eSeL Photo: Cybernetics of the Poor (Kunsthalle Wien, 9.2.-25.4.2021)
Those complex systems that exercise power and control through the collection, systematization and utilization of (increasingly: digital) information can only be countered with countervailing power. And the curators: Diedrich Diederichsen and Oier Etxeberria (with extra brainpower from a master’s student in Critical Studies) at “Cybernetics of the Poor” on the ground floor of the Kunsthalle clearly located them in the art operating system and its powerful discourses.
The show seems to have little interest in direct alliances with the public, but by means of booklets as an indispensable exhibition companion, it offers an insight into which interpretations of significance are intended for the works in the context of the exhibition. This is a challenge as a thought exercise (in addition to assigning confusing, scattered work information to the works or their chunks of text in the running text in the booklet): a bit like Sudoku as a scavenger hunt through the discourse dictionary. Ultimately, it was an unsatisfactory experience for the eSeL, even if some of the individual works allowed for enlightening reflections.
As an overall picture of a critical mindset, the assembled aesthetics are pretty to look at, but the distance relationship remains. If you look at it without text, you run the risk of misunderstanding Jon Mikel Euba’s cool geometric shapes as empty shells and not as “containers of indefinite, but well-described forms of use”. Winkersmilie. A guilty conscience because of bad words about an exhibition that is perhaps smarter than me can at least be paid off with “GuiltCoin” – an unexpected starting point for ironic distance in the show.
But maybe healthy anger in the face of one’s own powerlessness is an appropriate self-activation in this exhibition, otherwise one ends up in a false idyll like the cute plasticine men by Robert Adrian X, who go about their miniature life unsuspectingly colorful in their showcases (accompanying text: um mit Money jobs, their artists: being able to finance one’s inner existence) without suspecting how great powers switch and manage beyond their here and now.