Iris Dressler, Hans D. Christ

An Introduction

With the exhibition, Territories of the In/Human, Württembergischer Kunstverein followed the thematic focus “Design of the In/Human” at Akademie Schloss Solitude, namely, the question as to how pervasive concepts of the human and inhuman have become. Furthermore, the 20-year history of the Akademie Schloss Solitude coincided with a series of far-reaching political, social, economic, and cultural upheavals: from the disintegration of the communist and socialist states, to the establishment of new borders and enemy stereotypes, to significant changes in structures of information and communication.

While in the early 1990s the triumphant success of Western models of democracy and free market economy were still being celebrated, it soon became evident that its promises of never-ending peace and prosperity for all were not going to prove sustainable: in face of wars, such as those in former Yugoslavia, Africa, Afghanistan, or Iraq; an ever expanding divide between wealth and poverty; the scramble for natural resources like water, oil, and gas; and the bursting of diverse economic bubbles, not least in the context of the most recent collapse of the financial and real-estate markets. The accelerated and apparently boundless mobility of people, goods, information, or capital flows—as has been conjured in the scope of the rhetoric of progress within the age of globalization—goes hand in hand with those fatal acts of inclusion and exclusion to which nearly half a million people have fallen prey over the past two decades on trails of migration. “If in the system of the nation-state,’’ writes Giorgio Agamben, “the refugee represents such a disquieting element, it is above all because by breaking up the identity between man and citizen, between nativity and nationality, the refugee throws into crisis the original fiction of sovereignty.”[1]

It is against this backdrop that the exhibition of the Kunstverein set out to explore questions pertaining to concepts of the human and inhuman. Works from around 30 Solitude fellows, both current and former, were shown—works created between the 1990s and today.

Taking a central role here was an exploration of spatial and societal acts of inclusion and exclusion that have proven inherent to the concept of the modern man—in the sense of the sovereign (that is, of the bourgeois, white man). The dichotomies of human and inhuman, subject and object, norm and deviation, guilt and innocence were critically questioned with similar intensity as are the open and hidden ways of violence within the struggle to secure a position within a shifting world order. Continuing along these lines was an exhibition focus on patterns of angst and control, on concepts of functionality or on hierarchical patterns—including how these are inscribed in the territories of the private and the public. The objective of the exhibition did not—and could not feasibly—include an exhaustive negotiation of the question as to how pervasive concepts of the human and inhuman have become. It moreover attempted to treat selected aspects of this complex and sweeping radius of problematic issues.

[1] Giorgio Agamben: “We refugees,” in: Symposium, vol. 49, no. 2 (1995), pp. 114–119, p. 117.

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