Statement to Tbilisi Triennial
1st Tbilisi Triennial took place on the 19th of October, where one of the invited artist was Hito Steyerl. 45hours before the start of the opening she withdrew her project due to the disagreement of the previously agreed and set conditions. Thus we are publishing here two statements about the 1st Tbilisi Triennial, by Hito Steyerl and Studio Miessen (architects of the installation “Adorno`s Grey”).
Statement to Tbilisi TriennialWe withdrew our installation as 48h before the opening building of it had not even started. There was no building material, no equipment, paint or anything else on site, nor was the room cleared. As this installation was planned as a quite extensive sculpture the opportunity to build it in an appropriate way was already gone. Nowhere in the world could it have been built in 48h. Faced with the prospect of rushed execution with unpredictable outcome I and the representative of the group I had invited to show their work within the installation decided to withdraw it. The reason given for this situation was perfectly understandable: namely political and economic complications due to the situation post-election. I completely understand this reason. I just think that it should be addressed as such and not translate into rushed installation and potentially compromised artworks. Art is not a tool to reconcile such situations or to pretend that they do not exist. It is not a band aid to cover such situations. And it would be more than inappropriate using an artwork dealing with the case of Theodor W. Adorno to smooth over any such situation. Especially not Adorno, who was removed from his teaching position for political reasons, as seems to have happened in Georgia lately in many cases including the art academy. So I hope that the lack of this artwork will serve to highlight the issue of such complications instead of smoothing it over and raise - once more – the question of the function of art biennials in such situations. In my lecture I was going to speak about how stupid it is to think of students as people who need to be educated. Instead, in times of crisis, students by means of protests have taken the lead over and over again and educated not only themselves but whole societies. Student protests all over the world have been the best universities of the 20th century, replacing and calling into question stale, dysfunctional and ideological systems of education over and over again. This legacy was to be addressed inside our installation, actualised by the example of a group of Georgian students in Berlin, who walked 333km around the local Georgian embassy to protest one recent case of suspicious and non investigated death blamed by family members of the victim on Georgian patrol police. But art education especially has also currently become entangled in an overall trend of education turning into debt slavery. The privatisation of education, and it´s increasing quantification have led to the necessity for students to buy into educational programmes that work essentially like ponzi schemes. Students mortgage their future to acquire flimsy degrees, that promise jobs and income, or just access to influential networks. Of course those degrees are by now already highly inflationary and devalued, so that the main result of this type of education will be debt. Art education is deeply entangled into this economy in which learning is financialised and futures of people repackaged as sub-prime junk bonds. This is very often what an MFA or PhD in practice programme means: a sub-prime junk bond on an uncertain future and substantial debt. The financialisation of education radicalises inequality. Art education is deeply tied into this system. In this situation, sometimes student protests are the only form of decent and free education. And over the course of the last century we have seen over and over again, how valuable in the long run this education has been.
Studio Miessen would like to express their full support of Hito Steyerl’s response to the decision-making and policy of the 1st Tbilisi Triennial. Together with Hito Steyerl, we have developed and designed the display and exhibition architecture for “Adorno’s Grey”, which had been drawn up and communicated to the Triennial months in advance. We cannot understand the silence and how it is possible to not communicate such severe problems in advance. We are very sad to learn that contributors of the show have been used in order to gain international recognition and press rather than for the Triennial to deal productively and respectful with the actual content of the work. In case we would have been faced with the actual problems and stealth decision-making, we would have been interested in exploring the potential for an amended design, one which takes into consideration the changing nature of the political and economic framework post-election. However, in order for this discussion to take place, communication would have been crucial.
us Miessen and team, Berlin, October 22, 2012