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The Return of Religion and Other Myths

Exhibition "The Art of Iconoclasm"
Curated by art historian and writer Sven Lütticken
30 November 2008 - 1 March 2009
BAK, basis voor actuele kunst; Utrecht, the Netherlands

Discourse program "On Post-Secularism" about Revolution & Critique, Alternatives to Monotheism ...
11 Jan, 1 Feb, 15 Feb, 1 Mar 2009

More about the exhibition "The Art of Iconoclasm", the discourse program and the publication of the BAK Critical Reader (will be released in 2009) with texts by artists, theorists, writers, and social scientists whose contributions consider the key topics that emerge in the exhibition and the discourse program www.bak-utrecht.nl .


"... use force to fight representations which are idols, idolized images; ..."
Kathy Acker's text used in Natascha Sadr Haghighian's installation


The project "The Return of Religion and Other Myths" explores the popular assumption of the return of religion to the public sphere, contemporary politics, and the media in the West as a constitutive “myth”. BAK, the base for contemporary art in Utrecht (NL), uses therefore three different media: an exhibition, a discourse program, and a publication.

All three media are investigating the relation between religious iconoclasm and iconoclastic gestures and strategies in modern and contemporary art. "It proposes that iconoclasm is not merely a form of “iconophobic” vandalism, but a questioning of what passes for visual culture—an attempt to redefine and re-imagine the image," BAK.

The exhibition "The Art of Iconoclasm" is divided into two parts: From Idol to Artwork and Attacking the Spectacle will happen on two different places. You will find works by artists such as Rosemarie Trockel, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Haim Steinbach ...

fig.: Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Empire of the Senseless Part I, 2006, installation (motion detectors, construction site flood lamps, contact microphones, phosphorescent paint, and a text by Kathy Acker), installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, courtesy Johann König, Berlin www.johannkoenig.de.
fig.: Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Empire of the Senseless Part I, 2006, installation (motion detectors, construction site flood lamps, contact microphones, phosphorescent paint, and a text by Kathy Acker), installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, courtesy Johann König, Berlin. When entering and moving through the space the visitor triggers several motion detectors one after the other. They are connected to lights and the space is lit step by step. The sound of triggering and releasing the motion detectors is amplified and produces a soundscape that accompanies the changing light situation. A text is applied to the wall with phosphorescent paint. It charges through the visitors' movement by being lit but only becomes visible in darkness i.e when no one moves.

When entering and moving through the space the visitor triggers several motion detectors one after the other. They are connected to lights and the space is lit step by step. The sound of triggering and releasing the motion detectors is amplified and produces a soundscape that accompanies the changing light situation. A text is applied to the wall with phosphorescent paint. It charges through the visitors' movement by being lit but only becomes visible in darkness i.e when no one moves.

The text on the wall reads as follows:

'Don't touch me but whip my cunt,' the young whore said to me.

fig.: Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Empire of the Senseless Part I, 2006, installation (motion detectors, construction site flood lamps, contact microphones, phosphorescent paint, and a text by Kathy Acker), installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, courtesy Johann König, Berlin. When entering and moving through the space the visitor triggers several motion detectors one after the other. They are connected to lights and the space is lit step by step. The sound of triggering and releasing the motion detectors is amplified and produces a soundscape that accompanies the changing light situation. A text is applied to the wall with phosphorescent paint. It charges through the visitors' movement by being lit but only becomes visible in darkness i.e when no one moves.'I'm not a brute:' I told her. 'It's wrong for any human to hurt or kill another human. Even to reject to the point of banishment another human. Corporate executives commit atrocities. Must we act like them, sexually, in order to fight them successfully? No.' I was answering myself.'

Acting like shits will only make us become shit. Greedy and maniacal. Of course we have to use force to fight for our freedom. For forceless humans are dead. We should use force to fight representations which are idols, idolized images; we must use force to annihilate erase eradicate terminate destroy slaughter slay nullify neutralize break down get rid of obliterate move out destruct end all the representations which exist for purposes other than enjoyment. In such a war, a war against idolatry, Ridicule'll be our best tool. Remember, whore: Julien's sarcasms did more damage than Nero's tortures.

'Decomposing flesh moves me the most:' the young whore said. 'Give me hell.'


From Kathy Acker's novel "Empire of the Senseless" about the Algerian War which comes to Paris. In the wasteland of the city people loose their identity. They enter a state of permanent becoming.


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fig.: Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Empire of the Senseless Part I, 2006, installation (motion detectors, construction site flood lamps, contact microphones, phosphorescent paint, and a text by Kathy Acker), installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, courtesy Johann König, Berlin. When entering and moving through the space the visitor triggers several motion detectors one after the other. They are connected to lights and the space is lit step by step. The sound of triggering and releasing the motion detectors is amplified and produces a soundscape that accompanies the changing light situation. A text is applied to the wall with phosphorescent paint. It charges through the visitors' movement by being lit but only becomes visible in darkness i.e when no one moves.


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