press release

In present times, some are calling for the invention of new terminologies that can more accurately discern phenomena affecting our lives culturally, socially, and politically. Sometimes, the terms that we need are not to be reinvented but merely excavated and given new meaning. Edification is perhaps one such term.

A quick dictionary search will tell you that edification means ‘to instruct especially so as to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement,’ that it denotes an ‘uplifting enlightenment that results in understanding and the spread of knowledge.’

During the past three centuries, edification has been about individual thinkers creating equations for resolving the gap between the individual’s autonomy and the society the individual functions within. These equations are eventually diluted, simplified, or reconfigured to become the intellectual basis of states, the cultural codes of sociopolitical systems, or the administrative mechanisms of oppressive regimes. This exhibition attempts to think about the impact of edification on the way we live, practice politics, make art, and communicate. It features a range of diverse works by seven artists which indirectly address the struggle and ongoing debate between individual autonomy and social collectivity.

But how can we recognize edification? Think about how, although you have never read Gustave Flaubert’s novels, you have recently come to realize that you have been edified by them, or about how you know the essence of almost every article featured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights despite the fact that you have never bothered to read it. Think about how in moments of great despair or pain you suddenly find yourself reverting to religious terminology, even though you are more of an agnostic than a self-proclaimed believer. Or about how in the middle of an intimate interaction of love, you can only express your emotions in words that seem to be generic lines abundant in popular romantic movie scripts. Think about how many artists, curators, and art writers today either embody or struggle to escape the edification of such long-dead thinkers as Friedrich Schiller and John Ruskin, reinventing or trying to escape the reinvention of the moral-aesthetical wheels that they first invented. Edification is not an ultimately determining factor controlling life, nor is it an omnipresent external force, but it is that which lives in the gap between the individual’s will and a society’s idea of itself as a society.

The exhibition’s title references the title of the Kippenberger work that was the subject of a recent cleaning incident, in which a cleaning lady mistakenly cleaned a trompe l’oeil puddle painted on a component of the late artist’s piece entitled When it Starts Dripping from the Ceiling. The exhibition links questions generated by the incident’s occurrence to larger questions surrounding the notion of edification. Is edification avoidable, escapable, desirable, or is it simply an unavoidable trait? When the cleaning lady removed the faux puddle on Kippenberger’s work she put a stop to the ‘dripping from the ceiling’ that the artist intended to evoke the start of. The exhibition suggests that it is in moments like these that edification’s problematic nature reveals itself and signals the need for further thinking about its history and present.

When it Stops Dripping from the Ceiling
Kurator: Bassam El Baron

Künstler: Jesse Ash, Luis Camnitzer, Iman Issa, Per-Oskar Leu, Metahaven , Setareh Shahbazi, Humberto Velez; also featuring unidentified copies of sculptural works by Martin Kippenberger