We understand “Utopia” as an always incomplete alternative, the invocation within the given world of something incompatible with, and hostile to, given conditions. It is a negation of the given and a recognition of “something missing,” but also a necessarily imperfect assertion of that which is not—yet.
The work follows utopian projections that serve the purposes of secession from and resistance to our particular present. The “negative” or “critical” version of the utopian “impulse” is not just a matter of satire, or listing what’s wrong with the world as though listing it could change it. Utopia, rather, is the assertion of the unrealized in and against the real.
The first public appearance of Utopian Pulse – Flares in the Darkroom was Salon Klimbim, orchestrated by the artist-curator Fahim Amir and Ines Doujak on January 23, 2014 in correspondence with Oliver Ressler. Between February and September 2014 a series of 7 large-scale banners (3,4 x 9 meters) has been presented on the façade of the Secession. Urgent Alternatives: Utopian Moments related to the uprisings and social movements that have emerged in recent years. The artists were invited to focus on the utopian pulse in these actions and movements. All the artists have in common that they are directly involved in the protests they focus on in their banner, or talk from a clear, unequivocal position of solidarity with them. Banners have been commissioned by Katarzyna Winiecka (February 2014), Halil Altindere (March 2014), Wealth of Negations (April 2014), Nobodycorp. Internationale Unlimited (May 2014), Etcétera (June 2014), Oreet Ashery (July 2014) and Daniela Ortiz (August 2014).
Utopian Pulse – Flares in the Darkroom as an exhibition at the Secession is divided into seven salons. It seems urgent precisely when the potential imperfectly expressed in the salon is seen as neither a proto-public sphere—that is, one stage in an orderly evolution towards universal convivial conversation—nor pure “courtly” proprietorship, but rather as a partial breach of the prevailing order of class and gender, a disruption that cannot become the public norm because it prefigures total upheaval of what constitutes the “public” and is instead a place for the monstrous birth of new alliances.
Utopian Pulse – Flares in the Darkroom brings together international cultural producers who have substantial artistic and curatorial practices. Over two months, they will show and discuss works of other artists in the gallery of the Secession every week. The contributions of the individual artist-curators will not be shown sequentially, but will productively interact with one another. The salons will open in weekly intervals. The outcomes—whatever their form—will constitute a collective challenge to the constituent roles of social actors within the field of art in more complex ways than simply as “artists,” “curators,” and “viewers”, in order to imagine new forms of exchange.
The sequence of exhibitions at the Secession consists of Salon Public Happiness (curated by Christoph Schäfer), Salon-E-Girdbad [Salon of the Whirlwind] (curated by Mariam Ghani), Salon Orizzonti Occupati [Occupied Horizons] (curated by Bert Theis), Salon Fluchthilfe [Salon Escape Aid] (curated by Zanny Begg), Salon DADADA (AND AND AND with Ben Morea and friends), Cuartos de Utopía [Rooms of Utopia] (curated by Pedro G. Romero/Máquina P.H.) and Salón de Belleza [Beauty Salon] (curated by Miguel A. López).
While the exhibitions are on view, large banners created by the artist-curators will be displayed on the Secession’s façade, also in weekly alternation.
Utopia is secession without instructions.
Exhibition architecture: Claudia Cavallar
Invited by the board of the Secession
Funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) AR 183-G21
The project will be continued in a new configuration at Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart in 2015.
Salon Public Happiness
Curated by Christoph Schäfer
September 11 – 16, 2014
Recent spatialized struggles have managed to create resistance on the slippery postfordist ground. Salon Public Happiness invites people who think of happiness as something collective, something public: people who are active with artistic means in urban struggles in Istanbul and Hamburg. Videoccupy is part of the multi-facetted Gezi-Taksim-movement. The groups from Hamburg support the inhabitants of the ESSO-Häuser and struggle for a social urban transformation. In the context of the Occupy and Right to the City struggles, they develop new ways of recording, distributing and working with private experience, with the imagination that jumps forth from everyday life. The invited artists do not intervene from outside, they would much rather act, think, reflect, document, dance, design, plan, produce within movements. They develop imagination and languages from the everyday life of cities, with and for the people who live in cities. The Salon’s title brings back a phrase used by the American revolutionaries of the 18th century, whose views were shaped in political assemblies, discussions and collective operations. According to Hannah Arendt, the phrase “Pursuit of Happiness” in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence originally referred not to an individual right but to the “public happiness” that the fathers of the constitution experienced in the revolution.
With: Irene Bude and Olaf Sobczak, Frank Egel with inhabitants of ESSO-Häuser, Sylvia Kretzschmar (Megafonchor), PlanBude, Christoph Schäfer, Videoccupy, Ted Gaier, Katharina Duve, Timo Schierhorn (Die Goldenen Zitronen)
Salon-E-Girdbad [Salon of the Whirlwind]
Curated by Mariam Ghani
September 17 – 23, 2014
In the Salon of the Whirlwind, inspired by Kandahar’s mid-20th century Salon-e-Girdbad, we will use three unfinished Afghan feature films from different moments of the Communist period (early, middle and late) as the focal points for an exploration of how the Afghan Communist project disintegrated. We will trace this history through the desires and fears reflected in the films, and also through a series of supplementary materials and discussions, including newsreels, interviews, and a visual timeline of the entire period, constructed from archival photographs and propaganda posters. Finally, we will consider what it might mean to finish the unfinished projects, both artistic and political: these unfinished films, whose directors are still alive but have no access to their negatives, and also the unfinished political projects encoded in the films, the contrary projects of revolution and reconciliation. And we will ask: is it possible for utopian ideals to survive the whirlwind?
Excerpts from Farar (Escape) (Eng. Latif Ahmadi, 1985), Those Who Fire (1989), and The House of History (Qader Tahiri, 1996); archival films from Afghan Films, including newsreels and raw footage 1978-79 (the Red Tapes collection), with kind permission by Afghan Films
Interviews with Khwaja Ahmad Shah Siddiqi, Juwansher Haidary and Faqir Nabi (conducted by Nabila Horakhsh, Mariam Ghani, and Zainab Haidary, translated by Rajni Prakash at Pad.ma); archival images from Afghan Films, the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (Nancy Hatch Dupree, Louis Dupree, and Jean Stewart collections), and an anonymous propaganda collection
Film posters by Mariam Ghani, Edith Poirier & Daniele Rossi
Salon Orizzonti Occupati [Salon Occupied Horizons]
Curated by Bert Theis
September 24 – 30, 2014
We were looking for Utopia from the very start, we never met her but she was always close by:
when we occupied the former La Stecca factory and turned it and the two parks of the Isola district in Milan into a centre for art and neighbourhood activities,
when Christoph painted his Strategic Beautification mural onto the Isola newspaper stand,
when we threw seed bombs with Oliver into the longed-for but still closed Isola Pepe Verde area,
when we occupied the Galfa skyscraper and attached to it the banner “we could also consider flying”,
when we tried to win back our horizon with Nikolas Sun-Cloud.
And then, when we thought we were reliving Paul Signac’s In the Time of Anarchy in the summer in San Mauro Cilento, Utopia was flying past laughing over our heads on an Ape scooter.
Now we continue the search every day at the Secession, producing and presenting texts, banners, photos, videos, models, murals, screenprints, songs, discussions…
With: Bert Theis with Isola Art Center collective and friends: Aufo, Bad Museum, Zanny Begg, Tania Bruguera, Comune San Mauro Cilento, Creative Olive team, Fornace Falcone, Mariam Ghani, Grupo Etcetera, Heinz-Norbert Jocks, Isabell Lorey, Philippe Nathan / 2001, Nikolay Oleynikov, Maria Papadimitriou, Dan Perjovschi, Gerald Raunig, Oliver Ressler & Dario Azzelini, Christoph Schäfer, Superstudio, Nikola Uzunowski and others
Salon Fluchthilfe [Salon Escape Aid]
Curated by Zanny Begg
October 01 – 07, 2014
Utopia is often imagined as an elusive yet desirable place – here it is imagined not so much as a place but as a way of relating defined by a radical openness to the other. The German word “Fluchthilfe” has no easy English translation – it is a positive term used to describe those who help others cross borders to avoid persecution (whereas English has only derogatory translations, such as people smugglers or human traffickers). “Fluchthilfe” eludes a neat connection to any specific identity by encompassing both refugees and their supporters who form an underground web of knowledge and support that allows bodies to move. Salon Fluchthilfe [Salon Escape Aid] will explore the potencia of relationships based on hospitality, solidarity and reciprocity, where all are changed and enriched by their engagement with, and dependence on, others.
With: Barat Ali Batoor, The Silent University, Katarzyna Winiecka, Mindj Panther, Undrawing the Line, Pilar Mata Dupont, Escape from Woomera, Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson and Mariam Ghani
AND AND AND with Ben Morea and friends
October 08 – 14, 2014
AND AND AND is a conjunction of artists and collectives spanning several continents. Beginning in 2010, a series of occurrences, inquiries and actions were organized in Detroit, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Tbilisi, Tunis, Beirut, Amman, Yerevan, New York, London, Marcahuasi, Carbondale, Rotterdam, Houston, Iowa City, San Cesario di Lecce, and Kassel. In the summer of 2012, in the context of dOCUMENTA (13), this conjunction resulted in 100 days and nights of gatherings, in-activities and un-workshops.
The encounters included: a convergence against the weapons industry in Kassel and beyond; attempts to rethink the relation between capitalism and the body; a gathering of farmers-innovators in the field of composting; thinking about decoloniality; science fiction and autonomy; the non-capitalist internet; unearthing the anti-university; communist fiction; the politics of small groups; learning practices like seed-saving, worm composting and documentary sewing.
AND AND AND has been a collective research into modes of thinking and doing that are intrinsically related to a culture of a common(s), that disavow a capitalist way of life (patriarchal, racist, class-based) and revoke the forms of doing and work which the societies assuming these ways have produced, imposed, and today police.
In Vienna, some of the contributors to AND AND AND will convene to activate one of the hoped-for un-workshops which never manifested that summer in Kassel. It will explore an animist perspective in the context of common(s), non-capitalist life, and revocational practices.
It is convened with Ben Morea, one of the protagonists of Black Mask and Up Against the Wall Motherfucker. Ben and ‘the Family,’ in which he played a critical role, were among the key proponents of anarchist thought, action and art as embodied in the 60’s counter culture and political radicalism.
Cuartos de Utopía * [Rooms of Utopia]
Curated by Pedro G. Romero and Máquina P.H.
October 15 – 21, 2014
Flamenco people are a remainder rather than a multitude, and have hardly aspired to emancipation or any political project. And yet, there they are: on the one hand, they inspire many forms of life that are today considered utopian – nomadism, community, the right to idleness – and on the other hand, they contribute poiesis to the new forms of political imagination – playfulness, camouflage, resistant forms of life.
With the help of Ketani in Linz, we will present an archaeological inquiry into the so-called Gypsy Urbanism that inspired Otto Neurath in the urban transformations of Red Vienna in the 1920s. We will introduce a case study of the present political situation in Spain: the role of the flamenco imagination in the fight of the Corrala de Vecinas La Utopía [Utopia Women Residents Corrala], involving activist artists like flo6x8 and Los Flamencos. (Corrala is the Spanish term for a specific type of block of flats, built around a big interior courtyard from which hallways and staircases give access to the different flats.)
Alongside this, in the form of an open archive, the exhibition project outline Living Machines. Flamenco and Architecture in the Squatting and Evacuation of Spaces, curated by María García Ruis and Antonio Marín Márquez, will be presented at the Wittgenstein House, the current cultural headquarters of the Bulgarian Embassy in Vienna.
With: María García Ruiz, Antonio Marín Márquez, Marco de Ana, Javiera de la Fuente, and Stefan Voglsinger
Introducing: Tomás de Perrate & Amador Gabarri, Ocaña, Charo Martín, Israel Galván, Rocío Márquez, La Esmeralda de Triana, Pie Flamenca, LaFundició, 4Taxis, Los Flamencos, flo6x8, Ketani, Schwarzberg (former: Ostklub), Zikkurat
*The cuarto, back room, at the edge of the main room, outside of the most public space of a house or a café, is the place where flamenco keeps its alleged secrets. Cuarto, in Spanish, is also a measure of capacity, a quarter: we could understand it as a decrease, a reduction of utopia. Cuartear – to cut into pieces –, to cut up utopia, to fragment it, selling it in pieces, if we were to put it in the cocaine dealer’s jargon.
Salón de Belleza [Beauty Salon]
Curated by Miguel A. López
October 22 – November 02, 2014
Salón de Belleza presents various pieces (photos, videos and performances) that explore techniques of body intervention, cosmetic rituals, and spaces where the body (or certain parts of it) get a “treatment”, associated with colonial history, migration, indigenous memory, affectivity, and queer beauty. This salon explores personal and collective fantasies of the self, questioning dichotomous conceptualization of gender and imagining a diversity of possible identities through the transformation of the personal appearance and/or of the destabilization of the visual memory of the so-called normal body.
Some of these pieces, such as the video The Defeated by Carlos Motta, the installation The Transvestite Museum of Peru by Giuseppe Campuzano and the photo series The Confeti of India by Andres Masseno, retrace the points of origin of history through androgynous-indigenous cultures and representation. Some other pieces such as the performance Beauty Salon by Sergio Zevallos, the performance with the Voz Files archive by Jaume Ferrete, the haircutting experience with a queer and trans friendly attitude by Open Barbers, the installation Studio Butterfly by Virginia de Medeiros and the video The Devolution of the Vucub Caquix Penacho by Sandra Monterroso, observe the overlapping of politics with the makeover of bodies, and how this transformation defines, ensures or modifies the identity of the person.
With: Carlos Motta, Sandra Monterroso, Giuseppe Campuzano, André Masseno, Sergio Zevallos, Virginia de Medeiros, Jaume Ferrete, Open Barbers (Greygory Vass and Felix Lane)