Curators: Edit Andras, Ilona Neméth, Birgit Lurz, Wolfgang Schlag
Artists: Halil Altindere, Selda Asal, Anca Benera / Arnold Estefan, Dante Buu, András Cséfalvay, Yevgeniy Fiks, G.R.A.M., Ferenc Gróf, Núria Güell, Gülsün Karamustafa, Szabolcs KissPál, Martin Krenn, Damian Le Bas, Lőrinc Borsos, Victor López González, Michal Moravčík, Marina Naprushkina, Csaba Nemes, Martin Piaček, Tomáš Rafa, Oliver Ressler, Pavel Sterec, RAFANI, Hito Steyerl, Artur Żmijewski
Opening performance: Dante Buu - The Winner Takes It All
The joint exhibition in Meetfactory, Kotska Gallery and Futura Gallery is an adjusted and updated version of the Universal Hospitality exhibition (AltePost, Vienna, 2016) curated within the Into the City program of Wiener Festwochen. The Vienna show focused on migration in accordance with the political situation of the time. The Prague exhibitions, just a year later, are facing a much more devastated landscape of political turmoil after Brexit, the Turkish coup and its retaliation, and when populism is becoming mainstream even in affluent countries. The European Union is crumbling; threatened by Brexit, the agendas of far-right parties in Western countries and by Eastern European nationalisms and corruption. Dismantling of elements of democracy, authoritarianism and state control are emerging in different countries on both sides of the Atlantic.
The title of the exhibition refers to the humanistic ideas of enlightenment and elaborates on the Kantian idea of cosmopolitanism. This exhibition intends to address the inherent paradox of being hospitable within the framework of the nation-state by analyzing the structure of nationalism and populism, but also trying to keep alive the need, even if only symbolically, for ‘absolute hospitality’-with Derrida’s words-in order to foresee a better solution for living together with a ‘stranger.’ Derrida’s reading of Kant and his notion of absolute or radical hospitality offers an alternative way outside of the inner paradox of hospitality, encompassing it unconditionally to all human beings, including the total stranger. By directing the attention to the shared etymology of the word with its opposite, hostility, he confronts us with the reality of existing hospitality limited and mastered by the institutions of border patrolling, policing and the administrative control over exclusion and inclusion.
Socially committed artists are looking behind the Potemkin wall, and search for interconnections and driving forces behind the recent downward social spiral. The exhibitions aim to stimulate the deeper understanding of the elements behind the present events offering a sort of visual analysis of the complex social processes of our turbulent times. Besides providing criticism they wish to fortify resistance and to galvanize progressives as well. Though the exhibitions focus mostly on Europe and partly on the Middle East; Syria and Turkey (G.R.A.M., Oliver Ressler, Halil Altindere) they still offer some outlook to the worldwide scope of the issues at hand (Victor Lopez Gonzales, Anca Benera and Arnolf Estefan).
The construction of the territorially bounded nation states and the conflicting forces of the transnational flow of commodities and capital that came into being by globalization, create tension between the older form of belonging and recent reality of life. Migration pushes the question of the legitimacy of the nation state in a restructured globalized world into the forefront. The cosmopolitan right to universal hospitality is also at odds with the sovereignty of the nation state, that blocks the free flow by mastering positions of who is at home, and who is allowed to cross the border of the “home,” and who is constructed as an outsider, or enemy. Migration has been successfully instrumentalized for reassuring the power of the nation states, as demonstrated by the advance of far right parties all around Europe.
The art works shed light on the hidden or naturalized elements of the construction of national belongings: the idea of a homogenous nation comes at a price of excluding or marginalizing the others, certain social groups (Dante Buu). The complexity of the political, social and economic regime behind its operation is also evoked. Artists address the issues from diverse positions; they provide ironic or playful criticism (Martin Piaček, Borsos Lőrinc), but also offer altered perspectives (András Cséfalvay), and insights (Damian Le Bas).
Borders are crossed, and closed, throughout the continent (Csaba Nemes). Old and new democracies are relying on the fear and insecurity of their population, while huge masses of people are condemned to statelessness–a status which can’t be earned by choice (Núria Güell). The earlier waves, the prehistory of forced migration and the repressive state measures are also evoked (Gülsün Karamustafa, Anca Benera & Arnold Estefan). Empowering refugees and migrants who are deprived of their basic rights is demonstrated by collaborative art projects (Marina Napruskina).
Localized othering or scapegoating looks for the enemy within. To keep the “other” in a subordinated, but “authentic” status helps to maintain a construction of hierarchical oppositions as well as the mythicized self-image of the nation (Szabolcs KissPál). The clashes, violent conflicts, anti-Roma, anti-gay-pride, and anti-migrant demonstrations are chronicled by artists from different angles than what is presented by the sensationalized and alienated media coverage (Tomáš Rafa, Dante Buu), while the mechanism of the media are also scrutinized (Rafani). Strategies of resistance show old and new ways out of the repressive and vastly inhumane scenarios (Hito Steyerl, Martin Krenn, Selda Asal).
If history is heavily exposed in the works of artists from the eastern part of Europe, it is because of the need to understand the construction of nation-building, national mythology and post-socialist nationalism (Michal Moravcik, Martin Piaček, Pavel Sterec, Csaba Nemes), as well as to work through the traumatic past rehabilitating the memory or narrative of those groups who were not offered redemption (Artur Żmijewski), or to uncover failed utopias (Yevgeniy Fiks). Invisible structures beyond the confines of nation states are revealed and scrutinized (Oliver Ressler),as well as global capitalism with its latent surveillance and controlling system (Núria Güell). Finance, high capitalism with its immaterial, abstract and obscured structure (Ferenc Gróf) and the influence of global economy on local communities (Viktor Lopez Gonzales) are also evoked.
With reference to its title, the Universal Hospitality project brings together critical works and attitudes in order to look through the obscured and unsettled scenario of the present, and also works with thinking on alterities and advocating transnationality and social recognition and creating space and platform for new ways of imagining communities beyond physical and mental borders.