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Planetary Consciousness

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7 June – 6 July 2008
Opening 6 June 2008, 7 pm
International group exhibition in the frame of the project ‘translate’

Christine Meisner, Mathias Poledna, Lisl Ponger, José Alejandro Restrepo
curated by Christian Kravagna


The exhibition deals with the stories and manifestations of a collective imagination structured by the polarity of centre and periphery and which can be generally subsumed under the title »Eurocentrism«. The title of the exhibition has been borrowed from a book by the literary scholar Mary Louise Pratt (Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, 1992), in which she delineates the manufacture of a European »planetary consciousness« on the basis of travel writing and the activities of collectors since the 18th Century.
The establishment of the systematic natural sciences since that time and parallel entrepreneurial European expeditions paved the way – along with adventure literature and travel writing – for a consciousness of European centrality, from which vantage point the rest of the world proffered itself both as an immense spectacle and as chaos in need of classification. Alongside the hardened techniques of economic exploitation and political control of overseas territories, »soft« literary, scientific and artistic techniques of surveying the world, the ordering of phenomena and the representation of differences shared in the consolidation of colonial ways of ruling, which in turn reached their zenith around 1900. The traces of the Eurocentric world view in the structures of individual consciousness and feeling extend beyond the colonial era, whereas since the mid 20th Century they have been subjected to post–colonial critique. The exhibition probes the current status of planetary consciousness on the basis of artworks concerned with the genesis of a European worldview in cross–genre stagings of the centre/periphery model against the backdrop of (post–) colonial dispositives. If one regards this worldview as mythical knowledge, then it is precisely artistic methods and procedures themselves that seem appropriate to evoke the often diffuse and conceptually challenging structures of feeling of centrality and planetary consciousness and furthermore to identify them – very much in Barthes’ description of the mythologies of knowledge – as »formless, unstable, nebulous condensation«.

In The Present Christine Meisner follows the traces and stages in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness in Belgium, The Congo and Poland in order to lend historical travel writing a contemporary perspective. The work is dedicated to a contrapuntal description of the divided yet differently experienced and institutionalised history of Europe and Africa. If authors such as Conrad were the ones to shape the collective European imagination of colonial lands right up to the 20th Century, then it was Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th Century who formed Europe’s planetary consciousness and particularly the image of the »New World«.

In El crocodilo de Humboldt no es el crocodilo de Hegel, José Alejandro Restrepo refers to a difference of opinion between Hegel und Humboldt, which can be read as a paradigm for inner European differences when viewing the world outside Europe, and results in turn from accessing different disciplines within the general body of knowledge itself.

In Wild Places Lisl Ponger delineates a genealogy of genres of imperialist action/representation with reference to the colonialised »other«, in which artists play a part. With En Couleur, one of the best known photographs by Man Ray, Ponger alludes to an early phase of art criticism – which was however itself still imbued with exotic projections – of European Modernism’s racist, colonialist image of the world. Ponger’s work Die Beute (The Spoils) compresses the innumerable references of planetary consciousness to an image of a (post–) modern psychopathology of cultivated Eurocentrism.

Mathias Poledna addresses the Western drive to archive everything by using a specific example, which however need not be construed from the outset as a product of a colonial, imperialist mentality. His showcases present long playing records – »Music of Southeast Asia«, »Anthology of Central & South American Indian Music«, »Voices of the Satellites«, etc. – which are taken from a Folkways Records (1948––1986) project aimed at compiling an encyclopaedic compendium of the »entire world of sounds«. The records appear here in a museum setting as documents of Western Modernism, whose sense of self feeds upon from the notion of an exhaustive visualisation and preservation of the Other.

Christian Kravagna


Christine Meisner, * 1970, lives in Berlin.
Exhibitions (selection):
2008 MUSEION Bozen.
2007 Victoria & Albert Museum London; Centre of Contemporary Art Warsaw.
2006 Salzburger Kunstverein.
2005 Musée des Beaux–Arts–Ville de Nantes; Pinacoteca, Sao Paulo; Museum of         Modern Art, Recife.
2004 ifa-Galerie, Berlin; ifa-Galerie, Stuttgart; Ateliers d’Artistes de la Ville,         Marseille.
2003 NGBK Berlin; Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna.
2000 Kunstbuero Vienna. 1999 film festival Diagonale Graz.

Mathias Poledna, * 1965, lives in Los Angeles and Vienna.
Exhibitions (selection):
2007–2009 Crystal Palace, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles/ Museum of         Contemporary Art, Chicago/ New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York         (Cat.) (Solo)
2007 For a Special Place: Documents and Works from the Generali Foundation         Collection, Austrian Cultural Forum, New York.
2006 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum New York (Cat.) Galerie Daniel         Bucholz, Cologne (Solo)
2005 Witte de With, Rotterdam (Solo)
2004 20/20 Vision, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 3. Biennale fuer         Zeitgenoessische Kunst, Kunstwerke Berlin (Cat.)
2003 Museum fuer Moderne Kunst, Sammlung Ludwig, Vienna (Solo).
2001 Grazer Kunstverein, Graz (Solo)
1996 Manifesta 1, Rotterdam.

Lisl Ponger, * 1947, lives in Vienna. Exhibitions (selection):
2008 Lasst tausend Blumen bluehen, Kunsthaus, Dresden (Cat.) (Solo)
2007 21 Positions, Austrian Cultural Forum, New York.
         Imago Mundi, Landesgalerie, Linz (Cat.) (Solo)
2006 All our Tomorrows, Kunstraum der Universitaet Lueneburg, Lueneburg
2005 Projekt Migration, Koelnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (Cat.)
         Schweizer Krankheit + die Sehnsucht nach der Ferne, Kunsthaus Dresden,         Dresden
2004 Der Black Atlantic, House of World Cultures, Berlin (Cat.)
        Si j’avais eu l’autorisation ... , Dak’art Off. Dakar, (Solo)
        Tour–ism, Tapies Foundation, Barcelona
2002 Documenta XI, Kassel (Cat.)
        Routes, Grazer Kunstverein, Graz (Cat.)

José Alejandro Restrepo, * 1959, lives in Bogota. Exhibitions (selection):
2007 52nd Biennal Venice
2006 Artists Space, New York
2005 Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki
2004 Botánica política. Usos de la ciencia, usos de la historia. Sala Montcada,         Fundació "la Caixa", Barcelona, Spain (Cat.)
        Leçons de mémoire/Memory Lessons. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France         "Nous venons en paix..."/Histoires des Amériques. Musée d’Art Contemporain,         Montréal, Canada (Cat.)
2003 Machihembrao. Galería Valenzuela y Klenner, Bogotá, Colombia (Cat.)         Colombia 2003. Oscar Muñoz, José Alejandro Restrepo, Miguel Ángel Rojas.         Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires, Argentina (Cat.)
        90: Desplazamientos. Arte colombiano en los 90. Museo de Arte Moderno,         Bogotá, Colombia (Cat.)
2002 TransHistoires. Histoire et mythe dans l’oeuvre de José Alejandro Restrepo.         Ecole Supérieure des Beaux–Arts, Toulouse, France (cat.) (Solo)
2000 7th Biennal Havanna


This project was carried out in the framework of translate.eipcp.net und mit Mitteln des EU-Kultur 2000 Programms der Europäischen Union durchgeführt.