Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art (NIFCA)

March 30, 2005


Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius
April 8 through June 5

National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo 
April 15 through September 4 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 
April 29 through August 28 

Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt a.M.
May 10 through September 4 


Populism has many different faces. Many different things can be called populism for very good reasons. We may not necessarily agree on the meaning of the term populism. And maybe the term populism should not necessarily have only one meaning. The usefulness of a term with different meanings resides in the fact that it may hint at family resemblances between different phenomena called populism. Therefore, in any project on populism, it might soon appear that the contributors – artists, academics, writers and other intellectuals – will use the word in many different ways.

Dieter Lesage, “Populism and Democracy”, 2005, in The Populism Reader (to be published April 2005).

POPULISM is launched in spring 2005 by NIFCA, the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in Vilnius, Oslo, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. This exhibition project explores the relationships between contemporary art and current populist cultural and political trends.

The POPULISM project tries to formulate concrete spaces for experience, reflection, and discussion linked to a contemporary political and cultural phenomenon that is as complex as it is widespread. There is little doubt that populist movements gain large parts of their persuasive power from their ability to play on affects and desires that are supposedly exempt from the procedures that mark official democratic politics. At this level an art exhibition can provide a space that differs from that of other public forums. The point of departure is the idea that the affects and desires that characterise populist politics are not necessarily separate from the ones that find expression in the sphere of art. Here, a key question is how forms of populism – whether left wing or right wing, progressive or reactionary – promote themselves and their quest for mass appeal through a stylistic and aesthetic consciousness. The political imagination of visual art can get involved in these economies of signs and desires, and address current cultural discussions through proposals for other directions for democracy.
POPULISM includes new works and projects by around 40 international artists and artist groups, bringing together challenging works in a multitude of artistic strategies. The exhibitions take place in parallel at the following venues:

Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius. Opening April 8 through June 5
National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo. Opening April 15 through September 4
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Opening April 29 through August 28
Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt a.M. Opening May 10 through September 4

The exhibition does not aim to illustrate its theme through “populist art”. Instead, the invited artists deal in different ways with populist sentiments and ideologies of our time, through sub-themes such as: the mass media projection of politics; market populism and the cultural industries; group and corporate identities; representations and spaces of “the people”; law, order and security; religious and moral controversy; nationalism and xenophobia. While some artists strive to find positive populisms beyond demagogy and give a voice to the dispossessed, others explore alternative strategies of representation and organisation as a critique of the populist promise.

Juan Perez Agirregoikoa
Fatma Akinci
Petra Bauer
Bernadette Corporation
Marc Bijl
Jakob Boeskov
Martin Le Chevallier
Phil Collins
Minerva Cuevas
Jeremy Deller
Dias & Riedweg
Gardar Eide Einarsson & Matias Faldbakken
Esto TV
Anita Fricek
Jens Haaning & Superflex
Russell Haswell
Henry VIII’s Wives
Henrik Plenge Jakobsen
Susanne Jirkuff
Amar Kanwar
Per Kirkeby
Matthieu Laurette
Jani Leinonen
Erik van Lieshout
Mindaugas Lukosaitis
Annika Lundgren
Cildo Meireles
Jean-Francois Moriceau & Petra Mrzyk
Sarah Morris
Begona Munoz
Roman Ondak
Kirstine Roepstorff
Willem de Rooij
Julika Rudelius
Stig Sjolund with Ronny Hansson, Jonas Kjellgren and Birgitta Tholander
Otto Snoek
Sean Snyder
Temporary Services
Milica Tomic
Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas
Wang Du
Tobias Zielony

Documentary on Thomas Hirschhorn’s project Swiss-Swiss Democracy by Nicolas Trembley

Please note that not all artists will be in every version of the exhibition.

Curators: Lars Bang Larsen, Cristina Ricupero and Nicolaus Schafhausen.
Exhibition Co-ordinator: Nathalie Aubret.

POPULISM is developed through a network of artists, curators and theorists who are brought together to debate the themes related to populism and elaborate a discourse together:

Board of institutional advisors: Ina Blom from the Department of art History IAKK, University of Oslo, Leontine Coelewij from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Lolita Jablonskiene from the Contemporary Art Information Centre in Vilnius, Gavin Jantjes from The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, Maaretta Jaukkuri from the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, and Vanessa Joan Muller, Frankfurter Kunstverein.

The POPULISM exhibitions are accompanied by two books:
The Populism Reader is an anthology that comprises twenty texts on the various aspects of populism, written by political scientists, journalists, art historians and activists. Among the contributors are Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Brian Holmes, Ingo Niermann, Audrone Zukauskaite, Marius Babias, Ina Blom, Bart Lootsma, Niels Werber, Piotr Piotrowski, Lars-Erik Frank, Mads Ted Drud-Jensen and others. The Populism Reader is illustrated by Atelier van Lieshout.
The Populism Catalogue includes documentation of the four exhibitions along with an anthology of short stories by Matias Faldbakken, Liam Gillick and other authors.

The books have introductions by the curators.
Editorial co-ordinator: Eva May. Editorial committee: Vanessa Joan Muller, Marita Muukkonen, Jill Winder. Documentation: Andrea Stappert. Publisher: Lukas & Sternberg, Berlin/New York. To order: mail@lukas-sternberg.com

Furthermore, a tabloid exhibition guide – The Populist – in English and the local languages will be available for free at the different venues.
POPULISM is also a series of lectures and seminars that will be organised during 2005 in the exhibition venues. Panel discussions are also planned in a number of other European cities in connection with the Populism project. In addition media partners in each country will be highlighting issues in relation to the project’s theme.

The graphic profile for Populism is designed by M/M (Paris).

POPULISM is a project initiated by Lars Bang Larsen, Cristina Ricupero and Nicolaus Schafhausen, and produced by NIFCA, the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main, the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

POPULISM is funded and supported by:
Culture 2000; Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation); DekaBank; Mondriaan Foundation; Amsterdam, European Cultural Foundation; ABN-AMRO; Ars Baltica; Pro Helvetia, Arts Council of Switzerland; The Danish Arts Council, Committee for International Visual Art; Institut Francais des Pays-Bas/Antenne de La Haye; AFAA – Bureau des Arts Plastiques/French Embassy in Germany.

For further information, please visit: www.populism2005.com

NIFCA: www.nifca.org
Stedelijk Museum: www.stedelijk.nl
Contemporary Art Centre: www.cac.lt
Frankfurter Kunstverein: www.fkv.de
National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design: www.nasjonalmuseet.no

Or contact: information@nifca.org

Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art (NIFCA)
March 30, 2005

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