Participants: Rebecca Chentinell, Sybrig Dokter, Love Källman, Andrea Svensson
Throughout history, man has been the subject of exhibition. First and foremost exhibited as an exotic object, the other, staged for the western spectator’s look. In these exhibitions, these “Human Zoo’s”, over 40 000 people during a course of four centuries were displayed to the amazement of the public.
But 1939’s World Fair in New York even the most proper, the domestic, was portrayed: the bodies of western women in the NTG Sun Worshippers Colony (see the video Dawn of a New Day shown in the lobby). However, a clear division between the active spectator and the passive exhibited and exposed body remained.
In The Exhibited man is displayed not on account of a specific exotic or sexual quality that would separate these bodies from the ordinary, the most common, from what we have in-common. Rather, individuals are exhibited on the basis of their purely human quality - stripped of all qualities, without being naked; acting, without choreography or script. Neither a narrative, a story, nor an object is produced, except for the pure work of being exhibited. Man’s sole value is the production of his or hers own existence, as the manifestation of man put to work, exhibited as an inoperative instrument for reproduction.
What does it mean to exhibit someone? The mute look of the depicted portrait and the physically absent body of the live-stream implies a completely mediated relation to the other, an other that in most cases is either dead or at least absent. The spatial and temporal presence in The Exhibited renders possible a reciprocal relation between the spectator and the exhibited both in the direct encounter with the other as well as in the immediate delivery of the portrait. The look that the exhibited are exposed to is thrown back upon the spectator and their acting presence revokes the division between active/passive, spectator/exhibited.
The encounter with the other is staged through the look, and the roles played out are less determined on account of one’s position in the room, than by the reversibility of seeing/being seen. Can the spectator only observe and contemplate a work when this very work observes and maybe even interprets the role of the spectator?
What happens in the encounter with the other when the work comes into existence through this interaction with an exhibited object that is also a spectator? When the look is not only virtual, nor merely subjected to a frame and a fixed interpretation? An encounter that is not unique for these four exhibited individuals and a spectator, but rather an interaction that reflects a state of mediated and yet present state of being exhibited.
”It’s the people that should be exhibited and not the ’I’. But it’s the singular bodies one has to approach in order to exhibit the people in a work – a series, a montage – that is capable of supporting their abandoned faces, abandoned to the other, in the unhappiness of alienation or in the happiness of the encounter.”
Georges Didi-Huberman, 2012, Peuples Exposées, Peuples Figurants
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