Abb.: Eugenio Merino, Toxic Trump, 2017

September 7 - December 7, 2019

Opening: Saturday, September 7, 2019, 3 pm

Gallery Tour of the SpinnereiGalleries: 7th-8th September 2019

Guided Tours: Every Saturday, 3 pm

Makoto Aida, Ines Doujak, Işıl Eğrikavuk, INDECLINE, Eugenio Merino, Csaba Nemes, Tools for Action, Wen Yau 

at the end: W ... T ... F went WRRONNNNG?

It seems like not so long ago that the art world had had enough, complaining: anything goes. The avant-garde desire for freedom – to subordinate everything to the artistic gesture, to recognize no authority outside its own sphere, to more than just ignore public taste – ran its course long ago. Instead of building an alternative narrative, postmodernism refused them all: art and history had reached their final stage of maximum freedom. Spurred by digital, limitless, non-hierarchical communication, the age of democratization, liberalization and globalization had begun with no alternatives.


This former certainty is gone today. The tectonics of social emotional structures have slipped their foundations. The present appears as a permanent state of crisis, as a reversal of all values. Even the happy few, the privileged societies of the liberalized world community, are no longer intact. They are driven by fears, especially the fear of losing their privileges. Consensus and solidarity were yesterday. Everyone for themselves! ... even at the expense of humanity. Everywhere one sees liberties threatened. Some say there are limits on speech everywhere. Others fear the restriction of guaranteed rights.


An authoritarian backlash has hold of the democracies. Between 1994 and 2011 Italy’s media mogul Silvio Berlusconi served as prime minister four times. Vladimir Putin has been controlling Russia’s democracy since 1999. Since 2000 the FPÖ, a radical right-wing party, has been part of Austria’s government. For ten years after the electoral victory of the Danish People’s Party in 2001, the minority government in Copenhagen was only able to govern with their acquiescence. Since 2003 Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the strong man in Turkey. In 2018, he reconfigured the government into a bespoke presidential democracy. In 2010 Viktor Orbán was again selected prime minister of Hungary and has created an illiberal democracy on Putin’s model. In 2012, the culturally reactionary, economically liberal premier of Japan – Shinzo Abe – discovered social media as a means for slanderous attacks on political opponents and the media. Hong Kong’s citizens and youth have been resisting the erosion of their freedoms by the Chinese government for years. With the electoral victory of the PiS in 2015, the Polish constitution went into crisis. In the same year, multi-billionaire Donald Trump – with his contemptuous, attention-grabbing posturing – took over the Republican Party and, in 2017, the most powerful office in the world. The True Finns, the Sweden Democrats, the Danish People’s Party, the Five Star Movement in Italy and the Alternative for Germany have twisted the political discourse in Europe to the right, celebrating electoral successes and participating in government coalitions. 2019 brought Jair Bolsonaro into Brazil’s presidency with a racist, anti-woman, anti-gay election campaign.

Who...’sssss NXT? {...}

The new populism turns against actual or alleged elites and against the sometimes false consensus in political life. The mainstream parties are no longer the voice of the people. The vox populi speaks on social media. Not infrequently, it becomes antisocial and dismal: troll factories, shitstorms, hate speech, baiting, filter bubbles, social robots, voter manipulation. Ultimately, it is an antipolitics that aims at division and reinforces centrifugal social forces. Exclusionary ridicule, provocation and political incorrectness have become weapons of these movements. Reflexive outrage and admonitions about democratic and ethical standards are factored in. Ironically, freedom of religion and expression is invoked against them. »I’ve got a right to my opinion!« Culture and art have fallen into this vortex and have again become a site of dispute – the same with the cultures of remembering and forgetting.


The show introduces artists and artist groups who resist authoritarian powers in their countries, who take to the streets, who participate in the social negotiation process and who call attention to threats and in turn provoke them. What political and artistic restrictions do they face? Where have there been cases of exertion of political influence and censorship? Where have artists endangered themselves? How and with whom do the artists feel solidarity? Who is in solidarity with them? Which prescriptions can art offer for regaining one’s own agency? Is it time for art to be ... to again be ... to become political? Or is it just too late? Is escape an alternative? Escape to where or into what? Ultimately, this project wants to animate people to recognize their own agency, to speak instead of remaining silent and to seek dialogue instead of confrontation.

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