Can Art Founded Within Capitalist Structures Ever Be Truly Democratic? – 建立在资本主义结构内的艺术真的是民主的吗?

It's clear (isn't it?) that anti-democratic forces are at work when wealthy individuals exert the equivalent influence of political parties. And it’s weird (isn't it?) when oligarchs start extolling democracy.

Take the stratospherically wealthy Victor Pinchuk, a former industrial pipe hawker, who in 1998 became a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, and who now heads Ukraine’s largest private philanthropic foundation. In 2006, Pinchuk left Parliament because ‘business and politics should be separated’. Just two years prior, he had put his fortune in service to politics, founding a conference about the future of Europe, called Yalta European Strategy (YES) – Yalta being the Crimean city where it took place, before Russian took Crimea. This year’s conference, which is colloquially known as the ‘Ukrainian Davos’, was paired with an exhibition at Pinchuck’s Kiev foundation, PinchukArtCentre, titled ‘DEMOCRACY ANEW?’ If the epithet is awkwardly direct, the question is apt. Corruption plagues Ukraine, while a tiger-slaying despot looms nearby. If not riotously political, the show is subtly so. But as political art exhibitions go, excessive subtlety can wash out a show's meaning, or integrity, just as surely as excessive directness can make it overbearing. Over time, this show came to mirror the eerie superficiality of the symposium across town.

Those who saw ‘DEMOCRACY ANEW?’ – which was given microscopic mention in the conference programme – met with a deceptively challenging image from Pascale Marthine Tayou. In one selection from Marthine Tayou’s 2018 series, ‘Fingers’, a dark brown hand tears gently through white paper. The context of Black Lives Matter and the refugee crisis seem to cast the work in terms of black struggle, while its tenderness defies revolutionary cliché. But this reading is questioned by the equal possibility that the work expresses something more pan-human – maybe our blind grasping through fragile present time, towards something better. Like grist to democracy, these pictures strain, rather than satisfy, image literacy.


Can Art Founded Within Capitalist Structures Ever Be Truly Democratic? - 建立在资本主义结构内的艺术真的是民主的吗?

Zoe Leonard, I Want a President, 1992, ink on paper. Courtesy: the artist and PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv

The show’s most directly political notes are equally complex. Zoe Leonard's typewritten poem, I Want a President (1992), pleas for a leader born of disenfranchisement, while Francis Alÿs’s two-channel video projection, Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River (2008), shows children wading through waves, from Europe towards Africa and vice versa. As subtitles locate us in the Straight of Gibraltar and the figures clutch toy sailboats, an unmistakable allusion to tragic refugee migrations is made all the more gutting by a tangible sense of childish wonder. Maurizio Cattelan’s ghoulish Ave Maria (2007) sees three brown-shirted, polyurethane arms Sieg Hieling numb hatred out of the gallery wall. The work is like a condensation of Hannah Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’, which describes how fascism is first and foremost a separation of people from their minds. More quietly, Goshka Macuga stirred bizarre political dreamscapes, in drawn mise-en-scène of historical, political and pop-cultural figures: C3PO, Lady Hamilton, Trump, Berlusconi, Putin, Gadaffi ...

Alÿs’s waves echo Sondra Perry's Typhoon Coming On (2018), wherein the walls of a darkened room are bathed in undulating surfaces, like radioactive plasma and fluid rock. Lusciously destabilizing, Typhoon feels conspicuously unhinged from the show’s theme, as is the case with Olafur Eliasson’s pair of lukewarm, melting ice cubes: Still River (2016). It would be easy to concoct democratic metaphors for these works. But why? It's depressing to find oneself shoe-horning specifically political readings into pieces that simply model democracy in the same way that all good artworks do: as cryptic entities prompting conversation. This thematic dislocation continues through Allora and Calzadilla’s Stop, Repair, Prepare (2008), a piano whose centre had been excised, allowing the player to stand within it; through several colourful casts, by Rachel Whiteread, of the negative space beneath chairs; through Luc Tuymans’s 2017 painting, The Swamp, wherein a person crawls through purple-daubed muck and leaves.


Can Art Founded Within Capitalist Structures Ever Be Truly Democratic? - 建立在资本主义结构内的艺术真的是民主的吗?

Sondra Perry, Typhoon Coming On, 2018, installation view, PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv. Courtesy: the artist and PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv

Thus plays out an anxious discord between conceit and substance. If the exhibition often finds oblique poetics standing for political content, the conference often found rhetoric delivered by glamourous political figures, often doing the same. Condoleezza Rice and Tony Blair graced the stage, causing hearts to flutter with his faith in the European project. Then came Bono. Interviewed by Fareed Zakaria, the Irish bard delivered platitudes of unity and, because he really seemed to mean it, it was hard not to like him. But, given his curious habit of defending Ireland's skimpy taxation of multinationals, not to mention his predecessors in this special guest role, it was equally as hard to trust his purpose. (One such former guest now occupies the Oval Office, a pussy-grabbing paragon of democracy.) Meanwhile, BBC HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur did indeed ‘talk hard’ to Ukrainian functionaries, but his interviewees eluded questions about right-wing populism with serpentine political prowess.

One could surmise discomfiting explanations for this; like poisoned blood, bigotry flows unseen until it erupts in manic, shocking spurts. In private, I heard a former French minister defend mass border closure by invoking the changing ethnic face of France and the supposed laziness of Islamic people. The right’s popularity feeds on such racism, defended on the pretence that refugees suck up money needed by the European (white) working class. Enabling this screed is a blinding dearth of popular discourse concerning the actual causes of economic misery – namely, the radical upward consolidation of wealth. But subjects like that don’t come up at parties like this.

On closing night, a Universal Studios-scale animation projected into the courtyard outside the conference gave action-movie form to Ukraine’s recent history, from the 2014 revolution to its ostensible present-day freedom. 3D rendered explosions – both of bombs and democratic possibility – traded with gasps from the inebriated crowd. Back in the PinchukArtCentre, ‘DEMOCRACY ANEW?’ sat like a small, 21st-century Ukrainian version of America’s post-war Marshall Plan, with many good artworks signifying open culture and open thought. But art, as we all know, has always operated propagandistically, and now as then and now as forever, the dilemma persists: can art’s openness ever be truly believable when umbilically linked to this much power and structural inequality? Maybe we should just ask Bono. Maybe we should tell him: we still haven’t found what we're looking for.

‘DEMOCRACY ANEW?’ is on view at PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv until 9 January 2019.

Main image: Pascale Martine Tayou, Anvil of Democracy, anvil, engraving. Courtesy: the artist and PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv

Mitch Speed

Mitch Speed is a writer based in Berlin, Germany.

Opinion /

Art and Politics
Mitch Speed
Sondra Perry
Pascale Martine Tayou
Zoe Leonard
Francis Alÿs

很清楚(不是吗?)当富有的个人发挥政党的同等影响力时,反民主势力就在起作用。这很奇怪(不是吗?)寡头们开始赞美民主。以一个富有同情心的有钱人Victor Pinchuk,一个前工业管道小贩,1998岁成为乌克兰议会的一员,现在是乌克兰最大的私人慈善基金会。2006,Pinchuk离开国会是因为“商业和政治应该分开”。就在两年前,他把他的财富投入到政治中,成立了一个关于欧洲未来的会议,叫做雅尔塔欧洲战略(YES)——雅尔塔是克里米亚城市,在俄罗斯占领克里米亚之前,雅尔塔就是那里发生的。今年的会议,被称为“乌克兰达沃斯”,与PinchukArtCentre州基辅州Pink的基金会进行了配对,题为“民主重新”。如果这个称呼过于直截了当,问题就出来了。腐败瘟疫横扫乌克兰,而杀虎暴君在附近隐现。如果不是政治上的暴乱,这个节目是微妙的。但是,随着政治艺术展览的展开,过分的细微可以冲淡一个展览的意义,或者说完整性,就像过分的直接会使它变得专横一样。随着时间的流逝,这个节目反映了整个城镇研讨会的怪诞肤浅。那些重新看到民主的人?在会议节目中,人们只字未提,却遇到了帕斯卡尔·马汀·塔尤(Pascale Marthine Tayou)那张极具挑战性的照片。在选自马丁的2018个系列“手指”中,一只深棕色的手轻轻地在白纸上撕扯。《黑生活》的背景和难民危机似乎将作品置于黑人斗争的角度,而它的温柔却藐视了革命的陈词滥调。但是这种解读受到同样的质疑,即作品表达了更泛人类的东西——也许我们盲目地抓住了脆弱的现在,朝着更好的方向前进。像格雷斯特到民主,这些图片,而不是满足,图像素养。BODY1.JPG WPA6021602IMG Zoe Leonard,我想要一个总统,1992,墨水在纸上。礼貌:艺术家和PinchukArtCentre,Kyiv最直接的政治笔记同样复杂。佐伊·伦纳德(Zoe Leonard)的打字诗《我想要一位总统》(1992)呼吁一位因被剥夺选举权而出生的领导人,而弗朗西斯·阿尔斯(FrancisAls)的双声道视频放映《到河前不要过桥》(2008)则展示了孩子们涉水过浪,从欧洲走向非洲,反之亦然。由于字幕把我们定位在直布罗陀海峡,而人物则紧握着玩具帆船,所以对悲惨的难民移民的明确暗示,被一种有形的幼稚的惊奇感弄得更加内脏。毛里齐奥·卡特兰的恐怖大道玛丽亚(2007)在美术馆的墙上看到了三只棕色衬衫、聚氨酯手臂,齐格·希林(Sieg Hieling)麻木的仇恨。这部作品就像是汉娜·阿伦特的“平庸的邪恶”的缩影,它描述了法西斯主义首先是人们与他们思想的分离。更安静地,戈什卡·马库加在描绘历史、政治和流行文化人物的迷雾中激起了奇异的政治梦想:C3PO、汉密尔顿夫人、特朗普、贝卢斯科尼、普京、卡扎菲……

Als波与桑德拉·佩里的《2018年台风来临》相呼应,其中一间黑暗房间的墙壁沐浴在起伏的表面,如放射性等离子体和流体岩石。台风明显地破坏稳定,感觉与节目的主题脱节,就像奥拉弗·埃利亚松(Olafur Eliasson)的一对温热的、融化的冰块:Still.(2016)一样。为这些作品编造民主隐喻是很容易的。但是为什么呢?令人沮丧的是,发现自己在政治读物上大肆宣扬,就像所有好的艺术品一样,只是简单地将民主模型化:就像神秘的实体促使对话一样。这种主题性的错位继续通过阿雷拉和卡尔扎迪拉的停止,修理,准备(2008),一架钢琴的中心被切除,允许演奏者站在里面;通过瑞秋·怀特雷德对椅子底下的负面空间的几个色彩斑斓的演出;通过卢克·图曼斯的2017年的演出。绘画,沼泽,其中一个人爬过紫色涂抹粪土和树叶。sondra-perry-body.jpg Can Art Founded Within Capitalist Structures Ever Be Truly Democratic? - 建立在资本主义结构内的艺术真的是民主的吗? Sondra Perry,台风来临,2018,安装视图,平丘克艺术中心,基辅。礼貌:艺术家和基辅平楚克艺术中心因此在骄傲和实质之间产生了一种焦虑的不和谐。如果展览经常发现倾斜的诗学代表政治内容,那么大会经常发现魅力四射的政治人物所表达的修辞,往往也是如此。康多莉扎·赖斯和托尼·布莱尔优雅地登上舞台,心中充满了对欧洲计划的信心。然后博诺来了。爱尔兰的吟游诗人法里德·扎卡利亚接受采访时提出了团结的陈词滥调,因为他似乎真的是故意的,所以很难不喜欢他。但是,鉴于他奇怪的习惯来捍卫爱尔兰对跨国公司的微薄征税,更不用说他的前任在这个特殊的客人角色中,同样难以相信他的目的。(一位这样的前客人现在占据了椭圆形办公室,一个充满野心的民主典范。)与此同时,英国广播公司HaldTalk的Stephen Sackur确实对乌克兰工作人员“很强硬”,但他的采访者回避了右翼民粹主义的政治蛇行问题。人们可以猜测这种解释是令人困惑的,像毒血一样,偏执狂流露出来,直到狂躁的、令人震惊的迸发。私下里,我听到一位法国前部长通过改变法国的种族面貌和伊斯兰人民的懒惰来保卫大规模的边境关闭。右翼势力的声望来自于这样的种族主义,他们捍卫了难民吸收欧洲(白人)工人阶级所需资金的借口。实现这种撮合是盲目缺乏关于经济苦难的实际原因——即财富的彻底向上巩固——的流行论述。但像这样的主题不会出现在这样的聚会上。闭幕之夜,在会议室外的院子里放映了一部环球影城规模的动画片,将动作片形式融入了乌克兰的近代历史,从2014年革命到今天表面上的自由。3D渲染爆炸——炸弹和民主可能性——与醉酒人群的喘息进行交换。回到PunChuCART中心,“重新民主”?它就像美国战后马歇尔计划的一个二十一世纪的乌克兰小版本,有许多优秀的艺术品象征着开放的文化和开放的思想。但是,众所周知,艺术一直以宣传的方式运作,而且现在和现在以及永远,两难境地依然存在:当艺术的开放性与如此巨大的权力和结构性不平等紧密联系在一起时,艺术的开放性真的可以令人信服吗?也许我们应该问问博诺。也许我们应该告诉他:我们还没有找到我们要找的东西。新民主主义?在Kyiv的PinchukArtCentre,直到2019年1月9日。主要形象:Pascale Martine Tayou、民主砧、铁砧、雕刻。礼貌:艺术家和平楚克艺术中心,基辅米奇速度是德国柏林的作家。意见/艺术与政治


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