press release

… advancing due east [he would] turn his bust as far as possible towards the north and at the same time to fling out his right leg as far as possible to the south, and then to turn his bust as far as possible towards the south and at the same time to fling out his left leg as far as possible towards the north...

This is the press release for an exhibition that has already had several titles and assumed a variety of forms, and yet has still not taken place, and which nonetheless takes place, and which nonetheless will have taken place.

This exhibition could have been called “Present is a thing of the past, now”. That is what it was called for a while until the affirmation of this unverifiable formula was reduced to a linear and tautological slogan.

What interested us about the use of this title – the original – is the way it portrays the present like a time span within which one lives without residing there. A step forward or backward disappearing the instant it is taken.

The contemporary as a nomad of the present.

- You think so? - Don’t interrupt, let’s go on, let’s go ahead like scouts feeling their way through trial and error, wandering and speculation, simply in order to see. And then we are uncertain about wanting to demonstrate. But just to see where that brings us.

Thus, at the beginning, we tried to look from one work to another, from one exhibition to another, to understand why there is this attraction today to images from the past, this use of forms, of stories, of existing elements in many artistic practices: from appropriation to palimpsest, from historiography to decontextualization by simply putting things back into circulation.

Like a way of “taking position” with these images and these stories which result in montage, collage, assemblage and collision that differentiate things that are usually related and connect others that are usually separated. Operations that link one temporality to another by observing their trajectories and what separates them. A fascination with the interval.

… looking for our way in the night

Artists have always looked to the past and at history on a regular basis to compare the present and anticipate the future. But today it would appear to be more of an attempt to build a subjective archeology based on images, ideas, works from the past, in the perspective of a fragmentary (re)distribution of the visible.

“What is the contemporary?” is the title of the first lesson in the philosophy class given in 2005 – 2006 by Giorgio Agamben at the university IUAV in Venice. What interests us here is how the philosopher defines “those who are truly contemporary, who truly belong to their time, as those who neither perfectly coincide with it nor adjust themselves to its demands. They are thus in this sense irrelevant. But precisely because of these conditions, precisely through this rejection and this anachronism, they are more capable than others of perceiving and grasping their own time”. He then develops this definition through different processes (physics, poetics, phenomenological) related to the gaze and vision.

He thus adds that “the contemporary is he who firmly holds his gaze on his own time so as to perceive not its light, but rather its darkness. (…) The ones who can call themselves contemporary are only those who do not allow themselves to be blinded by the lights of the century, and so manage to get a glimpse of the shadows in those lights, of their intimate obscurity”. But, he continues, “the contemporary is not only the one who, perceiving the darkness of the present, grasps a light that can never reach its destiny; he is also the one who, dividing and interpolating time, is capable of transforming it and putting it in relation with other times. He is able to read history in unforeseen ways, to “cite it” according to a necessity that does not arise in any way from his will, but from an exigency to which he cannot not respond. It is as if this invisible light that is the darkness of the present cast its shadow on the past, so that the past, touched by this shadow, acquired the ability to respond to the darkness of the now”.

This exhibition could have been called “What visions in the dark of light” or “What visions in the shadeless dark of light and shade” , as a voice exclaims in Company by Samuel Beckett. “Eyes wide shut”, he writes, in his constant quest for light in his work, all the way down to the ways it is darkened.

… the ineluctable modality of the visible

In the end, the exhibition was called “The Crystal Hypothesis” after a variety of calcite that demonstrates double refraction. Explanations. An object placed behind an Iceland crystal appears double, slightly shifted with respect to the original. A double refraction that may be attributed to a temporal phenomenon: if the image of this object appears double, it is because light rays traveling through the crystal split into fast and slow beams; one of the images is older than the other and the rays are bent at different angles – which are affected by the speed – as they exit the crystal.

In a way, this hypothesis of the co-existence of a double temporality echoes artists’ works in the exhibition in which certain anachronisms seem to exist to better express the present of which they are a part. The blind figure thus crosses that of the dazzled figure, the standards of representation, the circulation of images, how they are shown, represented, the distance from which we look at the things of the past are just a few elements that surround this exhibition and the works in it.

Sometimes it is possible to say things by describing just the contours of that which contains them.

only in german

The Crystal Hypothesis

Künstler: Ulla von Brandenburg, Isabelle Cornaro, Julien Crepieux, Ryan Gander, Mark Geffriaud, Adrian Ghenie, Benoit Maire, Bruno Persat, Clement Rodzielski, Bojan Sarcevic