What Art Knows?
Curated by Klaudio Štefančić, a group exhibition If birds in a truck fly, does the truck get lighter? will open on Thursday, April 11th at 20:00 at Filodrammatica Gallery (Korzo 28/1, Rijeka).
Exhibition deals with the topic of knowledge in the modern age, marked by scientific and technological developments. Special focus is being put on the knowledge which is collected, developed and provided by art, whose cognitive power, in opposition to science, is not to be found – or at list shouldn’t be – in numbers and laws, but in aesthetic experience.
The exhibition features multimedia works by international artists Željko Kipke, Nika Radić, Antun Maračić, Aram Bartholl, Branka Cvjetičanin and Erica Scourti. It’s title is directly inspired by the article entitled If birds in a truck fly, does the truck get lighter?, published in 2015 in The New Sceintist, which pointed out the problems with relying solely on rational thinking in the cognitive process.
Visit the exhibition until April 30th, working days from 5 to 8 pm. If you wish to visit the exhibition in some other time, contact us by e-mail at info[at]drugo-more.hr or by phone at +385 51 212 957.
If birds in a truck fly, does the truck get lighter?
No, the truck doesn’t get lighter. To be more precise, it is sometimes lighter, and sometimes heavier, depending on the direction of the wings flapping. This was the conclusion of David Lentink at Stanford University, California, who was inspired by the popular American TV show Mythbusters. Working with a group of collaborators, Lentink devised a system of measuring aerodynamic forces produced by birds in flight. When a Pacific parrot pulled its wings upwards, the devices couldn’t measure any vertical thrust, so the parrot effectively had no weight. When it pushed its wings downwards, the force of the stroke was so big that it doubled the parrot’s weight. However, as different birds flap their wings at different times, their strokes cancel out, and the truck, in average, keeps the same weight.
Another group, not avian but human, is being presently studied by another reputable American university – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There, within the auspices of Human Dynamics laboratory, a group of scientists led by Alex Petland, is trying to collect enough information about human behaviour on internet networks. In his Social Physics – How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter, awarded as the best book in the field of strategic business in 2014, Petland argues that the ability to collect and analyze great quantities of data related to human behaviour will enable scientists to develop a “causal theory of social structures”. Petland writes that society, as well as nature, functions according to certain rules. It is statistically possible to determine patterns in human communication, and once when we have really understood its logic, as Petland is convinced, we will discover “the basic mechanism of social relations”.
Željko Kipke: Redeo Rebus Ante Circinum
(courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb)
At first sight, parrots in a truck as a scientific problem seem to be a curiosity, or an example of a successful cooperation between commercial television and university marketing, but the way a respectful university approaches the problem of social community indicates a spirit of positivism, which, stimulated by the developing digital technology, once again permeated scientific and business circles. Positivism is the last product of Enlightenment, which was so important, and ambivalent, period in European history that Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer dedicated a whole book to it (Dialectic of Enlightenment, 1947). Developing in early 19thcentury, in an age of radical technological change, positivism at first meant a little more than a blind faith in science. In these early years of bourgeois society, science meant astronomy, physics, medicine, etc. – in other words, all empirical practices that originated in the culture of aristocracy and, after the French Revolution, they were left in the windmill of historical events. Stars, planets, bodies, corpses, illnesses, plants, rain, lightning, etc. – these were, in extreme simplification, the primary objects of scientific study. All the rest was left to oblivion, or to religion. Some more time will pass – at the latest, until the Romantic Movement ends and aesthetics is established as an independent discipline – before the institution of art becomes the primary area of intellectual and affective events in the life of an average citizen. One of the pillars of German Romanticism, Joseph Schelling, believed that there are areas that science cannot reach, and that these are fields that are predetermined to art. In a fiery opposition to Enlightenment thinkers, the Romanticists argued that not all natural and social phenomena are commensurable, that there always is something defying the law of numbers, causality, and the project of mathematization of the world that, as Adorno and Horkheimer claimed, had begun precisely in the Enlightenment. These Enlightenment ideals of commensurability, utility and expansion – are they not made contemporary again by the appearance of digital technology? Is not the universalism of the number being expanded by “electronic text”, by the codes that run “smart machines”? In the past, all that was not computable and usable was considered suspect by the positivists; today, all that is not computable yet – will become computable soon.
Adorno and Horkheimer have not denounced Schelling’s faith in the power of aesthetic experience – experience that is basically a process of perceiving (discovering) something using the apparatus of the senses – but they emphasized that the bourgeois society searched for an alternative to science mostly in religion. In their interpretation, the bourgeois society, from its very beginnings, was a battlefield between scientific and non- or anti-scientific tendencies. Scientification had become the dominant social process, but it never completed, it never consolidated into the connective tissue of secular societies – among other reasons, because the “scientification of the world”, as emphasized by Jürgen Habermas, was always Euro-centric. Among the dialectic relations in modern society – progressive/conservative, profane/sacred, Apollonian/Dionysian, etc. – art was given an unenviable role, surely not the one that Romanticists had hoped for. It neither connected the community, nor become a vanguard of progress, and it also did not establish itself as the main opposition to modernity, like religion did.
Branka Cvjetičanin: Liberation of Tom
However, could another philosophical system be more suitable to contemporary society, which is, riding on the wave of globalization and populism, all the more often called post-secular? This system gives equal positions to art (aesthetics) and science – as well as love and politics. In his book Manifesto for Philosophy (1989) Alain Badiou writes that here are four ways to the truth; they develop in the discursive areas of art, science, love, and politics (for Badiou, philosophy cannot be reduced to gaining knowledge, because philosophy is thinking, and not knowledge). The value of artistic cognition is thus comparable to scientific, amorous, and politic cognition. This, however, does not mean only that art “goes where science cannot go”, but also that art can behave like science, it can be based on the power of positive knowledge and believe in its social efficiency, for example in various utilitarian artistic tendencies. By the same token, art in its cognitive role can, instead of believing in science, express suspicion and fear, and emphasize that being and existing is always more important than what we know about them.
The art works presented at this exhibition refer to discourses of knowledge in various ways. If we were to seek their common starting point, it would undoubtedly be a distrust for basic tenets of positivism – unity of sciences (natural and social) and distinguishing scientific statements from unscientific ones – whether it is expressed as a critique of causality principle (Željko Kipke, Branka Cvjetičanin), a critique of distancing subject of knowledge from its object (Erica Scourti, Antun Maračić) or as a critique of empirical verification of a statement (Aram Bartholl, Nika Radić). But their most important similarity may lie in the knowledge that what we do not know, or cannot know, is as important as what we (think) we know.
Aram Bartholl: BYOD – Bring your own disc (and crush it)
Some of the artists insist on their right to not be rational. “I have never believed in causality. Because you light a match and see a fire, you consider it a law. It is a very nice word, law, but it has no deep validity”, said Marcel Duchamp somewhere. If, after Duchamp, all art is conceptual, according to an aphoristic saying of Joseph Kossuth, then a conclusion by another conceptual artist is entirely logical. In Sentences on Conceptual Art (1968), Sol LeWitt wrote:
1. “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
3. Irrational judgements lead to new experience.”
Aram Bartholl was born in Bremen (Germany), in 1972. He graduated from the Arts Academy in Berlin in 2002. He has exhibited at numerous solo and group exhibitions, most notably at MOMA (New York), Skupltur Projekte (Münster), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Biennale in Seoul and Thailand, and at Berlin Hamburger Banhof. He has coordinated many workshops, held performances, curated exhibitions and presented lectures at various institutions in Germany and abroad. His work takes place at the intersection of Internet, culture and art, problematisingthe influence of communication technologies on everyday life, or the world of art. He is particularly preoccupied with the tensions between public and private life and theimmersion of the individual in his/her technological surroundings. In 2001, he was a recipient of an award at Ars Electronica festival in Linz (honourablemention), and also at Berlin’s Transmediale festival in 2007. He works and lives in Berlin.
Branka Cvjetičanin (1969. Zagreb), multimedia/intermedia artist, studied various forms of performing arts, specializing the site-specific theater direction and production in situ(MAPA Amsterdam, Oerol Festival Terschelling internship). In 2005/6 Cvjetičanin earned PhD at the Bauhaus Kollege Dessau on the subject of “UN Urbanism”. In addition to her artistic work within local and international scene, occasionally she is a producer and curator in diverse collaborations. She is involved within Polygon – Centre for Cultura Research and Project Development NGO organisation. She is a member of the HZSU and ULUPUH artistic organizations, as well as Culturelink and Oracle networks.
Željko Kipke was born in Čakovec, in 1953. He graduated as a painter at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts in 1976. His paintings are part of Peter Sutuyvesant collection in Amsterdam, FRAC collection in Toulouse, and the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Vienna. He represented Croatia at the 1993 Venice Biennale, and the Cairo Biennale two years later. He has written critiques and essays on fine arts and movies. In 2007, he was the curator for Croatia’s presentation at the 52th Venice Biennale. A member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), Željko Kipke has published seven books: Illuminators of the New Cycle (Zagreb, 1989); The Subterraneous Guide (Zagreb, 1992), Beware of Imitations (Zagreb, 1993); From Abundance to the Moon (Zagreb, 1998); Any Similarity with Real People and Events is Intentional (Zagreb, 2004); February to February (Zagreb, 2005); Sei-khai-reich (Velika Gorica, 2006).
Antun Maračić was born in Nova Gradiška on 12 December, 1950. He graduated as a painter at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts in 1976. As a multimedia artist, he has had over fifty solo and around hundred group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. He was a member of the Working Community of Artists “Podroom” (1978–1980), active collaborator (1981–1991, and 1994–2000) and manager (1988–2000) of the Extended Media Gallery in Zagreb, manager of the Zvonimir Gallery in Zagreb (1992–1997), director of the Art Gallery Dubrovnik (2000–2012), and the manager of the Forum Gallery in Zagreb (2013–2017). He has written many reviews, critiques, polemics and essays on art, published in daily and periodical press. His works are held in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, the Modern Gallery Zagreb, the History Museum, Zagreb, the Print Collection of the National and University Library in Zagreb, the Filip Trade and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary collections.
Nika Radić was born in Zagreb, in 1968. She graduated as a sculptor from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, and as an art historian from the University of Vienna. In her video works, installations and photographs she explores the phenomena of communication, translation and the interpretation of artworks. She has been writing and publishing texts on the same subject in books and international magazines. She has participated in numerous residencies (including Reykjavik, Nashville and Kyoto) and received a number of awards (including the Radoslav Putar Award, Arte and Arta Award and Young European Artist Award). She has had over fifty solo and around hundred group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad.
Erica Scourti is an artist and writer, born in Athens and now based mostly in London. Her work explores biographical writing and bodily inscription in the performance and representation of subjectivity. Recent solo shows include Chief Complaintat Almanac, London and Spill Sections at StudioRCA (both 2018); group shows include the High Line, New York, Wellcome Collection, Kunsthalle Wien, Hayward Gallery, EMST Athens. Her writing has been published in Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry (Ignota Press, 2018) and Fiction as Method (Sternberg, 2017) amongst others. Scourti is guest editor of the Happy Hypocrite journal (forthcoming 2019) and will be resident at Rupert, Lithuania, in summer 2019. She is currently undertaking a practice-based AHRC-funded PhD in Goldsmiths’ Art Department.
Klaudio Štefančić (1969, Sisak) graduated Comparative literature and Art history in 1995 at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, where he also acquired a postgraduate degree in Literature. From 1997 to 2000 he had worked as a curator at Klovićevi dvori Gallery in Zagreb, and since 2001 he’s been leading Galženica Gallery in Velika Gorica.
We would like to thank the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb for lending us Željko Kipke’s painting Redeo Rebus Ante Circinum for this exhibition.