Better being a virus than catching a cold

Opening: 7pm 24 May 2011

On view: 25 June 2011

Curator: Isabelle Le Normand

There is no alternative, Margaret Thatcher,1980

“Now, when a strike occurs, nobody even notices” – Nicolas Sarkozy, 2008

After his studies, artist Julien Prévieux was looking for a job, going through the classifieds, he wrote cover letters. Disappointed with all the pre-written negative answers, he decided to write non-cover letters. In these anti-motivation letters, he explains why he does not want to apply for the job offer. Eight years later, Prévieux owns a thousand letters of which only a small part was published. Ironically enough, in a few stores, the anti-motivation letters can be found along with the job-hunting books. Not identified as artworks, the letters act as a virus offering an alternative to the formatted language of employment and career. Anti-motivation letters also deals with the social realities of unemployment and “underqualification,” satirizes the unequal relationship between employer and job-seeker, and leads the viewer to reflect anew on the unseen class restrictions that run throughout society.

better being a virus than catching a cold refers to the artist’s, Wim Delvoye’s wit, deals with resisting methods and possible alternatives. As today, hypercapitalism seems to be the only reasonable economic model, contemporary artists’ political involvement is slightly different from the activists’ in the 1970’s. This exhibition shows artists whose criticizing positions aren’t as obvious, using infiltration strategies in everyday life, giving way to situations or objects that may improve the world or reveal its system. Out of the art sphere into the world, the artworks melt down with social and economic reality. Not necessarily bringing a solution, they cause instability, awkwardness or short-circuits. Humor is much used as a criticizing tool to a nonetheless serious cause.

Matthieu Laurette acts as a secret agent, infiltrating several TV shows without telling he’s an artist. Pushing the limits of the media and capitalist system, the artist got well known through his “refunded eating” lifestyle. In the same way, Wim Delvoye created an obligation in 2004 with the turds recreated by his famous Cloaca machine, a copy of the human digestive system. It took several years and a few lawyers for the Belgian artist to convince the Bank Chamber of Belgium to validate the capitalization of a company based on the value of shit. By using the same sand grain strategy, Fréderic Pradeau displayed a huge Chinese translation of the weekly working time limit law in the heart of Paris Chinatown. Utopia can sometimes lead to this type of confrontation to reality: Julien Berthier designed the véhicule Parasite. In order to move, this alternative means of transportation has to be attached to the back of a car or connected to an electrical plug, but in both cases, you have to negotiate with the car’s or the plug’s owner. Allora & Calzadilla document a performance protest in which the artists and their associates went to Vieques and trespassed on a beach used by the United States military as a bombing range. Before going, though, they customized the soles of their shoes with outline images of people protesting or being arrested, or with texts saying things like “we accuse the U.S. Navy of thwarting, for more than a half-century, the healthy development of our economy.” Igor and Ivan Buharov create the Smellection automat wich gives an opportunity for smelling our politicians „by near” and to decide from our very true conviction at the parliamentary election. In the distributor machine there are samples of smells from our actual political actors, so the consumer/constituent can smell that he or she is curious. Matthieu Clainchard reacted to a law against free-parties by organizing a free-party in a supermarket. Under the Paul Tourtelle identity, he invited fifty people for a performance inside a Paris supermarket. Creating social link is often the mainspring of these interventions: Fayçal Baghriche, looking for a job, reads out his curriculum vitae in a subway train. Gruppo Tökmag present Your flat is bigger than you think based on the phenomenon of illegal trash put down, witch is an everyday problem in Hungary(especially in and around Budapest). They documented a lot of this abandoned, “lost” furnitures, and they selected a few photos of this collection to put it a very international visual language (the ikea lay out). They use the text of Ikea catalogue to motivate the costumers to buy more stuff to talk about this endless course witch leads to nowhere. Réka Kinga Papp has found in the genre of performance as a form of artistic expression a way to address a larger public about specific social problems. She transforms the words of an old pop song into a denunciation of the corruption that reigns in Budapest, accusing politicians of unaccountability and venality.

Francisco Camacho offered a petition to the Dutch parliament to open up the civil marriage in order to allow a group of citizens to marry with more than one partner. Today, there aren’t any socio-economical, cultural or moral obstacles as such in the Netherlands to prevent the existence of group marriages. A free citizen should be able to decide with how many people she or he wants to share their life. With the group marriage initiative, Francisco Camacho would like to give a signal to the Representatives of the country and the necessity for their action. By the end September 2009, the petition has to bring up 40,000 signatures to change the laws that prevent the group marriage. The topic should be brought to the attention of the Parliament members and ultimately result to a new law proposal. A group marriage has the same principles as the civil marriage, only with more than two people. Anyone who, for whatever reason, prefers to share her/his life with more than one partner, has the right to be recognized by the State and to be accepted by society. Francisco Camacho hopes that this project creates a discussion on how the Dutch state ensures the freedom of its citizens. Within this project the artist organized a symbolic group wedding, an evening with filmscreenings and a number of debates and interviews on the significance of the group marriage for the family, society and sexuality. Judit Fischer & Miklós Mécs (SZAF) present the”Lazy eye” project which is a marketing issue to make lazy eyes (and lazy children as well) engaged. They also create an email project: each day of the exhibition they will send an email at the sunset.

Not to give up for the dominant point of view and actually experiment alternatives: this is how the artists of better being a virus that than catching a cold intervene in the social or economic space and show a real political commitment. Neither with nor against, their commitment is as serious as ironic, as utopian as disillusioned.