Jan 14 to Feb 26

Ground floor America


curated by WHW

Opening and curator’s talk:
January 13, 6 pm

«Ground floor America» is the title of a travel book by Soviet writer duo Ilf and Petrov, written in 1936. Traveling as official Soviet writers through the USA during the Depression, and describing the American culture and way of life with their characteristic humor and satirical approach, they criticize both American reality in the 1930s as well as Soviet prejudices against «decadent American capitalism». As an exhibition, «Ground floor America» takes Ilf’s and Petrov’s approach as a starting point for questioning the notion of «curatorial research» within the broader field of cultural translation, looking at the parallels between the burgeoning liberal economy’s capacity to erode a hitherto existing social consensus —both in the crisis era of the 1930s and at present.
Today, as then, one of the consequences of the economic crisis has been the massive rightward shift of the (European) electoral body. The post-89 conservative backlash, the dismantling of the welfare state, rampant anti-terror legislation and the black world of «security» agencies are all slowly eroding what was built up over two centuries of emancipatory struggles.
«Ground floor America» reflects on the research undertaken by the curatorial collective WHW in the course of the two-year preparations for the 11th International Istanbul Biennial (September to November 2009) in the regions of the Middle East, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, regions to various degrees struggling with their imposed and/or internalized «marginal» position in relation to the Western or Soviet project of modernism, in which contemporary art stands in a certain tension to the ideas of «authentic», «autochthonous» national cultures. Against the growing professionalism geared exclusively towards the staging of the exhibition, disregarding processes of knowledge production that entail more than merely acquiring and interpreting information, as well as the intentional and unintentional effects of ideologies in the process, «Ground floor America» focuses on those elements of «curatorial research» that stay hidden and outside of the international circulation of contemporary art. It is critical towards hegemonic cultural and geo-political relations and investigates oppositional strategies, dealing with issues of discrepancy between local and international reception and questioning the very possibility of knowledge production under global conditions of contemporary cultural production.

What, How & for Whom/WHW is a curatorial collective formed in 1999 and based in Zagreb, Croatia. Its members are Ivet Ćurlin, Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić and Sabina Sabolović, and designer and publicist Dejan Kršić. WHW organizes a range of productions, exhibitions and publishing projects and directs Gallery Nova in Zagreb. What, how and for whom, the three basic questions of every economic organization, concern the planning, concept and realization of exhibitions as well as the production and distribution of artworks and the artist’s position in the labor market. These questions formed the title of WHW’s first project dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, in 2000 in Zagreb, and became the motto of WHW’s work and the title of the collective. In 2002 WHW published Brian Holmes’ first book, Hieroglyphs of the Future.