Welcome to the Jungle
An exhibition for the 50th anniversary of Kunsthalle Düsseldorf am Grabbeplatz
Under the title Welcome to the Jungle, the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf will bring together a selection of international works that critically, reflectively, and often humorously, yet without moralistic finger-pointing, refer to those conditions and paradoxes in which we become entangled while attempting to do the right thing. For instance, there is a tendency today to revolt against circumstances in which, through our decisions, we implicitly allow entrepreneurial, social, and resource-related practices to take place which we would reject in specific cases when, for example, human beings and nature suffer as a result. This manifests itself in the form of conscious consumer choices in food, clothing, and travel, or the simple question of which topics and voices we lend our time and attention to. From carbon footprints to sustainable financial investments, from corporate social responsibility to the environmental impact of the production chain—in practice, the density of information is taking on jungle-like proportions. Yet it is often not clear what fits best with our own beliefs or which path would theoretically be the right one. It is an attempt to orient ourselves amid the noise and thickets of the jungle and to discern the big picture from the local perspective. Collective movements emerge and condense. Investigative journalism and viral narratives share the bandwidth with professional image campaigns and digital smokescreens. Quality seals for fair trade or organic production increasingly work like brands, and ways of life devoted to sustainability can be adapted from magazines in the visual language of the fashion and lifestyle industry. Thus, the jungle is also a symbol of disorientation and overload, a place where no one direction looks more promising than any other. Each new position appears like an arbitrary selection of those already available. Every new narrative is already part of a larger narrative in which fiction and enlightenment merge. Whether on a broad scale and on the macroeconomic level the individual question “How do I want to live?” will lead to a critical potential and, as a consequence, solutions for the social and ecological problems of mankind can be found is certainly one of the exciting questions with which we are faced. Yet for the individual, the dilemma remains: Do I measure myself against a hypothetical success of my decisions and results (and am I on a constant search for new insights, since this morning’s information is already outdated), or can attitude, intention, and integrity within my individual life circumstances remain valid standards?
The visual arts also address questions that explicitly deal with these topics. The focus of the exhibition is on such artistic practices that concentrate on the aesthetic dimension of art in order to sharpen our awareness of these states and processes, paradoxes and contradictions in the everyday jungle of information, wisdom, half-truths, prejudices, and rules. The selected works do not so much specify a concrete path or paint an apocalyptic picture, but instead seriously and wholeheartedly examine the realities of the jungle and ultimately encourage the viewer to pursue stimulating questions and explore new approaches or poetic and absurd paths in an encouraging and humorous atmosphere.
The artists who were invited to participate in the exhibition are distinguished by the fact that they use their own specific approach to media to create captivating pictures and stories that are persuasive due to their choice of themes and their aesthetics. Many of the selected works deal with concrete situations and developments that they observe and in which they (aesthetically) intervene. Beyond a purely documentary approach and attitude of enlightenment, the works deal with the strategies of the documentary and ultimately also the unattainability of the one sole truth or the one right path. For instance, some of the artists work with documentary practices, but continually undermine them by reversing the role of the observer and the observed, punctuating it with the aesthetics of music videos, or making the visibility of a subject possible by staging a documentary setting. Even those artistic practices that approach these themes through specific cultural subjects ultimately create a universal validity by means of their aesthetics. Another approach that connects the individual positions is the recourse to physical and performative elements through which abstract processes become visible and tangible in a particular way.
The exhibition brings together video installations, performances, large-scale productions, and site-specific works by international artists. They are mainly the works and perspectives of a younger generation.
Curated by Jasmina Merz and Anna Lena Seiser