Still Present!

On the occasion of the 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, titled Still Present!, artists from around the globe engage with the legacies of modernity and the resulting state of planetary emergency. In addition to their works, the exhibition features historical documents, including political and activist publications from the Archiv der Avantgarden – Egidio Marzona (AdA). The contributions reveal connections between colonialism, fascism, and imperialism, and propose decolonial strategies for the future, oriented around a set of questions: How can a decolonial ecology be shaped? What role can non-Western feminist movements play in the reappropriation of historical narratives? How can the debate on restitution be reinvented beyond the return of plundered goods? Can the field of emotion be reclaimed through art?

Excerpt from Kader Attia’s curatorial statement:

“As diverse and varied as the worlds that comprise our current human reality are, they subsist amid the waste and cacophony that traverse global capitalism’s frantic and destructive race toward production. Since the onset of modernity, our planet has endured successive and ruinous changes that have accelerated alarmingly from the start of the third millennium. The place to which we have arrived today is not by chance: it is the result of historical formations constructed over centuries. In their egoism, modern Western societies have taken their own liberal character for granted, falsely assuming that the balance between free trade and universal suffrage guarantees a self-regulating system of universal democratic values. The dystopian society we have inherited from this utopian promise produces chaos but denies responsibility for it. In fact, the present world is the way it is because it carries all of the wounds accumulated throughout the history of Western modernity. Unrepaired, they continue to haunt our societies.

We must beware of the consequences of the capitalist logic of modernity/coloniality and its capacity to depoliticize the subject. The social worlds we inhabit today are articulated through cross-linked networked environments that interact in ways that are not immediately visible. More than ever before, algorithmic governance has taken over our present moment; it has become a field of unprecedented economic struggle over behavioral data extraction, which is such a powerful economic model that we feel powerless to free our present from its clutches. We project ourselves daily onto the future or past, while believing that we constantly act in the present. How do we reclaim our present? By reclaiming our attention. Art offers a present that is protracted and, above all, free. Inherent to emotion, consciousness is movement in the present: as emotional, interpretive beings, we are totally unpredictable in the present, and this allows us to escape the technologies of capitalist behavioral manipulation and imperialist governance that colludes with it. So more than ever, we must remain present!”