Since the late 1950s, a plethora of urban anthropologists, sociologists, urban planners, cultural geographers and historians have focused their attention on how our existences are affected by the social texture and infrastructures that have remodelled and informed the notion of ‘the city’ in contemporary terms (the ‘de-industrialised’ and the ‘post-modernist’ cities being particularly relevant cases at hand).
The transformations of the human ecology in these realms constitute the core matter of this section of the exhibition. With The Human Stain we are not looking at the macro-representations of these phenomena, but are trying to deconstruct their meaning, breaking it down to the finite experience of the individual.
In recent times we have become accustomed to public art in the context of ‘representational cities’1 – a methodological approach according to which ‘messages encoded in the environment are read as text’.2 The all-embracing and inter-disciplinary methodology derived from this approach, although undeniably useful for framing and narrating the city in its complexity, nevertheless seems to fail in convincingly depicting the individual/personal sphere.
The artists included in The Human Stain address the Foucauldian idea that ‘corporeal resistance produces subjectivity, not in an isolated or independent way but in a complex dynamic with the resistances of other bodies’.3 Nonetheless these practitioners start from the individual body and its corporeal presence in order to investigate this chain-reaction of correlated resistances. Ultimately, the selected paintings represent ‘the resistance and struggle’ necessary to the production of subjectivity, central not only to the sabotage and subversion of current forms of power, but also to ‘the constitution of alternative forms of liberation’.4
We devised this part of Touched as a visual and emotional journey that progressively moves in the direction of the inner labyrinths of the Self. We proceed by degrees of approximation, penetrating the different layers that separate the notion of collectivity from the Freudian Id, that is to say, the rioting sphere of the unexpressed or repressed Self.
These six degrees are envisioned as short stories that can be read either in a continuous narrative line or separately. Each step of this journey towards the intimacy of the Self is named after a book that somehow suggests an atmosphere or state of mind.
Their sequence unfolds as follows: The Cement Garden (Zbyněk Sedlecký), Confessions of a Public Speaker (Oren Eliav), One, No one and One Hundred Thousand (Aimé Mpane, Y. Z. Kami), The Anatomy of Melancholy (Edi Hila), The Seed of Lost Souls (Tim Eitel) and Naked Lunch (Csaba Kis Róka, Markus Schinwald).
1 Jane M. Jacobs, ‘The City Unbound: Qualitative Approaches to the City’, Urban Studies, 30.4–5 (1993), pp. 827–48
2 Setha M. Low (ed.), Theorizing the City: the New Urban Anthropology Reader (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2005 ), p. 4
3 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Commonwealth (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 31.
Source: Liverpool Biennial International Festival of Contemporary Art, 2010 Guide