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The Conspiracy
Group Exhibition Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Date: 08.01, 2009 - 09.06, 2009

Artists: XU Zhen 徐震 | 

The Conspiracy brings together work from an extensive group of local and international artists. They were invited for the diversity of their artistic production and participative models they propose. Together they span different generations, so that various strategies for public interaction engage one another. The Conspiracy is an investigation into the perception and reception of art in the public debate and seeks out strategies by which artists enter into connections with various understandings regarding the public.

As a basic characteristic of a cultural object is its (supposed) significance or 'meaning' beyond its physical fact, art regularly encounters difficulties of legitimisation. Since a structural split between this meaning and the physical fact became part of our way to perceive the world and its representations, there is a possibility to consider the 'meaning' of cultural objects as arbitrary. Modern and contemporary art have been subject to the suspicion that 'the meaning of art' is somehow conspiratorial in nature. This 'critique' is as old as the avant-garde, but it was Jean Baudrillard who infuriated the art world with his text Le Complot de l' Art, published in the French newspaper Libération in 1996. In the article, Baudrillard claimed that art exists everywhere but in art, and that it has become a case of insider trading (the term is frequently used to refer to a practice in which an insider or a related party trades based on material non-public information obtained during the performance of the insider's duties at the corporation).

He also expressed concern that art has become tainted with the close and oppressive relationship between artist and consumer, with the obscenity of interactivity, and with the lack of formal difference between art and reality.

This takes us to the core of Baudrillard's dissatisfaction with the art world - art's task is to help us cope with our vital illusion - the fact that we do not know the real, merely the appearances behind which it hides. All good art for Baudrillard appreciates this vital illusion that encompasses our existence. In recent years, art has become entangled with notions of reality and attempting to think the real. According to Baudrillard, art has lost all desire for illusion. It feeds back endlessly into itself and it has turned its own disappearance into an art unto itself. Hovering between aesthetic insignificance and commercial frenzy, Baudrillard considered art trans-aesthetic: a pornography of transparency that one can only experience with irony and indifference.  Moreover, Le Complot de l' Art strongly questioned art's privileged status, attributed by its practitioners, and although Baudrillard sought for an art experience freed from the mediation of curators and gallery owners, his call for distance and his appeal to a 'proper to art', is added today by populist politicians and cultural brokers as one of the main characteristics of a conspiracy of art.

It is exactly because of its combination of preciseness and ambiguity that art is suspicious - not because of the transparency of messages and feelings. As Jacques Rancière wrote, art doesn't become political by representing structures of society, conflicts or identities of specific social groups. Art is political because of the distance it can take from these functions, by the type of temporality and space it constitutes and by the way it tailors this temporality and populates this space. That what is 'proper to art', according to Rancière, is exactly this reorganisation of a material and symbolic space towards the creation of a disaffirmation.

Exposing the conspiracy theories via a radical identification of art's secular thought with a defiant, ruthless materialism, with scepsis and godlessness, a necessarily refusal of all superstition, transcendence, magic and mystery, was the emancipatory project of the Enlightenment which inspired different avant-gardes... It is great time this (unfinished) project of disenchantment should be re-ignited in times we far too enthusiastically plunge back into the dark abyss of obscuring and foggy beliefs. But even if since Goya's apocalyptic visions we all know that the 'sleep of reason' produces monsters, we also know he had to visualise them in order to convince himself of his ideas.

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