Thursday 7 September 2017 sees the opening of two new exhibitions at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam. Following Öğüt & Macuga's first episode as steered by Ahmet Öğüt (on view until 20 August), Goshka Macuga will now take the lead for Episode 2: The Show is Over, in which her practice and that of Öğüt enter into dialogue once more. In Rana Hamadeh’s The Ten Murders of Josephine, the artist and institution have worked closely together to develop an ambitious production with an immersive sound and text-based opera at its core.
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.
(Martin Luther King)
Man is the only living species that has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.
(Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism, 1964)
Destruction for social critique but also anarchic, pointless destruction; destruction for the pure pleasure of it.
(Russell Ferguson, ‘The Show is Over’ in Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950, 2013)
The lust for aggression and destruction is certainly included; the innumerable cruelties of history and daily life confirm its prevalence and strength. The stimulation of these destructive impulses by appeals to idealism and the erotic instinct naturally facilitates their release. Musing on the atrocities recorded on history’s page, we feel that the ideal motive has often served as a camouflage for the lust of destruction; sometimes, as with the cruelties of the Inquisition, it seems that, while the ideal motives occupied the foreground of consciousness, they drew their strength from the destructive instincts submerged in the unconscious. Both interpretations are feasible.
(Why War? An exchange of letters between Freud and Einstein, 1933)
Above, a selection from a growing list of Goshka Macuga's source-material towards Episode 2: The Show is Over. The list will be updated over time on the exhibition page.
This exhibition is the result of Witte de With director Defne Ayas’ pairing of two critically engaged artists, Goshka Macuga and Ahmet Öğüt. Macuga and Öğüt began a conversation, and through a series of coincidences identified parallel references drawn from their shared social concerns, personal stories, and the ideas driving their respective practices, such as their mutual investment in collaboration and interest in the representation of critical thinkers in the global imaginary. Both artists examine each other’s practices, a process subject to misinformation and misunderstandings along the way, as much as a generosity of ideas, commitment of time, and peer-to-peer play.
The Ten Murders of Josephine is a long-term project by artist Rana Hamadeh structured through several evolving iterations. These iterations over-write and trouble one another, proposing a particular dramaturgy of processes that commence with an exhibition at Witte de With (8 September – 31 December 2017), followed by an Opera premiering at Theater Rotterdam – Rotterdamse Schouwburg (14-15 December, 2017), and ending with a publication and a film. Inherited from the genre of legal spectacle and from Hamadeh's earlier claims viewing "justice as the measure to which one can access theatre", The Ten Murders of Josephine explores the workings of testimonial utterance as a means to rethink legal subject hood and to disrupt with that the centrality of citizenship. Drawing loosely on Kafka’s Mouse-songstress Josephine, the project poses the question: what would it mean to emerge as a ‘testimonial subject’, not only outside the bounds of the court of law, but even more so, in place of the legal subject? The exhibition is an immersive auditory experience that is conceived as both the spatial realization of Hamadeh’s libretto, and the ‘assembly line’ for the theatrical work that follows. Operatic in both scale and form, the project comes at a pivotal moment in Rotterdam based Hamadeh’s diverse and urgent practice, coalescing multiple strands of theoretical research in the largest project in her career to date; one that genuinely engenders new modalities of readership and spectatorship, and tests performative dynamics of exhibition making.