23 April - 1 May 20222. K.L.8, Brussels, Belgium.
The collapse at the end of the Late Bronze Age, of the Akkadian Empire, the Roman Empires, the Maya, and Easter Island. All of them are examples that we could study and show us the harbingers of ruination. These histories show many signals that our global society is close to coming apart.
This statement can seem rash, and we might think that our society is too global and anchored to completely collapse. And yet … our forebears neither foresaw their end. They were sure of their power and stability.
We cannot deny that more and more social unrest rising to the surface. Manifestations, political polarization, and revolutions have appeared more and more frequently over the last decades. But might it be nothing more than logical that these historical phenomena increase their frequency in a society that keeps evolving and communicating more and more rapidly?
While a collapse often carries a negative connotation, revolution is often desirable, a sign of the fall of an oppressive regime. Yet both of them end in something inevitable: change.
Here, we would like to approach two kinds of societal change.
Firstly, a society can chance through revolutions, such as the French Revolution and the Arab Spring. The people rise up against societal or political systems to tear them down and construct new ones. There are parts that continue to exist, but others are completely destroyed. Although destruction is part of a revolution’s identity, this destruction is conscious and organized to some degree. The people gradually change their systems, identities, their society to a chosen vision.
Secondly, we have the phenomenon of societal collapse, such as the fall of the Roman Empires and the Maya. These destructions aren’t supported or consciously put into motion by these society’s people. They are catastrophes that tumble entire worlds. Undoubtedly, it is a destruction of a greater magnitude. It causes greater and deeper traumas. More of the identity, stability, and systems disappears, if they aren't completely wiped off the map.
The goal of revolution is to bring change through destruction, while a societal collapse is destruction that leads to change.
Our Western society, which celebrated the turn of the last century in a daze of unprecedented stability and prosperity, is experiencing increasing tensions and volatility. Population shifts, outside aggression, untrustworthy leaders, and ecological disaster - Edward Gibbon wrote about these phenomena in his historical analysis of the fall of The Western Roman Empire, and today they are once again part of our topicality.
Artists stand on the fortress walls, they watch and describe what they see. In the steadfast 50s and 60s, their gaze could wander inwardly. They fell back on their own world, making minimal and conceptual art. In turbulent times they expressed fragmentation, confusion.
So they do today. Yet again, something slouches towards Bethlehem. Today's art world is highly individualized, but young artists are once again turning their gaze ever more outwards, to the disturbing circumstances that are advancing towards us. We find their work, their view, their anticipation important. It must therefore be shown.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
- George Santayana
With work by Aathmigan, Davide Zulli, Denys Shantar, Dilum Coppens, Ernest Bessems
Florian Model, George Stamenov, Justine Cappelle, Katya Granova, Luis Chenche, Matthias De Wolf, Paulius Sliaupa & Penny Hallas.
Music by Mike Frison.