The future coalition

Xavier Acarín Wieland
September 27, 2023
ADN Platform, 2023. Photo: Roberto Ruiz.
ADN Platform, 2023. Photo: Roberto Ruiz.

One more summer we have broken all temperature records, showing that, if we are still in time to stop or alleviate climate change, this requires a profound reorganization of the established modes of production, consumption and behaviour. An emergency that means not only a structural transformation but also a perceptive and relational one, to which contemporary art can and must contribute, although assuming and overcoming its complicities with the neoliberal model. As is already known, the processes of extraction and debt that economic globalization has produced are now the breeding ground for reactionary movements. The misery created is now being exploited to assault power with irrational and messianic messages. At the same time, the geopolitical turn generates a new alignment in which anti-occident rhetoric mixes with authoritarianism, reminding us of that revelation dangerous to all: that capitalism needs no democracy, no human rights, and no freedom of speech. In the face of all this, the cycle of contestation against racial, sexual, phobic, toxic and essentialist domination remains latent. This continuing de-colonial work, which is also anti-capitalist, finds its strength at the intersection of undoing power dynamics that impact collective formulations, patterns of daily life, and ways of inhabiting the world. A struggle to reverse the ecological and democratic crises that lead us into a constant and daily collapse.


A few years ago, Tirdad Zolghadr published Traction, a depressing but necessary book, in which he diagnoses contemporary art as "aesthetically predictable, intellectually stagnant and politically bankrupt". A blunt criticism of the art world as a vanguard of self-exploitation, where any conversation can be a job interview, and where the usual discourse (ground breaking and progressive) does not match a structure that needs barriers to maintain the exclusivity of the art product and the art professional. We could ask ourselves how to apply this criticism in our country, where the extreme dependence on public administration and private foundations particularizes the art system. Surely, we will all have an answer beyond the scandalous cases of censorship and bad practices, but let's not forget that the problem is structural. The contemporary art sector is fragile, with small budgets, elongated precariousness, and processes that bureaucratize creation and seek in "mediation" (magic word) a remedy to the obscurantist discourses of the "content creators": artists and curators,  reduced in this way to mere Instagramers. Faced with this panorama, the question remains: How to stimulate an effective impulse for a relational, cultural, cognitive, and sensorial transformation? How to continue the critical, investigative, and prepositive dimensions of contemporary art while vindicating the work of artists and curators as agents of ecological and social change?


For some of us, a starting point can be found in experience and performativity, which seeks in the composition of the event, an activation of affective and material relational forms. Part of the radicality of the proposals of the sixties was the creation of open situations, in which the categories of authorship and identity are diluted, giving way to a performative dimension where the participating entities are defined as co-dependent, blurring the boundaries between you and me, between object and body, between author and spectator, in a process of becoming together. Instead of representation, metaphors and pre-eminence of the visual, performativity presents itself as a way of working with the potentialities of an intertwined and symbiotic world - as defined by Lynn Margulis. While this same root is what has brought us to an art based on the spectacular, on large installations and immersion linked to the economy of experience, it is also true that it retains within itself the proposition of practice of altering the current circumstances of life and mechanisms of consciousness. Through material and sensorial coordinates, the art event seeks to affect the ways of being and seeing, not as closed or concluded but in process, in continuous mutation, which allows questioning the normativity and habits that guide the behaviour of the citizen-inhabitant. In this way, the performative and ecological dimension are combined, understanding the world as a web of intra-relationships, following Karen Barad, in which there is no clear distinction between individuals, but a generative reciprocity that leads us not to competition but to cooperation (not only human).


There was something of all this in Coalescence (Coalescències, Coalicions, Collisions, Col-lapses), the project initiated in 2003 by Paul O'Neill, Eduardo Padilha, Jaime Gili, and Kathrin Böhm, which precisely came out of that same root of the sixties. Paul O'Neill's research on curatorial practices opened the door to alter usual procedures, amplifying the exhibition as a 'testing ground', where the fluidity and mix between work and public precipitated a being-with; a vibrant and collaborative environment. In the version presented at ADN Platform twenty years later, we wanted to make evident how the acceleration of a multitude of crises, which were already present in the early 2000s, has turned us all into zombies dancing to the rhythm of worn out techno in our daily routines, following obsolete and polluting patterns.


With the exhibition-event, we wanted to convey the idea that the conclusion of the pandemic cannot be a everyone-for-themselves resolution in front of the global fire. We must seek collaborative practices for the achievement of a comprehensive change in socio-ecological relations. The exhibition as a party makes possible the creation of a temporary community, of a coalition in favour of a joint becoming, breaking the borders of the individual in favour of something amorphous, indefinite, energetic, shared, that harbours in itself the radical power of an emancipatory transformation.