December 9, 2020 - Kunsthalle Wien - Cybernetics of the Poor
December 9, 2020

Kunsthalle Wien

Robert Adrian X, [1] Computer Clerk, Canadian Pacific Railway (Car Accounting). [2] Art School Model, Ontario College of Art, Putney Art School. [3] Painter and Decorator, Brian Pollard. [4] Art Mover, Jon Holt Fine Art Transport, from the series: 24 Jobs, 1979. Courtesy of mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien. © Bildrecht Wien, 2020

Cybernetics of the Poor
December 18, 2020–March 28, 2021

Kunsthalle Wien
Museumsquartier, Museumsplatz 1
1070 Vienna
Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / YouTube / #CyberneticsOfThePoor

In cooperation with Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture, Donostia/San Sebastián

With: Robert Adrian X, Agency, Ana de Almeida, Alicja Rogalska & Vanja Smiljanić, Eleanor Antin, Cory Arcangel, Elena Asins, Paolo Cirio, Coleman Collins, Salvador Dalí & Philippe Halsman, Hanne Darboven, Jon Mikel Euba, Michael Hakimi, Douglas Huebler, Gema Intxausti, Mike Kelley, Ferdinand Kriwet, Agnieszka Kurant, Sharon Lockhart, Mario Navarro, Adrian Piper, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Heinrich Riebesehl, Pedro G. Romero, Constanze Ruhm, Jörg Schlick, Camila Sposati, Axel Stockburger, Kathrin Stumreich, Isidoro Valcárcel Medina, Tanja Widmann, Oswald Wiener

Curators: Diedrich Diederichsen and Oier Etxeberria
Curatorial Assistant: Aziza Harmel

Cybernetics of the Poor examines the relationship between art and cybernetics and their numerous intersections in the past and present. The starting point of this research, discourse, and exhibition project is as follows: since the late 1940s, the term cybernetics has been used to describe self-regulating systems that measure, anticipate, and react in order to intervene in changing conditions. Its models were in the natural world and machines were built according to its specifications. Emerging out of military research, cybernetics soon also provided modeling scenarios for the administration of various fields of social and political planning: traffic regulation, urban design, social policy, criminology—and, by the 1970s, ecology as well. Then as now, the idea of self-regulating systems oscillated between two extremes: the horror scenario of an all-calculating and all-controlling rationalism and positivism, and a utopian vision of hierarchies and hegemonies abolished within horizontal, universally accessible, and participatory social forms.

In digital capitalism, cybernetics has extended its reach from governance to economic modeling: the trade in anticipation has itself become profitable (see: big data). The financialization of ever-greater sectors of the economy is organized cybernetically; indeed, the collection, organization, and marketing of data is firmly established as a central pillar of the economy. In addition, the public sphere, now disaggregated into filter bubbles, is controlled by a cybernetics of social engineering. In a cultural, social, and political universe of this kind—one that has, so to speak, become a cybernetic totality—art must respond to a changed situation, where the only thing it can do is to become a cybernetics of the poor.

However, art must also understand the specifics of its newfound powerlessness vis-à-vis the cybernetic machine and turn itself into a starting point for radically different visions questioning the “neutral” confidence of cybernetic reason—something it cannot do without studying, adapting, and repurposing certain technological “achievements,” and recognizing that the structure of the public sphere, the culture industry, and political decision-making processes have become objects of cybernetic planning, control, and value-creation.

This exhibition presents new works that reflect a capacity to confront these specific conditions of subjugation despite (or even because of) the powerlessness of art, its poverty. They are shown alongside recent and historical works by artists who believed in cybernetics as an anticipatory and playful practice or were pioneers in delineating possible forms of counter-cybernetics. How much of the “counterforce” (Thomas Pynchon) exists within art when it is conceived as a cybernetics of the poor?

Cybernetics of the Poor is coproduced by Kunsthalle Wien and Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture, Donostia/San Sebastián, Spain, and was shown in its first iteration at Tabakalera in the spring and summer of 2020. The subtitle of that exhibition, Tutorials, Exercises and Scores, named three different genres curators Diedrich Diederichsen and Oier Etxeberria identified as using either anticybernetic or cybernetic artistic strategies. In addition to presenting a selection of examples of these genres, the show’s second installment in Vienna focuses on cybernetic instruments of social control and methods of circumventing it as well as the art market’s very own economic cybernetics: its modes of circulation and its logic of speculation and value accumulation.

The exhibition is complemented by an extensive public program, taking place live as well as in digital space. It includes artistic activations of the exhibition space, interventions by participants in the “Cybernetics of the Poor” seminar (Master in Critical Studies course at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna), and a symposium, as well as a multifaceted program of guided tours.

Stay connected: Please check our website for regular updates on our program.

For further information, please contact: presse [​at​]

Kunsthalle Wien
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