Activist Neuroaesthetics

Activist Neuroaesthetics

Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

Vitreous Humour, 2021. Courtesy of Warren Neidich.

April 20, 2021
Activist Neuroaesthetics
May 1–August 7, 2021
Brain Without Organs: May 1–29
Sleep and Altered States of Consciousness: June 5–July 3
Telepathy and New Labor: July 10–August 7
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Curated by Warren Neidich and Susanne Prinz

Participating artists include Kathryn Andrews, Elena Bajo, Douglas Gordon, Katie Grinnan, David Horvitz, Agnieszka Kurant, Candice Lin, Karen Lofgren, Dafna Maimon, Jonathan Monk, Mariko Mori, Jeremy Shaw, Ryan Trecartin & Lizzie Fitch, Tabita Rezaire, Tino Sehgal, Lorenzo Sandoval, Suzanne Treister, Klaus Weber, Sakiko Yamaoka, and others.

The three-part Activist Neuroaesthetics exhibition consists of the Brain Without OrgansSleep and Altered States of Consciousness, and Telepathy and New Labor (with guest curator Jacquelene Drinkall).

Today, as in the past, artistic production plays an instrumental role in unveiling the latent repressive capacities at large in the social-political-technological milieu. Dada collage took on mass-produced advertising and journalism and collapsed the boundaries between high and low culture. Dziga Vertov’s Kino-Eye film technique re-directed the function of films away from fictionally-based entertainment and created a new way of looking. Harun Farocki in Eye / Machine I-III commented and exposed technological vision, especially its role in the military-industrial complex. Activist Neuroaesthetics extends this argument from the estrangement of the senses to the refunctioning (or Umfunktionierung) of society resulting in the reorganization of the neurobiological architecture of the brain and thus thought itself.

This exhibition builds on Conceptual Art as a Neurobiological Practice, curated by Warren Neidich in 1999 at Thread Waxing Space in New York City, as a starting point. In the 20 years since this exhibition, significant changes in technology and the social and cultural fields, not to mention the means by which to write about and understand these topics, have taken place which makes it necessary to update this discussion to include many new artistic practices and practitioners. Rather than being an exhibition about the collaboration between art and science, or a reductive methodology of how the brain works, the Activist Neuroaesthetics exhibition attempts to challenge the common notion of the development of conceptual art as a response to the changing art market driven by the importance of the immateriality of the artwork. Instead, it proposes another lineage that begins with Marcel Duchamp’s artistic engagements focused upon the grey matter of the brain, rather than its retinal character.

We are in the midst of a transition from an information and knowledge-based economy to one that can be described as neural or brain-based. Just as the burgeoning industrial economy subsumed craft and agricultural economies, and the information and knowledge economies of the late 20th and early 21st centuries subsumed the industrial economy, this imminent brain-based economy will subsume those that preceded it. Important in this regard is the increasing effects of neural capitalism and its considerable new armamentarium of brain-related and subsuming technologies. Artificial intelligence is not only based on artificial neural networks, but is in the process of insinuating itself in cognitive labor and will soon replace jobs not only like taxi and bus drivers, but the mental work of accountants, lawyers and doctors. Brain-computer interfaces are an essential component of what is known as the singularity or superintelligence and companies like Neuralink and Facebook are investing heavily in this technology in order to connect the brain to the internet. Algorithms and the iCloud form the new components of sovereignty. All these together form the new conditions of the world today which have required new artistic responses that are the basis of this three-part exhibition.

About Activist Neuroaesthetics
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of, Activist Neuroaesthetics is a festival of events (curated by Warren Neidich, Susanne Prinz and Sarrita Hunn) including a symposium, three-part exhibition, conference, screenings, and publications, developed by lead institution Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V. along with various local partners that will take place online and at different venues on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin over the course of 2021. 

In July, an Activist Neuroaesthetics Conference will take place in collaboration with Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art, a nomadic, intensive summer academy with shifting programs in contemporary critical theory that stresses an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the relationship between art and politics. Applications are open to students, practitioners and scholars from the fields of art (including video, painting, photography, sculpture and installation), design, architecture, critical writing, neuroscience, science and technology studies, critical theory, cultural studies, film and media studies, and beyond.

This project is made possible with support from Hauptstadtkulturfonds and Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V. 

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Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz
April 20, 2021

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