Meer – Rhi•zome

Curated by Adrienne Greenblatt. Featured artists: Ophelia Arc, Bella Carlos, Magdalena Dukiewicz, Harry Gould Harvey IV, Nina Hartmann, thai Lu, Emmett Palaima, Harris Rosenblum, Ren Sanchez, TARWUK & Garth Weiser.

humanity is a complex system;

the dissociative hyperreality, the delicate phosphorescent embrace

indulgent neural networks and controlled burns

mechanized reclusion of interconnectedness

rhi•zome : has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhi•zome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb ‘to be,’ but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, ‘and . . . and . . . and . . .’ This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb ‘to be.’ Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you heading for? These are totally useless questions.

(Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia)

An argument could be made that, in our post-postmodern post-postinternet post-facts post-everything world, that contemporary art is the study of hierarchies. Artists, curators, gallerists, critics; all become shamanic voyagers on the psychic plane of cultural, financial, conceptual, ideological and aesthetic hierarchies, aiming to guide the viewer safely towards an experience sat somewhere in the shade of enlightenment – the good ones anyway.

It’s an apocalyptic scene in the art world, over-reported markets create conservative programmes with even more conservative collectors – who cares if the Yves Klein drops a couple hundred k? They’ll find some other way to wash their money or dodge their taxes. Artists can become cynical, reproducing the same work over and over again like some kind of horrific AI trapped in an endless cycle of decorating the homes of arms dealers and financial traders, babbling the same bylines about bodies in space until they themselves are mercifully jettisoned into space, their heads exploding with satisfying pops, like that one episode of The Simpsons.

As Homer said: Remember me as I am, filled with murderous rage!

This carnivorous landscape changes people, bending them into something else, like when vampires feed on other vampires in Underworld and get all crazy. Every crooked deal, little bit of soul sold and the ones who never had one in the first place further pollutes art’s delicate ecosystem. Structures are restructured and the mutations continue until what remains barely resembles the previous incarnation – money, fame, power et al. Were byproducts of art, but as culture continues to eat itself from the tail forward, they become the driving force. Cynical move after cynical move, boring fucking shit washed down with glass after glass of cheap, vinegary white wine and the fizzing ache of coke depression dragged up and into view with the rising sun – until the next time, and the cycle continues.

All of those hierarchies, the ones we become attuned to navigating, are based on value. The three types of value being Financial, social and cultural. Social value, in this case, refers to the value which artists, galleries, collectors etc. Have against the social status of the other stakeholders. Showing art, writing about art and (in the worst cases) making art become about balancing the way that a given practice can satisfy these different types of value, with almost no regard given to whether something is actually good, or what that even means.

Rhi•zome questions this existing structure, leaning back into the pre-post world and reinterpreting the great interpreters, the high priests of semiotics, long since quoted into the ground by over-read and under-aware young men with thick rimmed glasses and no ideas.

Great ideas survive, and the semioticians who waxed lyrical about the rise of the television, global media etc. have once again gathered us around the proverbial fire, helmed for words of dissent in the form of Adrienne Greenblatt’s vision for an art world more effective in criticising itself, healing through inward contemplation.

The exhibition questions the establishment of these art-world hierarchies, and the systems of value that create them. Century old questions around dynamics in media, how we can appraise a painting critically against a performance, the position of technical craft against ideas, without the often too attractive prospect of taking sides.

Rhi•zome prioritises the notion of an idea, the value of discussion and sharing or information, of finding common ground instead of planting flags. It calls for an anarchistic appraisal of contemporary art existing outside of the current structure, to re-establish value in connection, to encourage support of new ways of thinking, in whatever capacities they reveal themselves.

Now, more than ever, we need to understand and build on the ideas of the early semiotician; Lotringer, Guatarri, Deleuze, Baudrillard – these are no longer fashionable names in contemporary art, but only because lazy writers chose to quote them instead of understanding.

This exhibition acts as an opportunity to consider a rhizomatic interpretation of art not as a field of academic study but as an activity, something that we can engage in. Where discussions happening in the gallery have to shift, moving towards a new interpretation and away from gossip and financial speculation.

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