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REPORT ON DAMTP PSYCHIC ATTACK ON MANIFESTA 9 RELATED EVENT IN HASSELT Print
Written by DAMTP   

 

The report is about DAMTP infiltration into the event of extreme eurocentrism in the essence and approach while involving wide range of international artists (majority as usually were white males).

In general the project ‘Hotel de inmigrantes’ was intended to deal with the global tendencies of emigration therefore projecting the problem on artists as being immigrants. The part of this broader project in Hasselt was curated by Tomasz Wendland, artist and the initiator of Hotel de Inmigrantes and by Koen Vanmechelen, the artist who was hosting this project at his studio in Hasselt. The subtitle of the project ‘Cosmopolitan Stranger’ relates to the art work of the latter. Vanmechelen is mostly known for his ‘Cosmopolitan Chicken Project’: a project that researches the evolution and hybridisation of worldwide races of chickens as an example of human desire to create an ideal human being. With the title ‘Cosmopolitan Stranger’ curators claimed to provocatively support and protect the value of local phenomena, attitudes, conventions, customs, practices, rituals and traditions. They aimed at defending art from the standardization, from so called global aesthetic and global objectiveness. About 30 artists were inhabited for 10 days in a common space with their artworks so to result occupation of a 3000 m² building.

 

Prior to the arrival of artists invited for the event under the title “Cosmopolitan Stranger” in Hasselt, Belgium there was sent a message to majority of the arriving artists about real intentions of DAMTP towards the event: to attack white supremacy, patriarch and bourgeois culture. It seemed that artists and bunch of curators took it as a kind of conceptual approach or rather as a joke. DAMTP decided instead of building up the straight confrontation to switch on flexible strategy to spread counter-art propaganda by individual approach to the people involved – artists, visitors, journalists and curators too. So far curators were trying to behave even more like artists are usually used to look like, so [possibly] trying to show a right example to be followed.

 

It was not declared but all the organization was arranged to look like “low budget”, but it was not indeed as later the participants figured out. However artists were as usually left without any fee, they came for the event on their own resources and were fed for free with products reaching expiration date. It was expected from the artists to do (or to bring from home) an art piece(s) for the show and also to sleep right in the common space with the show objects and with the art objects produced by one of curators, which included living animals imprisoned for breeding experiments . If one tries to read the curatorial texts or to listen to the official presentations – the situation was a competition between above mentioned two curators’ concepts: are the artists here to symbolize crossbred chickens or immigrants from a hundred of years ago? From that point of view it’s another case in the trendy nowadays logic. Also Manifesta 9 main exhibition in neighboring Genk is based on the same trick – better or less known artists exploit the topic of miners who used to live and be exploited there a hundred years ago, in this context simply giving up with class consciousness and sinking into a bourgeois spectacle. During one of the discussions there suddenly came up the main position of the organizers – to produce as much as possible of pictures, and talking in fact was always pointed towards the “quality of the picture”. As it got clear from the discussions – curators feel not in plight for the artists, but rather for some abstract – they call it Art. Also the funds were reserved for making a glossy catalogue in the future – they never even started a discussion about what would be its structure. But we know from our colonialist experiences– who gives a name –rules.

 

The result was that artists came to the place, where they stayed for 10 days in the same space with their own works to live in the – now fashionable – situation of peaceful (white) physical occupation but remained psychically chained up to the rituals of the art world: making a show, announcing their own performances, giving the presentations of their artworks and activities. But also they came up with a machine gun of released jokes – DAMTP were those to keep it in continuous flow. The pick happen once around midnight at the table for the discussion about the future of the art project – the curator started to blame DAMTP on their lack of seriousness. Also there was the second occasion to accuse DAMTP taking free food from the fridge (first time it sounded slightly different: “why do you eat, if you came here to strike”. DAMTP responded that this case is not the hunger strike yet). Indeed, that is the less smart accusation you can throw to a serious joker. This time DAMTP answer was: "What you want is to unify the minds, right?". The verb "TO STANDARDIZE" could be used too as this case.

 

Besides, the artists were involved into few absolutely fake rituals to fit [possibly] somebody’s prejudiced idea of completing a chicken project portfolio – the absolutely unnecessary registration in Hasselt’s immigration office and also DNA samples extracting from the more “exotic” looking artists and with presence of specially invited funny people dressed in white and also TV crew. DAMTP were in solidarity with proposal by Uruguayan artist Alejandro to ask the microbiologist scientist to sign the paper about refusing from misuse of people and further their discrimination in the sense of inequality as it usually is demonstrated in the name of science. The scientist agreed finally with some limitations by simply saying that she does not agree with everything said in the paper. Another Alejandro’s step was to ask for a white dressing-gown from the scientist and then dressed in it himself. He asked the question to the scientist why often this dress is white, and the answer was, that “white is clean”. Therefore black is not clean? White is serious, while black is not. White eurocentrist science is not less racist then its bourgeois art – that is why both sides can so easily simulate their “research” collaborations.

 

Probably the mostly rotten structures are based on connections of art world with politicians. There in Hasselt it happened too – the mayor of the city with few more officials gave an official reception in the city hall. It was followed by the group photo of artists and politicians standing on the staircase at the main entrance to the city hall. DAMTP decided to show their striking backs. No artists neither politician agreed to join the strike. DAMTP were asked to show their faces and agreed on it only in the case if all non striking artists and politician would turn their backs to the cameras. And they just did it. And again – no more artists or politicians agreed to join strikers. Hasselt event organizers did not show the photos yet, but invited politicians to come up for a night to sleep in the common space with artists and their artworks. Politicians took it as a challenge and did it few days later.

 

Pick moment for the event was a visit by a group of real immigrants from a local community. Immigrants from as diverse countries as Nigeria, Cameroon, Afghanistan and others were not hiding their joy that their problems are raised and told the stories about inherent racism in local society and growing up of bureaucratic apparatus which further supports it. After a brief exchange with real issues it seems that DAMTP and at least African immigrants agreed on inherent colonist and therefore racist approach in the Eurocentric culture too. It could be proved also by failure attempts to find any course of talk between curator and real immigrants, unless his real focus is based on artistic games and developing of their further tourism. Difference between immigration and tourism was a main failure for him to understand, or it was already prejudiced mislead from the very beginning. As curator illustratively pointed out to DAMTP – “my task is to bring you and your works to Uruguay and other places round the world…”. But the real issue is not a traveling neither sending some things abroad, but straight talking to people who are not necessarily artists. And not about invented symbolics, or simulated topics, or manipulated pictures, but about real painful experiences.

 

Martin’s proposition instead of presentation of the artworks simply to try to follow the tune beaten into the table when listening to it personally and trying to sing collectively – that was a great exercise of what we are missing when trying to follow art-system-rituals based on symbolic meaning and common sense.

 

Finaly DAMTP concludes that the event in Hasselt will remain in the memories of the artists gathered as possibility of human communication and – DAMTP hopes to bring them some suspicions - that the real obstacle for disturbing it is the art they produce and the art system what besides inviting them to particular places also inverts the real meaning of their doings. The art takes away from the people the physical space, occupies their psychic capacities, and empties time. Instead of simulating the “research” of global problems, it’s time for artists to face their own misery.

 

There would be no better parallel as that from B movie Human Centipede where Dr. Lawrence/Martin came from just to signify that the art system is one of kind [see the picture above].