Posted: 1 year ago

"We Have Never Been Modern" - New Exhibition at CCA

On the recent death of French philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour, the exhibition "We Have Never Been Modern" brings together in tribute a group of international artists, many of whom are residing in or have lived and worked in Tbilisi, whose respective practices explore notions central to Latour's life work.
Latour can and will be understood in generations to come as a key figure of our time; a time when our intellectual culture has begun shifting away from post-Enlightenment relativist materialism and into this new ‘cosmopolitical’ moment we find ourselves in. When old hegemonic forms of thought about how to categorize both the world and humanity, standardized over the last 400 years of Eurocentric ideological supremacy, are slowly falling away; when our intellectual space is becoming wider and more expanded, more self-reflexive, decolonized, decentred, heterogenous, ecological, cosmological, and imbued with a sense of political, psycho-social, metaphysical and environmental justice. For Latour, what linked together this current moment of ecological crisis, this moment of social, racial, sexual and political identarian revolution, this moment of COVID-19 (post)pandemic malaise, and now the horrible descent into war and chaos in Ukraine and elsewhere, is that we are now moved to think about the violence of our political, cultural and ecological behaviour as originating from the same kinds of outdated cosmological relationships. And from this despair, we are now moved to imagine new possibilities for our time.
In 1991's 'Nous n'avons jamais été modernes (‘We Have Never Been Modern’), Latour made a strong case that we should recognize the fallacy inherent in Western thought’s primary historical division between humankind and nature; between the observing subject of our instrumental rationality, and the presumed-to-be unconscious object of nature. Contrary to this defining factor of European Modernity, in pre-modern societies there was no such division - human life, nature and spirit were understood as continuous and connected. And while our dominating ideological institutions might still project this split, most of us continue to live lives enmeshed in the Otherwise - imbued with a sense of nature and self as part of a continuous whole.
The question of what this means for our artistic culture is central to this exhibition’s enquiry. Re-assessed now in 2022, we could conceptualize the possibility that like in pre-modern societies and in the mystical systems of knowledge which they birthed, inherent in all the pursuits of the 20th century Avant Garde, in literary and artistic Modernism; in poetry, prose, painting, sculpture, performance, theatre, installation, photography, cinema and experimental music; and also in contemporary ecologically-minded practice; in contemporary philosophies and practices of anti-racism, decolonization, and in political, sexual and cultural self-determination, there has already been, for over a hundred years, this same singular drive towards the perspectival and Terrestrial. 20th century Modernism was filled with an urge to embrace perceptual change and acceleration, of the futurological possibilities of comprehending the force of life, its violence and injustice, and imagining alternatives, with an embrace of folklore and cultural heritage and what we have lost in Modernity, of traditional and Indigenous ways of thinking and being. If we are to take Latour’s notion to its logical conclusion, what we call Modernism in the arts was never modern to begin with – rather it was a break with the modern and with modernity, a re-enchantment of something Old, accelerated towards the New.
Artists represented here have been selected in relation to the disparate and diversified ways in which their practices reflect aspects of these ideas. Avant Garde cut-up techniques, explorations of Indigenous heritage and world-making, research works on environmental ruin, the relations between war and redemption and a longing for the past, of the history of language and esoteric knowledge, of the decolonial struggle against hegemonic power in academic institutions, museology and musical tradition, in abstract painting and drawing, in installation works, in sound and tape manipulation, in photography and print.
Tiyan Baker (Australia/Malaysia)
Devin Horan (USA)
Ored Recordings (Kabardino-Balkaria)
Scott McCulloch (Australia)
Oleksandr Demianenko (Ukraine)
Shalva Bakuradze (Georgia/Abkhazia)
Liudmila Nikanorova (Sakha Republic)
Karen Fritz (Germany)
Kampung Suwung (Indonesia/Australia)
Avnit Singh (India)
Egor Kraft (Austria/St Petersburg)
Music/sound/poetry performances from 8pm on the evening by:
Oleksandr Demianenko (Ukraine)
Robert McDougall (Australia)
Shalva Bakuradze (Georgia/Abkhazia)
Timur Kodzoko (Kabardino-Balkaria)
The exhibition running from 25 November to December 11th is curated by Robert McDougall and will be held at the Center of Contemporary Art of Tbilisi.