenbergian formalism. Isolationism was also regarded a “Soviet symptom” that led particular to emergence of such “exceptionalisms” as Moscow conceptualism, sots-art and apt-art. Despite hostility expressed by its participants towards the USSR internal and foreign affairs, it is precisely the experience of “real existing communism” that make those artists original and valuable for contemporary art. Isolation does not imply desolation. But can integration transform into disintegration?
The integration promised by neoliberalism has failed, but was compensated with contemporary art that presented itself as rule-breaking and transgressive, i.e. trespassing the borders. The unrestricted freedom of expression became ideology justifying rampant privatization, austerity and deregulation of local markets. As a result, under universal exchange relations artworks are becoming more and more homogenized, since they are commensurable through the very exchange that they facilitate. Looking today through a bookshelf dedicated to art theory, one could encounter such titles as “farewell to art world” or even “necessity of art's exit from contemporary art”. Whatever that means for their authors, the very formulations diagnose exhaustion of the current state of affairs and desire for a withdrawal.
But what would “contemporexit” look like? Could an artistic autarky or even juche (“self-reliance” in Korean) become something else rather than a belated revanchist resistance to overarching transparency and interconnectedness? Besides its dangerous proximity with well-known conservative ideas, could it produce the endemic and autochthonic amidst the standardized and normalized? Would isolation from residency tourism, curatorial cruising, institutional promiscuity, artistic intercrossing and theoretical contamination result in the “modification of the old inhabitants”?
In the end, if one could not be outside in relation to the contemporary, exodus and autonomia — a strategy used in anti-capitalist movements — would be nothing but further dialectisation — or even radicalisation — of “conjunctive-disjunctive unity” intrinsic to the notion of “contemporary”?