Yes, contemporary art forms too – even the avant-garde ones – are vulnerable and mortal and threatened with extinction. Dead and Alive confronts the simplistic notion that history progresses on the basis of novelty and its accumulation, and offers an alternative to viewing the present as a result of the evolution of historical truth. The exhibition is based on intergenerational turning points in aesthetics and artistic discourses, which on the Slovene scene have traditionally been firmly anchored in academia and yet inventive. The intergenerational distinctions have been diverted from historical causality towards sets of probabilities and a concomitant sensitivity. It is an accommodating step towards the different intensities of viewers’ sensibilities as well as a contribution to the re-structuring of the social ecosystem of art. The return to materiality – the life and death of art (and the material conditions of the artist’s life) – not only takes place on a perceptible level, but requires an expansion of the intellectual apparatus – including the discoveries of the empirical sciences. Quantum physics offers a model for opening up aesthetic forms confined to history. This is not just a novel metaphor. The contemporary scholarly field of history operates with its own historicity regimes in which Newtonian mechanics remain valid. Relativity and quantum theory, on the other hand, have been describing new concepts of time both experimentally and theoretically for more than a hundred years. A materially anchored quantum history of art, which would be analogous to the kindred fields of philosophy and social sciences with their similar focus, might offer considerably more accountable responses to the challenges of global art (which continues to be territorializing and power-oriented). Inspired by Schrödinger’s cat (the famous thought experiment involving a cat that is both dead and alive at once), the exhibition aims to encourage viewers to perceive each of the works on display in at least two ways. Viewers are presented with texts indicating the state into which each work has fallen thanks to being observed, but at the same time, they must never forget that it had existed as a set of unrealized probabilities and invisible entanglements.
The unrelenting escalation of necropolitics, the ecological crisis, the migration crisis, the growth of inequality, the rising popularity of populist and nationalist political agendas, the algorithmic optimization of work, and the focus of cognitive capitalism on the subconscious – all these clearly visible threats to life provoke either resistance and anxiety or evasive disinterest. But it does seem wise to admit that I am (we are) a part of the necropolitical system I am criticizing. The quantum perspective freezes the logic of the compulsory growth (novelty) and shifts attention to the intensity of interconnections and invisible entanglements that go in the direction of a future politics of planetary equality.
The exhibition unfolds around three contradictory states of now – the dead and alive state of conceptualism, analog and liquid materiality, and the subconscious as the battlefield of cognitive capitalism. Because – how do art and avant-garde progress? By making sensible what is beyond. At the end of the day, Dead and Alive is a quantum time search for an engaged form.