“Unfortunately, to get to the future one has to live through the present.” (Hanif Kureishi)
Ausgeträumt… addresses a principle atmosphere of the present, one of disillusionment, almost resignation, through which the social and political realities in broad sections of Europe, outside the realm of geopolitical demarcations, are perceived. It is a very general atmosphere that is variously motivated, depending on different ways of living, but which many nevertheless find inevitable.
The collapse of real-socialist systems led to the triumphant formulation of a seemingly natural connection between democracy and capitalism. To this extent, the end of the confrontation of systems between east and west triggered an abundance of projects. The propagated economic prosperity due to global capitalism, the suggestive power of the media, the promises of new communication technologies, all of this led many to believe, for a brief period, in the dream of a somehow better future. It seemed that comprehensive democratization, in which all citizens could directly participate at last, was close at hand. Political reality, however, soon revealed the hopes tied to this dream to be an illusion. From the European perspective, war in the countries of former Yugoslavia and increasingly globally operating economics, which specifically do not take the individual into account, soon made it clear that supposed progress has its price. And it is a price that is not paid by the western industrialized nations.
A basis for the current skepticism, as well as for structural standstill, may be identified in that most explanatory models still take recourse to democracy as a given perfect model, insisting on processuality borne by western rationality on the way to a better world. Yet a consideration of local and global political everyday life provides enough reasons to doubt the development capability of social-political agency defined in this sense. A questioning of the hegemony of western democracies was one of the results of the fact that, instead of meeting idealistic expectations and humanist ideals, in other words instead of a comprehensive democratization, in which every subject is addressed as citizen, every imaginable form of nationalism and fundamentalism arose in response to global capitalism and neoliberalism. Rather than migration movements leading to an expansion of democratic ideas, racism and xenophobia have increasingly become public topics in Europe again.
The film theorist Georg Seeßlen has described three phases of development for the western societies of the 20th / 21st century. He says that these have developed from a principle of capitalism and democracy through a state of democracy in capitalism to the present understanding of democracy as capitalism. The market determines social agency, competitiveness is the fundamental structure of communication. Symbolic and actual participation in power has degenerated into a pseudo-cultural production, in which politicians appear as pop stars and, to put it polemically, pop stars as politicians. Political ideas and convictions are no longer negotiated, but rather marketed. Politics serves more and more exclusively to generate images and legitimizes itself through these images. Politics as knowledge, as idea and decision seems to grow increasingly insignificant, while politics as an emotionally charged and thus hollow symbolic event in media presence becomes more and more important.
In this context, discussions of theses such as Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History” appear to be a symptom of uncertainty. There seems to be no alternative. Nothing is essentially changing in the basic structure of western society. And the rest of the world has hardly any other option than to adapt to this western basic structure.
In recent years, there has been a vehement discussion of formulating new fields of action, particularly also in the field of art. Yet it is not so much a matter of formulating new utopias, but rather of rethinking one’s own position, our dependency on the contexts in which we move, developing models for how the discourse could be redefined and reconquered in the sense of pragmatic interests. Another question is how the symbolic level could be repossessed and how the uncanny alliance between the symbolic and the emotional in the field of politics could be dismantled, in order to resist the hollowing out of the political field. Against the background of the historical, programmatic context of the Secession, which made a conscious break with the past in its foundation and set itself the goal of formulating visions for the future at the same time, the exhibition Ausgeträumt will deal with these questions.
The exhibition will not be able to give art its freedom, nor pave the way out of the current political and cultural situation. Instead, it will bring together international positions of twenty artists, who are able to maintain a potential for confrontation and a search for alternatives in light of the dilemma, question ideological and economic mechanisms, discuss utopia as an integral component of art, and topicalize the development of other categories of imaging.