Kestner Gesellschaft Spring 2024 exhibition program

In her 1958 treatise The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt—“the theorist of beginnings”—writes: “Love, by its very nature, is unworldly, and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but anti-political, perhaps the most powerful of all anti-political forces.” Her amor mundi—love of the world—is a relational form of love, based upon understanding and critical thinking rather than sentiment or affect; a promise of continued existence, a way of not resigning from the world when the world seems too unbearable to live in. What is most difficult, Arendt continues, is to love the world as it is. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection, but the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

With such a premise, each exhibition of the Kestner Gesellschaft’s 2024 program has been conceived as an Arendtian essay in understanding, structured after “eight exercises in political thought” as analysed by Arendt in her 1961 seminal oeuvre Between Past and Future. Her investigation of the perplexing crises modern society faces provides guidelines to understand today’s world.

Kestner Gesellschaft Spring exhibitions map this thematic terrain by considering a collective and subjective body, entangled within the hegemonic structures and systems of authority, politics and ethics, truth and power, a discipline and the means of correction and training.

Anna K.E.Dolorem Ipsum
Anna K.E. (b. 1986, Tbilisi, Georgia) exercises our experience of freedom. The artist balances on a tightrope between inner freedom and a freedom as a political gesture; here, according to Arendt, freedom is a performative act: it is an action in the world. Courage remains the highest and most indispensable political virtue, while freedom is what makes us and allows us to be meaningful; this is what it means to be human and how to live together in a messy world without authority. In her most extensive solo exhibition to date, Dolorem Ipsum, Anna K.E. explores the choreographed body and human states, characterised by instability, alienation, and transformation within architectural landscapes. Her site-specific installation for the Kestner Gesellschaft is a mosaic of memory (composed of the personal biography and the reminiscence of the cultural belonging) and the presence (a portrait of an emancipated self as an uncanny performance of revolt and protest).

Roger Hiorns: Today
Roger Hiorns (b. 1975, Birmingham, UK) focuses on the experience of authority. The notion of authority, the authoritarian systems and the control they impose lie at the core of his multifaceted practice which is a thoughtful reflection on the fragility of human life. For Hiorns, the consideration of disobedience and the norm, humility and resistance contribute to the understanding of the three “losses” Arendt writes about: the loss of tradition, the loss of religion, and the loss of authority. In “What is Authority?”, Arendt observes that our failure to understand authority is, in fact, symptomatic of our inability to understand democracy and its core commitment to freedom. We mistakenly equate power with subordination, and subordination with coercion, she explains. Authority is, of course, hierarchical, but it does not coerce. Arendt investigates the possibility of power without coercion, and freedom without control; she offers an alternative to existing forms of authority that confronts us with the possibility and indeed the necessity of developing human capacities for “building, preserving, and caring”. Today at the Kestner Gesellschaft is Hiorns’ first institutional solo exhibition in Germany. Its title refers to the BBC morning radio program “Today,” which can be heard as a sound installation and which places the assembled works in a current political context. In an interplay of his iconic living sculptures, Youth and his large-scale paintings from the Pathways series, Hiorns opposes the moral gaze of society in order to expose the “depraved“ and thus arrive at the truth. Alfredo Jaar and Nira Pereg practice the alchemy of both, freedom and authority.

Project Space Shifting Present
Nira Pereg: Abraham Abraham Sarah Sarah
Abraham Abraham Sarah Sara, 2012, is a two-channel video installation by Nira Pereg (b. Tel Aviv, 1969), a part of The Patriarchs Trilogy which follows the resonant biblical motif of intergenerational birthright as it is reflected in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The two-screen presentation plays on the architectural division, which evokes the bureaucratic attempts to impose an impossible symmetry.

Alfredo Jaar: Be Afraid Of The Enormity Of The Possible
In a neon work radiating from the facade of the Kestner Gesellschaft Be Afraid Of The Enormity Of The Possible, Alfredo Jaar (b. 1956, Santiago de Chile, Chile) appropriates a quote from the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran (1911–1995). According to Jaar, Cioran is the poet of pessimism, and the writer who best expresses the duality of the contemporary condition and its strenuous harmony torn between despair and joy. The “possible” in this quote will remain unknown. It is up to the audience to read this statement in positive or negative terms. Jaar’s work reflects in its glowing glory the paradoxical quality of Cioran’s writing. Displaying a potentially positive and negative message at the same time, the artist creates a monument to uncertainty for the dark times in which we live. His Be Afraid Of The Enormity Of The Possible is a warning against apathy. It forces us to think about the magnitude of what is possible—of what humanity is
capable of.

Collateral Event of the 60th Venice Biennale
Rebecca Ackroyd: Mirror Stage
Fondaco Marcello, Venice
April 20–November 24, 2024
Kestner Gesellschaft is pleased to announce the exhibition Rebecca Ackroyd: Mirror Stage, a Collateral Event of the 60th International Venice Biennale. Conceived specifically for the Fondaco Marcello, a former tobacco warehouse saturated with centuries of history and labor, Mirror Stage by Rebecca Ackroyd (b. 1987, Cheltenham, UK) is a dreamlike installation in which the artist’s singular processes of replication and fragmentation distort our perception of reality, desire and disgust, the familiar and the uncanny. Here, past and present coalesce into an intriguing phantasmagoria, comprised of large-scale paintings, drawings, cast sculptures, and ready-made objects. The artist transforms the exhibition space into a theatre stage populated by childlike apparitions and feminine figures, engine wheels, body parts and charts, turning the inner workings of the mind inside out.

Rebecca Ackroyd: Mirror Stage is curated by Attilia Fattori Franchini and presented by Kestner Gesellschaft with the support of Peres Projects, which represents Rebecca Ackroyd