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Die Neue Peinlichkeit - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Die Neue Peinlichkeit

A collaborative program by/with/at Helmhaus Zürich, Kunsthalle Zürich, Shedhalle, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Haus Konstruktiv and UP STATE

Damn it. I’m blushing. Again. Though he’s just handing me nail polish. Well, in the middle of the open plan office… And yet: Who hasn’t!? The office above this white space is certainly not meant for the exchange of cosmetics, any type of private pleasure. The white cube is neither meant for privacy nor pleasure, really. That much is clear. And our bodies do know. Blood shot cheeks – a common feature of guided tours, Q&A sessions, opening speeches, closing remarks. Public speech and private cheeks at war, all the time. Paradoxically. Because the sphere of Art, more often than not, appears in the guise of a sphere of expression. On a second glance however that mandate to express yourself is limited to a handful of chosen few. The Artists. And us? We chuckle, clear our throats, lower our voices, blush. Who dares to sit in the front row of an Artist talk already seems an authority. She must have something to say. And still rarely does. White Architecture complicit with rufous bodies. You better behave. In German (the language of false protocol) the word bespeaks the feeling: Peinlichkeit. Pein, like pain, emphasizes the suffering at stake in embarrassment. Art education, the mediation of expression, is painful. In recent regimes of pseudo-democratic rhetoric, you can’t get it right (for “right” no longer exists). You can only fail. So it seems. And so our bodies fail us whenever our mind seems on the wrong track, any track. Silently smiling at the tiny bottle of polish, I know one thing too: I am not alone. We are some, perhaps many, who seek to break the spell of that pain. By feeling it, addressing it, articulating it, staging it, enduring it. By declaring it w-r-o-n-g. Not making it productive, as in feeding it to the machines of productivity. Not instigating it, like enshrining an affective politics to novel institutional imperatives. Not even leveling the distribution of artistic expression (not anybody is an Artist, has to be). On the contrary: This attempt to look at new modes of intimidation, awkwardness, mishaps, misfits, and – below and above all – misunderstandings produced by liberal promises of Art’s public programs, is an attempt to turn them against themselves. To escape the deadly embrace of sell-out sensuality and breathe deeply (once, twice) with bodies who know better. And look better too.


10.05. Helmhaus @ Kunsthalle Zürich

26.05. Kunsthalle Zürich @ Shedhalle

10.06. UP STATE @ Helmhaus

17.06. Shedhalle @ Haus Konstruktiv

23.06. Haus Konstruktiv @ Migros Museum

07.07. Migros Museum @ UP STATE