Corruption: Everybody Knows…

Corruption: Everybody Knows…

Moyra Davey, Assets, 1989. C-print, 30 x 40 in. Courtesy the artist and Murray Guy.

Corruption: Everybody Knows…
November 10, 2015

Contributors: Pio Abad, Peggy Ahwesh, Julieta Aranda, Sarnath Banerjee, CAMP, Moyra Davey, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Rana Hamadeh, Francis Newton Souza, Gabriel Acevedo Velarde, Susanne M. Winterling, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Yin-Ju Chen and James T. Hong, Hu Fang, Hassan Khan, Wietske Maas, Naeem Mohaiemen, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Aaron Schuster, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Charles Stankievech, Jan Verwoert.

Curated by Natasha Ginwala.

Corruption accesses the state body as both a natural and mystical corpus, eventually producing a third phantom body—corrosive and self-extending—emitting from an inside as techniques of social performance, bureaucratic desire, and conversion in the very terms of ethical life. A glistening mirror of false potential in a climate of communal ventriloquism. We are strategically held by this spirit without an image, which thrives in parasitic acts of emergence via disappearance.

Its flesh seizes the veins of the post-revolutionary state, pumping, circulating and blocking in a synchronized manner while unleashing shape-shifting forms as its residue: the “back office” and black market, daytime money laundering and nightly abductions. It is found in the materiality of phone tapping, fake paintings, and defective pixels; dispersed in the creepy smile of a business magnate, snoozing bureaucrats, and the politician’s insincere tongue. This ultimate stench of capital passes from body to body, as though an uncontainable viral flu.

The status of corruption may be said to lie at the division of visible and invisible labor, and at this tipping point it “acts out” and loops back into the body politic as a sentient character. The daily-wage worker and the cognitariat are equally implicated in this realm and made subservient to an uncanny sweep of this veiled hand.

This exhibition has developed through a series of interdisciplinary writing commissions as part of e-flux journal’s SUPERCOMMUNITY issue no. 65 for the 56th Venice Biennale, and ongoing dialogues with artistic practitioners bringing together readings of corruption as a planetary subject—it thereby acts simultaneously as a multidimensional character and as a complex dramaturgical plot. Contributions from Pio Abad, CAMP, Gabriel Acevedo Velarde, and Naeem Mohaiemen minutely expose the state apparatus as a network of covert operations and power relations. Through acts of performativity that are both cyclical and exceptional, works by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Rana Hamadeh, Hassan Khan, and Denise Ferreirada Silva consider questions of duplicity and truth-telling, the production of justice as communal ritual, and active refusals unto the task of representation. A gamut of depraved actions is unleashed in the dark humor and conspiratorial whispers of Sarnath Banerjee, Yin-Ju Chen & James T. Hong, Jan Verwoert, and Aaron Schuster; their scenography takes us from street bribes to FIFA’s crime scandal, through an unexpected brush with the Mafia and into a short animation detailing the history and failures of communism in West Bengal. Official languages of history-telling and their emblematic produce are subverted in favor of residual and annotated taxonomies in the practices of Moyra Davey, Francis Newton Souza, Peggy Ahwesh, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, and Franco “Bifo” Berardi. Meanwhile Julieta Aranda, Susanne M. Winterling, Hu Fang, Wietske Maas, and Charles Stankeivech engage the organic life of corruption through plant species, the interior of bodies and as bodily excess, via the chemical and the alchemical. The SUPERCOMMUNITY contributions are housed in a display architecture designed by Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Müller.

Corruption may be the still valid universalism in our midst, resonant since antiquity and continuing to find its strength as the invisible institution of neoliberal knowledge society, tasked with the administration of our collective depression. Let us not forget our agency as tricksters in the making-of-a-world. Might it be possible to harvest the productive capacity of corruption’s gestural performance—its speed, expanse, parallel economies, and anti-systemic drive?

The opening night of Corruption: Everybody Knows will include a reading of CAMP’s screenplay Act I, Swearing in Whispers.

Over the course of the following evening, the exhibition will unravel through artist talks and discussions encountering the aesthetics of fraud under martial law in the Philippines with Pio Abad; the navigation of Toxic Sovereigntiesunder extractive settler capitalism in the work of Elizabeth A. Povinelli as a member of the Karrabing Film Collective; the interrelated crossings of organic and artificial figurations of corruption in a new film by Julieta Aranda; cinematic residue, body politics, and ontologies of violence across the experimental film practice of Peggy Ahwesh. Moderated by Natasha Ginwala.

Special thanks to Abhijit Banerjee; Arjun Jassal and Dennis Akham / BlueAnt Digital Intelligence; Art in General; Shumita and Arani Bose Collection, New York; Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; Members of the Karrabing Film Collective; Valentina Desideri; Murray Guy, New York; Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Müller; Krisztina Hunya; Pablo de Ocampo; Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez; Grosvenor Gallery, London.

For more information, please contact program [​at​]


“’Corruption: Everybody Knows …,’ Think Pieces From E-flux”, The New York Times • Holland Cotter

E-flux began in 1998 with an emailed news release for a one-night group show in Chinatown. Since then, it has grown to include a monthly journal and a wide-reaching distribution system for art world information, and it’s become one of the few galleries in the city to present politically minded global fare consistently. Its current show , “Corruption:…

E-flux began in 1998 with an emailed news release for a one-night group show in Chinatown. Since then, it has grown to include a monthly journal and a wide-reaching distribution system for art world information, and it’s become one of the few galleries in the city to present politically minded global fare consistently. Its current show, “Corruption: Everybody Knows …,” will be the last in the organization’s Manhattan space — e-flux is moving to Brooklyn in 2016 — and is very much in its signature think-piece mode.

Organized by Natasha Ginwala, a curator and writer based in Berlin and India, it approaches its theme through gnomic works — each feels like a piece of a larger project — by two dozen artists and a collective. Occasionally, the corruption is in the form of physical decay, depicted or actual: In a 1955 ink drawing by the Indian artist Francis Newton Souza, from his “Gentlemen Series,” a head seems to be disintegrating; in an installation by Charles Stankievech about nuclear waste, cobalt-radiated grapefruit rots away.

Moral corrosion is implied in a piece by Yin-Ju Chen and James T. Hong involving sex toys and live fruit flies. And geopolitics is the defiling agent in satirical cartoons by Sarnath Banerjee and Gabriel Acevedo Velarde; in videos by Hassan Khan (about Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt) and Naeem Mohaiemen (about the 1971 war in Bangladesh); and in audio scripts based on Indian government phone taps by the collective CAMP.

Is there no anti-corruption hope to be had? Franco Berardi, also known as Bifo, finds some in a recent address by Pope Francis. So does Hu Fang in an ensemble of horticultural prints titled “Why We Look at Plants in a Corrupted World.” And there’s sound thinking in essays by several artists — Denise Ferreira da Silva, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Wietske Maas, Aaron Schuster — in a concurrent issue of E-flux Journal. E-flux is talking about reducing its exhibition schedule after its move. I really hope the principals change their minds and keep bringing us artists and ideas we would not otherwise find.

—December 3, 2015

Read more
Read less

“Corruption: Everybody Knows…”, ArtReview Asia • Ming Lin

ArtReview Asia, vol. 4, no. 2. —April, 2016

ArtReview Asia, vol. 4, no. 2.

—April, 2016

Read more
Read less
Labor & Work

Natasha Ginwala is an independent curator, researcher, and writer.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Her books include Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (2016), Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (2011), and The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism (2002). She is also a founding member of the Karrabing Film Collective.

Julieta Aranda is an artist and an editor of e-flux journal.

Karrabing Film Collective is an indigenous media group based in Australia’s Northern Territories that uses filmmaking and installation as a form of grassroots resistance and self-organization.

Hassan Khan is an artist, musician, and writer. Recent solo exhibitions include the Palacio de Cristal / Museum Reina Sofia, Madrid (2019-2020); Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2019); Beirut Art Center (2016). Khan’s An Anthology of Published and Unpublished Writings, is co-published by Stäedelschule and Koenig Books, and his album, SUPERSTRUCTURE EP, was released by The Vinyl Factory in 2019. Forthcoming in February 2022 is a survey exhibition at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Khan is the winner of the Silver Lion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017) and is currently a Professor of Fine Arts at the Staedelschule, Frankfurt.

Naeem Mohaiemen studied at two schools run by imported leaders—New Tripoli in Libya with a Maltese headmaster, and St. Joseph in Bangladesh with Jesuit priests. Colonel Gaddafi explained Jamahiriya as a “state of the masses.” Perhaps the thirty medical families imported to run Okba Bin Nafa Air Force Hospital were part of those masses as well. The Gurji school was an experiment in socialist cohabitation; Egyptian, Jordanian, Bangladeshi, and Polish students together. The Arabic teacher was quick with his slaps, treating some as children of a lesser tongue. It was some kind of early lesson in realpolitik.

Franco Berardi, aka “Bifo,” founder of the famous Radio Alice in Bologna and an important figure in the Italian Autonomia movement, is a writer, media theorist, and social activist.

Hu Fang is a novelist, art critic, and the cofounder and artistic director of Vitamin Creative Space in Guangzhou. His published novels include Dear Navigator, Garden of Mirrored Flowers, and New Arcade, Shopping Utopia. He lives and works in Beijing and Guangzhou.

Taiwanese-American filmmaker and artist James T. Hong (b. 1970) creates thought-provoking works that prompt conversation on controversial socio-political and historical issues. His films have premiered at international film festivals, including San Francisco International Film Festival (2007), IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) (2012), Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), and Busan International Film Festival (2019), where he won the prize for Best Documentary (Mecenat Award) for Opening Closing Forgetting (2018), a film that follows Chinese survivors of Japanese biological warfare. He has screened films, and presented multimedia installations and performances in biennials and museums around the world, including Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) (2013), Mediacity Seoul Biennial (2014), Kiev Biennial (2016), Para Site, Hong Kong (2015), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2017), and Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2018). He has participated in several editions of the Taipei Biennial, most recently “You and I Don’t Live on the Same Planet” (2020), curated by Bruno Latour and Martin Guinard. His 2021 solo show Animal at the UK’s Ikon Gallery just recently closed. Hong’s work is represented by Empty Gallery, Hong Kong. He lives in Taipei.

Peggy Ahwesh is an American experimental filmmaker and video artist. Born in 1954 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, she received her BFA at Antioch College, Ohio. Retrospective exhibitions include: Girls Beware!, Whitney Museum of American Art (1997); Filmmuseum, Brussels; Anthology Film Archives, New York; Peggy’s Playhouse, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University; and others. Her films have screened at Whitney Biennial (1991, 1995, 2002); New York Film Festival (1998, 2007); Flaherty Film Seminar (2003); Pompidou Center (2002, 2004); Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival (2017), and at festivals in Berlin, London, Cairo, Toronto, Rotterdam, and Creteil. Herf film Certain Women (co-directed with Bobby Abate) was an official selection of the Rotterdam International Film Festival and the opening night film at the New York Underground Film Festival (2004). Other films include Martina’s Playhouse (1989), The Deadman (1989, co-directed with Keith Sanborn), Strange Weather (1993), and Nocturne (1998), all in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. She has received grants from Jerome Foundation and Guggenheim Foundation fellowships, Alpert Award in the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and Art Matters. She teaches Film and Electronic Art at Bard College, New York.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan is a private ear living in Dubai.

Yin-Ju Chen interprets social power and history through cosmological systems. Utilizing astrology, sacred geometries, and alchemical symbols, she considers human behavior, nationalism, imperialism, state violence, totalitarianism, utopian formations, and collective thinking. Recently, she has been exploring the material effects of spiritual, shamanic, and Buddhism practices and the metaphysical potentialities of consciousness. She has participated in many international exhibitions and film festivals, inclduing at Shanghai Biennial (2023, 2014), Taipei Biennial (2023, 2020, 2012), Tate Modern Starr Cinema (2023), ICA at NYU Shanghai (2022), Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2021), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (2021), Gwangju Biennale (2021), Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art (2019), International Film Festival Rotterdam (2018, 2011), Transmediale (2018), Liverpool Biennial (2016), Forum Expanded at the Berlinale (2016), Biennial of Sydney (2016), and the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum Biennale (2014) among others. She lives and works in Taipei.

Aaron Schuster is the author of The Trouble with Pleasure: Deleuze and Psychoanalysis (MIT Press, 2016), and co-author of Sovereignty, Inc.: Three Inquiries in Politics and Enjoyment (University of Chicago Press, 2019). He has two books coming out next year: How to Research Like a Dog: Kafka’s New Science (MIT Press), and Spasm: Theater and the Philosophy of Tickling (Cabinet Books).

Denise Ferreira da Silva is a Professor and Director of the Social Justice Institute-GRSJ at the University of British Columbia.

RSVP for Corruption: Everybody Knows…

Thank you for your RSVP.

will be in touch.


e-flux announcements are emailed press releases for art exhibitions from all over the world.

Agenda delivers news from galleries, art spaces, and publications, while Criticism publishes reviews of exhibitions and books.

Architecture announcements cover current architecture and design projects, symposia, exhibitions, and publications from all over the world.

Film announcements are newsletters about screenings, film festivals, and exhibitions of moving image.

Education announces academic employment opportunities, calls for applications, symposia, publications, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Sign up to receive information about events organized by e-flux at e-flux Screening Room, Bar Laika, or elsewhere.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.