July 7, 2013

The Whole Earth. Or Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?

On Sunday I went to the last day of the show The Whole Earth in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. A fascinating topic, and definitely a lot of fascinating material to discover in the exhibition. Yet I was left with an ambivalent feeling about the presentation. It was more of a catalogue than an exhibition and there was a lot to read. So it was more about text than it was about  art. No, actually, it was not even a catalogue. I think the experience of watching this exhibition is best described as surfing on the internet for hours and hours, reading wikipedia and going on youtube. It might be that this was really the aim of the curators, Anselm Franke and Diedrich Diederichsen, and then they did their job well. But it is questionable if it is an endeavor that is critical or if it just not repeating the state of our earthly beings right now, mimicking its own subject “The Whole Earth”. After hours of surfing, one link leading you to the next one, and discovering interesting stuff, and then getting info on wikipedia about it, and surfing some more - well, it leaves you exhausted. It is an activity one knows it would be better to avoid - it just takes up time and keeps you from living. To double it in “real life” - making an exhibition virtual yet occupying space... Still feeling ambivalent.

It seems like Anselm Franke and Diedrich Diedrichssen got on this hallucinant internet trip researching for their topic, and then they decided to keep it there, in that research state:  the case of presenting instead of interpreting. Not making a form out of it. Of course there was a format: cardboards. Anselm Franke seems to be a fan of displays on cardboards, small screens integrated in those ugly things with lots of text next to it. I’ve seen it before in an exhibition he did in Antwerp: one feels like one is watching the screen of an ATM, so my friend Andreia Birkenbach remarked. Another activity one tries to avoid. Cardboards seem to be so 1970s to me, and wasn’t that decade empty?

The Whole Earth set-up reminds me of a text by Jean Baudrillard - his last book of 2007: “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared”? An exhibition as a parade of commentaries, audio-visuals, showing of interpretations of interpretations. Yet Baudrillard wonders: there is always a “trace” left behind. To quote: “Everything that disappears seeps back into our lives in infinitesimal doses, often more dangerous than the visible authority that ruled over us. In our age of tolerance and transparency, prohibitions,controls and inequalities disappear one by one, but only the better to be internalized in the mental sphere.”