The thematic group exhibition in contemporary art is a genre that is problematic in several respects, symptomatic of current processes of institutionalization, their clinical neo-positivisms, and capitalist frontiers of interest; but also exemplary of the agency of frames and of framing. Yet beyond its pitfalls, what is the perhaps unique potential of the genre? In this talk, I suggest to recruit the thematic exhibition as a genre in its own right, conceived as “dialectical laboratory” interrogating media-conditions their corresponding imaginaries. The medium of the exhibition is uniquely suited to engage the dialectics between power and subjectivation/objectification, between a-subjective processes and individual agency, between the symptom and aesthetic sovereignty. An exhibition can be conceived as an exemplary, model-like spatialisation of borderlines, conceptual, political and even ontological, and transform such lines of divisions into image-spaces, in which the choice they impose is suspended, made explicit, historicised and “de-monstrated”. This means to abandon formalist art histories and artists subjectivities as primary discourse of legitimisation, in favour of an analytical approach to historical conditions of appearance, and in favour of a Bakhtinian aesthetic dialogism, which unearths reified, sedimented or implicated forms as interpellations. In such “dialectical laboratories” the visitor is recruited as the “meridian” at the tipping point of reciprocities and inversions, situated within a “Kippfigur” at the hinge between figures and grounds.
This talk is given as part of the lecture series The Visitor Talks : Pre-ambulation and Retrospection.