A personal intention.
Theme exhibitions are not mine. I see myself as an artist and not as a curator. I have neither too much time nor too much money – why curate this themed exhibition now?
When I met my colleague Hiroyuki Kobayashi at my Artist Talk in Japan two years ago, we first talked about the parallels between our works. Catastrophes and their aftermath, societies and communities, patterns, reproduction, print, reproduction, form… An enriching encounter. Only in retrospect did I realise that we were able to exchange ideas at all, given the sparse linguistic basis. Art works beyond language, apparently. Kobayashi-san came back a few days later and immediately brought the idea for an exhibition that he wanted to present with Rie Tanji and me in his new artist space in Okayama: REDRAW TRAGEDY.
I liked it. An ambiguous field? Located between tracing and redrawing, with a direct reference to the sphere of art. The openness, but also the willingness to take responsibility in the face of the brutal, the momentous, seemed almost audacious to me.
The invitation was as appealing as it was fragile, too good to reserve it for just the three of us. I wanted to put it up for discussion in Germany. With the idea in mind of showing positions that are dedicated without bowing to a “solutions please, dear artists”. Which works have I wanted to know more about for a long time, and with which works would it be possible to communicate on a work level? Who works longer and repeatedly on incisive events or long-lasting tragedies? With whom would I like to discuss? And also: who dares to refer to the theme or even to be close to the often frowned upon critical art without proclaiming or proselytising?
The colleagues and art scholars I approached responded with an honest interest in coming together over the content, despite initially unsecured funding. The artists’ forum, which is committed to an open, interdisciplinary dialogue, liked the topic, the artists and the discussion.
That the desire followed to get to know perspectives other than those of art and art studies, seems organic to me, gratifying and consistent. So hopefully those affected will soon be talking to artists, sociologists to aid workers, psychologists to art scholars, historians to interested people and visitors — in virtual space and, if Corona allows it, on site.
Although the subject of catastrophe gives the impression of something acute or something completed with a clear before and after, art also makes visible what has been fermenting hidden for a long time or still aches in the legacy — who actually determines where the catastrophe begins and when it ends?
The digital accompanying programme and the exhibition are neither an artistic nor a curatorial catastrophe round-up. On the contrary: a multitude of aspects of momentous events, crises and catastrophes are not represented in the works of the exhibition. The excerpt shown is intended as an invitation to take a closer look at details, substance, essence, at similarities and differences, beyond a reproduction of the obvious.
With links to the role of art and catastrophe in politics, economy and society, the exhibition and the accompanying digital programme want to create space to question what separates the crisis from the catastrophe, what separates the personal from society. Where do we encounter the plannable, the calculable, where does a catastrophe become one’s own tragedy and when does it become the catastrophe of others. And in the middle of it all the question: How much proximity and distance to the occurrences is good for our work? How much of a statement is allowed, and how is quality measured in politically oriented art?
People are drowning as they flee. Icebergs melt. Children starve to death. Afghanistan. Corona. Floods. Fires. Wars. Accidents. Diseases. Deaths. Losses. There was and is no lack of pictures to illustrate the subject. But all the rest is missing. Perhaps this is appeal and task enough: we must not hide and leave the field of perception to hasty decisions, political talks and Facebook comments.
So, let’s get on the rope, balance.