Modernity since the 19th century, as we refer to it, was a decisive time for normalization in that it established dichotomic divisions between culture and nature, subject and object, rational and irrational, normal and abnormal. It was during this period that terms such as schizophrenia were coined to denominate those who could not be clearly classified on either side of the demarcations. Hybridity was hence considered as running contrary to the distinctions that we have come to accept as normal. The exhibition approaches the theme of normalcy by looking at ways of destabilizing these divides. One facet of getting outside of our usual logic and into a different one, and as a possible dehors of the normal, is the realm of the subconscious, rituals, and trance.
As entrepreneurs of our own psyche, of our élan vital, we manage our health like a bank balance, at the same time as companies utilize “neurodiversities” in their creative departments to generate new ideas. Although it might not be clear which side is privileged, the division between normal and abnormal remains intact. Since differences and our vitality have become valuable marketable assets, the turn to thingliness could be a logical alternative. Only when seeing the thing detached from the soul, can it be grasped as thing, not as commodity. In states of trance, objects can be perceived detached from their relational qualities and functions, they appear either as sublime or ridiculous and laugh-provoking. The ontologically different status of subject and object, rational and irrational, that modernity had divided up becomes instable. It goes against the normalized rationale of a human subject to be possessed, to lose or give up control over oneself, and so a modern person can never be a medium or shaman. The exhibition Outside considers hybridity as possible antithesis to a normalized society.
The works in the exhibition approach changes of mental states from different angles. Possession in dancing rites in Haiti in the historical work of Maya Deren is juxtaposed with Joachim Koester’s contemporary work on Carlos Castañeda’s so-called magical passes, which displays both a fascination with and questioning of the phenomenon, introducing the theme of charlatanry. Juan Downey’s work documents Yanomami myths and ceremonies, and addresses the ethnographic problem of the gaze and yearning for another logic, as does Camille Henrot’s split screen video on initiation rites in Vanuatu. Kristina Buch’s sculpture and drawings thematize the split self, our access to consciousness and the Deleuzian concept of the fold as opposed to dichotomic divisions. Cristóbal Lehyt’s drawings come into being when the artist enters a state of trance; Kapwani Kiwanga presents a series of signs originating from a divination session with an Ifa priest; Egill Sæbjörnsson’s installation can be read as comment on agency and questions our control over things; and Carsten Höller’s wearable work enables spectators to physically experience the exhibition in a different way. Finally, a screening at Moderna Museet with films by Dora García and Luke Fowler addresses the divisions between normality and abnormality in terms of mental illnesses in the aftermath of 1960s social movements.
The exhibition Outside is part of Normalcy, a cluster of activities hosted by the Royal Institute of Art during the academic year 2013/2014, initiated by Donatella Bernardi. The series of events including performances, lectures, workshops and exhibitions focuses on what it means to be normal, who decides what falls within the norm and why we have come to consider and accept so. The themes include Svenskhet, Queerness, Tsunami Aesthetics, Outside, Educational Complex, Dysfunctional Comedy, Explosion, Whitewashing Piracy and a CryptoParty.
With: Kristina Buch, Maya Deren, Juan Downey, Luke Fowler, Dora García, Camille Henrot, Carsten Höller, Cristóbal Lehyt, Kapwani Kiwanga, Joachim Koester, Egill Sæbjörnsson
Curated by Stefanie Hessler
Film screening 22 April, 2014
Moderna Museet, Biografen
3.30p.m. Dora García, The Deviant Majority (2010), 34 min
In The Deviant Majority, Dora García addresses revolutionary reforms in psychiatry that grew out of the political revolts of the late 1960s. The work is structured around three meetings: with the theater company Accademia della Follia of the Psychiatric Hospital of Trieste; Rio de Janeiro’s Teatro do oprimido; and activist Carmen Roll, former member of the German Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv (SPK). In the interview, Roll expounds on the SPK’s antagonism toward asylums in the early 1970s, rooted in the group’s belief that the social relations initiated by capitalism were responsible for physical manifestations of madness.
4.15p.m. Luke Fowler, All Divided Selves (2011), 93 min
The social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s were headed by the charismatic figure of Scottish Psychiatrist R. D. Laing. In his now classic text “The Politics of Experience” (1967) Laing argued that those society labels as “mentally ill” are in fact “hyper-sane” travellers. The film concentrates on archival representations of Laing and narrates his career shift from eminent psychiatrist to enterprising celebrity.
Index – The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation
112 26 Stockholm