press release

Witte de With is pleased to present two upcoming exhibitions in the Morality program: Act VI: Remember Humanity, and Act VII: Of Facts and Fables. They open simultaneously on Wednesday 12 May 2010.

Opening on Wednesday 12 May 2010, 6-9 p.m. 6.30 p.m.: Expressive Power Series # 1 Max Bonner on The Phenomenology of Speech a scripted event by Nicoline van Harskamp

ACT VI: Remember Humanity 13 May – 29 August 2010

Many of the themes that have dominated contemporary political thought point to the ominous view that "humanity" has become an historical subject, no longer essential to contemporary economic and political considerations. For instance, the notion of "bare life" taken up by Giorgio Agamben, suggests a bankruptcy of the human rights charter in terms of humanity's capacity to hold to its principles of freedom and equality. The notion of "immaterial labor," most famously developed by Maurizio Lazzarato, indicates a further alienation of the world from its material fabric and concrete foundations. The imperative suggested in the title of this exhibition, to "remember humanity," is therefore an allusion to a present condition in which humanity has become an historical subject rather than part of our objective reality.

The exhibition Remember Humanity starts from this hypothesis and includes the work of artists who approach "our" present as a field of fragmented existences and isolated interests. Together, these works provide a partial sense of how the construction of the world and the construction of the idea of humanity are mutually conditioned. The works here included do not set out to affirm "humanity" in a nostalgic way, or attempt to "retrieve" it from the record of lost ideas. More central to the logic of these works is an examination of how the notion of "human" is constructed – in opposition to the animal, to madness, to the idea of the primitive, in contraposition to war, and also in the affirmation of "labor" and "consciousness."

Artists: Ziad Antar, Julieta Aranda, Mirosław Bałka, Milena Bonilla, Lee Bul, Luke Fowler, Minouk Lim, Goshka Macuga, Kent Monkman, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Julika Rudelius, Michael Stevenson, Rosemarie Trockel.

ACT VII: Of Facts and Fables 13 May – 26 September 2010

There is a traditional distinction between the earth as the space of nature, and the world as the space of humanity. Fictions and abstractions belong to the world, as do thought and action. The fable, however, invariably returns to nature in search of motifs that are excluded from the principles and imperatives of morality: animals, plants, inanimate objects. Children are the fable's ideal audience, and are also exempt from the sphere of morality and moral imperatives, even if only temporarily – that is, for as long as they are children or remain "child-like." In this sense, that which is excepted from morality is susceptible to becoming an example – a negative example – of the seemingly chaotic and "anarchic" state of nature. Animal behavior, for instance, is often mobilized by moralistic discourses in order to prove that the true nature of humanity is one of uninhibited impulses that morality is designed to set right.

Of Facts and Fables brings together a selection of works that mobilize this realm of exception, presenting a critical image of the world and its fictions, operating in a space of representation that relies on fabulous motifs. History, mysticism, fiction, and scientific discourse come together in this exhibition as both outmoded forms of thought, and as potential for new kinds of speculative critique.

Artists: Saâdane Afif, Danaï Anesiadou, Mirosław Bałka, Keren Cytter, Stan Douglas, Agnès Geoffray, Erik van Lieshout, Marko Lulić, Philippe Parreno, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Luc Tuymans, Ola Vasiljeva, Danh Vo, Tris Vonna-Michell.

Curated by Juan A. Gaitán and Nicolaus Schafhausen; assisted by Amira Gad.