Dear Barbara, dear Maria, dear Robert
On your numerous expeditions all over the old continent, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Transilvanian Hills, in search of new food for the international art market, you surely noticed the increasing number of political and economic refugees. But did you become aware of the existence of a tiny minority of cultural refugees? They have been forced to escape even from rich and stable countries, in order to save their very own convictions about philosophy, art and life, tortured night and day by questions such as: Isn’t it a fact that philosophy and art continue to interprete and represent the world in different manners, whereas war, misery, hunger, unemployment, ecological destruction, boredom, fast food restaurants and mobile phones would require to change this world instead? Isn’t it obvious that life is what happens while we are thinking of something else? Can you imagine, after the American experience, that banks and cigarette producers really support true art? Can we deny that art production has become an ecological problem similar to the elimination of urban refuse? Shouldn’t art at least offer the qualities of a comfortable deckchair, permitting us at the end of the millennium to close our eyes in order to have a clearer view? Is it possible to have a utopian vision of the future without nostalgia for the past? Will our future finally be horizontal? The multiplication of big international shows in the recent years underlines the fact that art has a public task. My “subcurator project” meets the three requirements Cicero once demanded a public person to fulfill:
”Delectare, Docere, Movere”.
”Le domaine de Marcel et Joseph”
This spring I realized a (more or less) permanent piece for the glass-house of the Casino, Forum d’Art Contemporain in Luxembourg, described by an analytic text. I transformed half of this modernist construction, which was added in the Fifties to the historical-style main building, into a kind of white conservatory with palms, tropical plants, deck-chairs and two talking Mynah Birds named “Marcel” and “Joseph”. During several months I tried to teach Joseph quotations of Beuys, while the artistic director of the Casino tried to teach Marcel quotations of Duchamp. Given the anarchic character of these simpathetic birds, there is no guarantee of success for our demanding work: They strictly imitate the words and sounds they like. The soundworld of their space is diffused by loudspeakers to the surrounding sidewalks in the city. According to my principles of iconographic hygiene, I’ll abstain from adding a second installation to the show you are curating.
”New art workshop”
In collaboration with the University Center Luxembourg I will organize during manifesta2 a two-week workshop for young artists and art students from all over Europe. The aim of this workshop is the production of reflection, discussion, exchange of experience and knowledge, not the production of consumer goods. The results of the workshop will be presented to the visitors of manifesta2 in the drawers of a small office bookcase. Part of the program will be three public lectures given by an artist, a theorist and a museum director, who each have given important contributions to the actual reflection about art: Alexander Brener, Nicolas Bourriaud, Christian Bernard.
In the recent polemic about contemporary art in France, the enemies of free artistic research never tire of arguing that “real” art must satisfiy two requirements: Delectare et Docere. In a strange amnesic attack they forget to name the third. Could it be that they prefer standstill to movement?
Anyway, the third element of my “subcurator” project consists in a “dialectical leap”, a perfumed and sonorized shuttle-bus moving between the Casino and the birthplace of Karl Marx, transporting visitors in a thirty-minute trip from manifesta2 in Luxemburg to the author of the manifesto in Germany, from the city of banks to the house of the author of Das Kapital.
Bert Theis (1998) Isola district, Milano
P.S: Kind regards and please notice that the art of escaping is not at all identical to the aesthetics of disappearing.
CatalogueManifesta: 2. European Biennial for Contemporary Art, Luxembourg 28 June – 11 October 1998 / curators: Robert Fleck, Maria Lind, Barbara Vanderlinden. Casino Luxembourg. Forum d’Art Conemporain and other venues, pages 176-179