Animism. Modernity through the Looking Glass

Animism. Modernity through the Looking Glass

Generali Foundation

Candida Höfer, “Ethnologisches Museum Berlin III,” 2003.
Courtesy the artist.
© Candida Höfer, Köln, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

September 14, 2011

Modernity through the Looking Glass
16 September 2011–29 January 2012

15 September 2011, 7 p.m.

Generali Foundation
Wiedner Hauptstrasse 15
1040 Vienna, Austria
Opening hours:
Tue–Sun, public holidays
11 a.m.–6 p.m., Thu to 8 p.m.

T +43 1 504 98 80
foundation [​at​]

Agency, Marcel Broodthaers, Adam Curtis, Didier Demorcy, Walt Disney, Jimmie Durham, Eric Duvivier/Henri Michaux, Thomas Alva Edison, León Ferrari, Walon Green, Victor Grippo, Candida Höfer, Luis Jacob, Ken Jacobs, Joachim Koester, Yayoi Kusama, Maxim Komar-Myshkin/Roee Rosen, Len Lye, Chris Marker/Alain Resnais, Daria Martin, Angela Melitopoulos/Maurizio Lazzarato, Ana Mendieta, Vincent Monnikendam, Jean Painlevé, Hans Richter, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Maria Eichhorn, Richard Hamilton, Ann Veronica Janssens, Willem Oorebeek, Karthik Pandian and Mathias Poledna, Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Heimo Zobernig

Animism. Modernity through the Looking Glass takes up the current broad-based reassessment of modernity, examining the ethnological conception of animism as it was framed in the context of colonialism as well as the concept of animism in psychoanalysis. In Vienna, the city of Sigmund Freud, one focus of the exhibition is on aesthetic approaches that subject the distinction between the psychological “inside” world and the material “outside” world to critical scrutiny.

The “old” animism—modernity’s vanishing point
By the end of the nineteenth century, animism is defined as a set of superstitious beliefs, as a “projection” and misapprehension of reality in which the “primitive mind” populates the world with souls and spirits, endowing things and nature with life, agency, and subjecthood. At the height of European colonialism, animism becomes the quintessence of civilization’s opposite. To be modern meant to leave animism behind and to separate the world in accordance with the dualist divides that have been in effect since Descartes: soul and body, mind and matter.

The “new” animism—a reactivation
In the context of a critique of the dualisms and static categories of modernity, anthropologists have recently begun to reassess animism. Avoiding Western notions of what “life,” “soul,” “self,” “nature,” “supernatural forces,” or “belief” are, can we understand animism as a practice that revolves around different experiences of the relations between subject and object? In light of current ecological, technological, and biopolitical developments, finding novel ways to rethink the boundaries between nature and culture, between human and non-human (nature, technology), between psyche and outside world, and between life and non-life represents an urgent political challenge.

Scenes of an exhibition—lines of demarcation, thresholds, transitions
The exhibition negotiates these boundaries along aesthetic processes in which the museum, as an objectifying and mummifying apparatus, comes under critical scrutiny as well.

The many works in the exhibition use a variety of media and heterogeneous strategies to trace lines of demarcation, thresholds, and transitions across the canonical divisions, displacing, exaggerating, and transforming them. Animism. Modernity through the Looking Glass suggests a revision and decolonization of not only our traditional understanding of animism but also the modern imaginary it articulates.

Concept: Anselm Franke
Curators: Anselm Franke with Sabine Folie

Animism is a collaboration between: Extra City – Kunsthal Antwerpen, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA), Kunsthalle Bern, Generali Foundation, Vienna, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, and Freie Universität Berlin.

Publication accompanying the exhibition
Animism. Modernity through the Looking Glass
Edited by Anselm Franke and Sabine Folie for the Generali Foundation, Vienna
With essays by Sabine Folie, Anselm Franke, and Isabelle Stengers as well as a conversation with Elisabeth von Samsonow by Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato.
German and English, 232 pages, ca. 285 color and 90 b/w illustrations

Program of events, opening weekend

September 15, 8 p.m.
Performance: The Holy Spirit (after the exhibition opening)
Jimmie Durham, Artist

September 16, 7 p.m.
Lecture (in English)
Groundless in the Museum: Anarchism and the Living Work of Art
Luis Jacob, Artist
Followed by a conversation with Anselm Franke, Curator

September 17, 2011, 4 p.m.
Curatorial Tour Anselm Franke (in German)

Film program accompanying the exhibition

Phantoms. Metamorphoses. Animism in Film
Sunday screenings on 9/18, 10/9, 11/13, 12/4/2011, 1/15, and 1/22/2012, always at 1 p.m.
Filmcasino, Margaretenstr. 78, 1050 Wien /
Curator: Wilbirg Brainin-Donnenberg

An event held by the Generali Foundation and the Filmcasino in collaboration with the Austrian Film Museum (OeFM).

September 18, 2011, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The six-part film series starts with the experimental metamorphoses of Segundo de Chomón, a pioneer of early animation film (with live music by Billy Roisz), and the found-footage artist and master avant-garde filmmaker Martin Arnold (World premiere of Self Control, 2011).

Animism. Modernity through the Looking Glass
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September 14, 2011

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