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20 May 2005 until 20 November 2005
L.A. Raevn, Sibling Rivalry, 2003
  Badischer Kunstverein

Badischer Kunstverein
Waldstr. 3
76133 Karlsruhe
Germany (city map)

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tel +49-(0)721 - 28 226

CRITICAL SOCIETIES Art, Criticism and the Promises of Capitalism

II. Boundless Sociability

Opening: Friday, May 20 at 7:00 p.m.

Fikret Atay, Lutz Fezer / Skafte Kuhn / Michael Stumpf, Indra, Runa Islam, Park Chan-Kyong, Stephen Willats, L.A. Raeven, Kai Schiemenz, Eva Keil, Anthony Howard, John Baldessari, Carey Young, Heather and Patrick Burnett-Rose

Today individual and social lifestyles organize themselves into temporary networks. Biographies can and must no longer orient themselves in accordance with hierarchical designs for living, but instead are capable of realizing the future under changing external circumstances as a "project of oneself". Complex, communicative networks require versatile, affiliated subjects who regulate their entrances and departures in a creative, rapid and self-responsible manner. Life a risky project? The support offered by networks is just as partial and temporary as are they themselves. Artistic works reflect the boundless, both public and private radius of activities and projections, the exclusivity of a globalized symbolic language, the status of the individual, his orientations, attachments and affiliations. What quality is offered by the aesthetic framework to the non-integrable and incompatible?


From March 25 to November 20 of this year, the exhibition program of the Badischer Kunstverein takes place under the title "Critical Societies." In a succession of four exhibition chapters, which flow from one to the next with no interruptions for the purpose of being dismantled or mounted, there will be a presentation of works by more than thirty-five international artists, including some artworks which have been specially developed and realized for this exhibition project. The point of departure for all contributions is the issue of whether and in what ways current art production today (still) aesthetically comprehends and reflects tests and trials that are crucial for the future of a "critical" society.

The capitalist society in which we live is fundamentally a "critical society": in principle, all protagonists have at their disposal various possibilities of critical articulation. Criticism is one of the "most effective motors of capitalism" ­ this is the thesis of the sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello in their much-discussed book Der neue Geist des Kapitalismus ("The New Spirit of Capitalism," Constance 2003, Paris 1999). They state that critical involvement identifies and brings up to date the most basic testing situations of a society in furtherance of its ongoing dynamic development. If criticism is an essential characteristic of our social organization and participation, does this then serve as justification for one's being engaged in support of capitalism?

Two key concepts of the social criticism of the twentieth century were demands for security and justice. On the other hand, criticism from an artistic perspective made a claim for such values as autonomy and authenticity. Right into the 1970s, social criticism ­ including that aspect which articulated itself in an artistic manner ­ conceived of itself as identifying contradictions and articulating demands. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, one cannot claim that the world has become more secure or more just.

What does capitalism promise today? What motivates individuals to critical participation in communities? What must be the characteristics evinced by a way of life so that a large number of protagonists deem it to be worth their while to pursue?

Creativity, flexibility, individuality and mobility are the soft skills that are greatly in demand in a deregulated working world. Autonomy takes on the appearance of a paraphrasing of unstable designs for living, and authenticity is degraded into a marketing strategy. Under these circumstances, can an emancipatory potential be attributed to criticism, regardless of whether it is articulated in social or artistic terms?

The exhibition cycle "Critical Societies" is oriented with regard to four headlines":

Sources of Indignation
Boundless Sociability
Economies : Resistances
Resources ­ Politics of Belief

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