What Makes Another World Possible?
Why this exhibition? Why now?
In 2019, I co-authored the book Making Another World Possible (Routledge, Creative Time) that brought into focus the last decade of socially engaged art and contemporary political issues from a global perspective. Together with contributors from all over the world, we looked at the ways in which socially engaged art has moved from the margins of the art world to being a central part of the discussion on contemporary art and politics.
Writing this after the watershed year 2020, deep into our second year of the pandemic, there is now perhaps a sharply acute global consciousness and deep awareness of a shared environmental, political and economic fate and a shared perception of crisis. Two years after the release of my book I found it necessary to rethink the original title into a question, which has been answered by the artists in this exhibition, bringing together art, activism and global politics.
The original publication tackled 10 global issues through the prism of socially engaged art projects, including: the militarisation of society, the proliferation of surveillance, entrenched economic inequalities, rising social movements, displacement of peoples, cosmopolitics, anti-racist struggles, creative education in crisis, queerness and political expression, and new devices enabling political action.
In light of the fact that the global pandemic disaster has only amplified these urgent issues and interest in socially engaged art has grown, I have taken the challenge of organising this exhibition in the specific context of Estonia. Rather than attempting a global survey, the adaptation of this book into a physical exhibition seeks to raise fundamental questions that ignite conversation and contribute to the understanding of socially engaged art in this region.
Spanning new commissions by Chto Delat?, Sandra Kosorotova, Vala T. Foltyn, Urmas Viik, Alina Bliumis, Dan Perjovschi, contextually adapted works by Lia Perjovschi, Daniela Ortiz, Kristina Norman, Dushko Petrovich and Ala Younis as well as existing projects featured in the book by Tanja Ostojić, Zach Blas and Núria Güell, the question remains: which roles has art played in the last year of social and political struggles around the world, and how have practitioners of the previous decade used art as a tool for shaping society?
In putting this exhibition together and inviting a dialogue between artists coming from different backgrounds and working across diverse mediums, I was guided by the belief that artists contribute to some of the most crucial debates of our times and that their voices are significant in shaping the society and imagining how it could be different.
What are these voices gathered in the exhibition in Tallinn saying? The exhibition is not so much about forming a consensus between them; rather, what brings them together is a shared strategy of dissensus, revealing contradictions and power imbalances and challenging the prevailing culture without merging different positions into sameness. It is through a radical pedagogy of learning to acknowledge the tensions and bridging differences, that the artists in this exhibition deploy more challenging forms and strategies to arrive at social change.
In bringing these distinct yet related artistic positions together, I have sought to form the understanding of the exhibition space as more than just a venue for the presentation of art; it is also a space for learning and exploring. It is my hope that the multifaceted and layered art projects and cultural experiences available during the run of this exhibition will contribute to the reconstruction of solidarity and inspire the viewer to imagine new acts of disobedience under the neoliberal-capitalist logic of crisis and a new pedagogy of collective empowerment.