Bad Seeds


The revolutions of the past were inspired by faith in a better future. Today by contrast, a myth-shrouded notion of «history» and historical roots are often invoked in the attempts to topple existing orders. This is at any rate the opinion of the Ukrainian artist and author Oleksiy Radynski, who will speak at kunstraum lakeside in November on the current battles being waged in his country. In his «Cacophony of Donbas» he analyzes the Russian-Ukrainian war as a fundamentalist reaction to globalization and illuminates the double role of the media as commentator on and active participant in political and military conflicts. How Ukrainian artists are capturing these conflicts in critical images, together with the political conditions that preceded them and the visions they propose for a new society, is the focus of the show «Sister Europe» curated by Lesya Prokopenko. The exhibition tackles the difficult task of undertaking critical analyses from the point of view of the artists who were directly involved in the political protests on and around Kiev’s Maidan Square. Can artists offer us more convincing or nuanced interpretations of the complex political conditions and their historical background than politicians and the media generally do? Certainly not always. With «Sister Europe,» Prokopenko instead pursues a curatorial approach that is predicated on the subjectivity of artistic perspectives and individual participation in events, concentrating on observed details and personal experience to gain fragmentary insights into a country that wants to break «with its Soviet past and at the same time with post-Soviet symptoms.»

In the second exhibition this semester, Berlin artists Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann look at the global implications of seed monopolies. Their project «In the Stomach of the Predators» examines the destructive aspects of »philanthropic capitalism,» which tries to combine, ostensibly without contradiction, a «commitment» to solving global problems with corporate interests and neoliberal financial policies. Can the world, or humanity, be saved if the ones trying to rescue it are private foundations whose business arms are at the same time inciting a global survival of the fittest?Taking as their springboard the Global Seed Vault set up a few years ago in the permafrost of Spitsbergen to preserve the biodiversity of seeds from all over the world—which is however financed by multinational corporations that with their commercial monopolization of seeds are one of the major forces for the destruction of such diversity—the exhibition traces the course of a series of ecological disasters that have occurred since the early days of the agro-industry in the interwar era. In the process, it inquires into the dynamics of disasters that give rise to new needs that are frequently satisfied by the very same sources whose business dealings caused the disaster in the first place. Creischer/Siekmann always try to create visual languages and systems of representation that help viewers to grasp more readily the complicated reciprocal effects among economics, politics and nature. In the exhibition «In the Stomach of the Predators» these visual aids consist primarily of picture panels that recall statistical diagrams, along with the tragic irony evoked by the re-enactment of official events of philanthropic capitalism.

Christian Kravagna, Hedwig Saxenhuber