The exhibition takes the setting of the context as the starting point of the visual and philosophical reflection and invites the visitor to contemplate the post-modern concept. ‘Pars Pro Toto’, the Latin term for the designation of a whole by one of its constituent parts, features the work of eight, mainly local, artists. Each of the works has something to do with the way in which space and matter are experienced as an environment and are transmitted through time. Structural and ornamental elements are central to this. Through an investigation of form and language, the scene of a fiction constructed from objects and ceremonies emerges - a dream in which the spectator is the protagonist.
An institution is a social phenomenon with a cultural, economic, political and historical dimension. Institutional critique attempted under the influence of semioticians Umberto Eco (with ‘Opera Aperta’, 1962) and Roland Barthes (with ‘La mort de l’auteur’, 1967) to show the difference between (institutionally determined) aesthetics and (personally determined but institutionally cultivated) taste by questioning objectivity, identity, originality and authenticity. In line with the research I have been conducting over the last 7 years with the exhibition platform Société, conceptual and algorithmic art can help us formalise an institutional critique and radically rethink the exhibition as a place of expression. Algorithmic and conceptual art can be divided into linguistic, analytic and synthetic movements. In the case of synthetic conceptualism, the research focuses on the social, economic and political significance of the art institution and the meaning lies in the context. The context of the current exhibition is that of an artist-run non-profit institution where workspaces are organised around a central, postmodern exhibition space. In the postmodern condition, old and new, pop and avantgarde are mixed and technology is given a place. The choice to exhibit in such a context is an invitation to take a critical stance towards aesthetics and taste.
From text to context In the 1960s, institutional critique questioned space (e.g. Michael Asher’s works) and information (e.g. Hans Haacke’s ‘News’, 1969). It is the social, economic and political situation of the 1960s that was at the root of conceptual art. New formats appeared, in which, on the one hand, the work and its support coincide and, on the other, a distinction is made between the work and its support (cf. Seth Siegelaub ‘primary’ vs ‘secondary’ information). This led to an expansion of the context and form in which the work could appear (and be distributed and promoted), including the architectural space (e.g. Lawrence Weiner’s ‘36” x 36” Removal to the Lathing or Support Wall of Plaster or All Board from a Wall, 1968) and the publicity space (such as Joseph Kosuth’s billboard in ‘Text/Context’, 1977). From the 1990s onwards, institutional critique also questioned the relationship between the artwork and the viewer (e.g. Santiago Sierra's participation to the Venice Biennal in 2003). At the same time, new technologies and new media led to the use of new formats in which the relationship between the artwork and its surroundings was questioned on the basis of autoreactive, generative, interactive and connective (networked) systems and processes. In the 1990s, the context was extended to the Internet, the form to net art and the support reduced to an address. Today our society is characterised by consumption and information, and we can observe an almost parallel social-economic space, where people meet in virtual clubhouses and do their shopping in virtual market halls. Art can be seen in ‘digital viewing rooms’ and on ‘gaming platforms’ where one can ‘activate’, ‘create’ and ‘exhibit’ art (for instance in Animal Crossing, Minecraft, Occupy White Walls or Second Life). Those who look hard enough will also find exhibitions on the Dark Web (such as ‘Dark Content’, Eva & Franco Mattes, 2015) and architecture competitions in the Metaverse. The main prizes are a land parcel and (non-fungible) tokens; a new format to sell art, distribute the proceeds of art, certify and indicate its authenticity. The architecture and art displayed in these virtual spaces are dematerialised but not new - they use the same structural and ornamental elements. From dematerialisation to immaterialisation Conceptual art in the 1960s emphasised the presence of material absence, and the installation entered the realm of composition, both inside and outside the contours of the canvas, where the surface now extends into space. The experience of the spectator was enhanced: not just looking, but also reading; and not just feeling, but also understanding. When Jean-Francois Lyotard and Thierry Chaput curated the exhibition ‘Les Immateriaux’ in 1985 as an organisation of information flows in which the work of art was seen as a matter enriched with information, it built on the ideas proposed in Lucy Lippard’s and John Chandler’s notions of the ‘Dematerialization of Art’ and can be seen as an embodiment of the legacy of conceptual art in the post-modern condition. Algorithmic art, from the 1990s onwards, again pushed the boundaries of physical space and traditional aesthetics, leaving behind the rules of gravity and perspective. Today, Yves Klein’s ‘Air de Paris’ takes on a whole new meaning in light of the ‘Cloud’, the fully dematerialised, networked information space symbolised by a cloud. The exhibition ‘Pars Pro Toto’ aims to reflect on the legacy of postmodernism and for matter, dematerialisation and immateriality to enter into dialogue, in an attempt to capture the complexities of contemporary aesthetics and the fragile balance between the digital medium and physical métier.