The Radical Imaginary: The Social Contract

Milo Rau, The Congo Tribunal, cinema documentary, still, 2017, 100 min. A Fruitmarket and Langfilm production, in coproduction with IIPM – International Institute of Political Murder, SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen – SRG SSR / ZDF, in collaboration with ARTE. Distributed by Real Fiction and Vinca Film.

Milo Rau, The Congo Tribunal, cinema documentary, still, 2017, 100 min. A Fruitmarket and Langfilm production, in coproduction with IIPM – International Institute of Political Murder, SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen – SRG SSR / ZDF, in collaboration with ARTE. Distributed by Real Fiction and Vinca Film.

John Boyle-Singfield, Reconstitution, still, 2015, vidéo, 90 min. Courtesy of the artist.

John Boyle-Singfield, excerpt from Terms of Service, 2013, 64 pages. Melodies composed by Gentiane M.-Gagnon. Courtesy of the artist.

Jill Magid, The Proposal: The Exhumation, still, 2016, video HD, 6 min 7 s. View of the exhibition Unsettlement, Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA, Australia), from April 28 to July 7, 2018.

Credit: Andrew Curtis.

Jill Magid, Tracing Albers’ Chair, still, 2014, video, 4 min 58 s. View of the exhibition Homage, RaebervonStenglin (Zürich), from April 26 to July 6, 2014.

Credit: Gunnar Meier.

Carey Young, Obsidian Contract, 2010, site-specific installation with vinyl text and black mirror. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Carey Young, Uncertain Contract, still, 2008, HD video, 14 min 57 s. Produced with the assistance of Thomas Dane Gallery, London. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Carlos Amorales, Supprimer, Modifier et Préserver, still, 2012, video, 28 min 42 s. Courtesy of kurimanzutto gallery and Estudio Amorales.

Carlos Amorales, Supprimer, Modifier et Préserver, still, 2012, video, 28 min 42 s. Courtesy of kurimanzutto gallery and Estudio Amorales.

Agency, Thing 002296 (Mount Whymper) from the Assembly (The Radical Imaginary: The Social Contract), 2018With the courtesy of Warkworth Institution.

Credit: Kobe Matthys

View of the Assembly Thing 000868 (taxidermist mannequins), Le Grand Café, Centre d’art contemporain of Saint-Nazaire, December 6, 2015.

Credit: Éric Gouret.
2018.09.13 - 12.15

Agency, Carlos Amorales, John Boyle-Singfield, Jill Magid, Milo Rau and Carey Young


Reading room
Nina Beier, John Boyle-Singfield, Étienne Chambaud, Maria Eichhorn, Andrea Fraser, arkadi lavoie lachapelle and Jean-Frédéric Ménard, Kelly Mark, Nadia Myre and Discriminating Gentlemen’s Club

Curator: Marie J. Jean

Opening on September 13, 2018 at 5 pm
Guided tour by Jill Magid at 5:30 pm

The Radical Imaginary: The Social Contract

MARIE J. JEAN

Believing that the International Criminal Court had shirked its duty in the matter of the Congo’s twenty-year-long civil war, Milo Rau decided to mount a tribunal in Bukavu, at which lawyers argue and victims, witnesses, executioners would testify, along with members of the government, the army, rebel groups, and NGOs—all of them real-life protagonists in this ongoing human tragedy. For, despite the fact that the conflict has claimed more than six million lives, the Congolese today remain trapped in a state of impunity, because none of the war crimes committed has been subject to legal challenge. What prompts an artist to stage this type of work, appropriating the conceptual and political apparatus of the judicial system? Rau is categorical: his theatre does not aim at “sterile criticism of policies or institutions”; it seeks nothing less than to “change” them.  Yet although the trial was heard using actual testimonies—the protagonists played their own roles before 1,000 spectators who had come to hear them—it had no legal force. Its repercussions were considerable, however, because The Congo Tribunal (2017) has demonstrated that this barbaric conflict resulted from exploitation of natural mineral resources—gold and coltan—by multinationals that desire the status quo in this region of Africa so as to better profit from growth in a technology industry (mobile telephony) in a globalized economy.

The Congo Tribunal points up the lack of international judicial institutions and effective economic regulatory structures to safeguard justice and rights for the Congolese. If Rau employs the form of the tribunal, subscribing to its operational logic, it is to generate a “radical imaginary,” as posited by Cornelius Castoriadis: that is, a process of continuous creation that produces novel significations of the imaginary with the potential to transform institutional positions.  The radical imaginary thus impels the emergence of open knowledge, continually in the process of generating itself, out of two movements that are generally in a relationship of mutual tension: on the one hand, the requirement for “critical lucidity,” and on the other, the “creative function of the imaginary.” It is a process whereby the individual, creating and constantly drawing forth new critical stances and new realities, is him- or herself transformed by what s/he modifies and, consequently, the boundaries of the institution in which s/he has agency are modified. All of the artists featured in this exhibition submit Justice to a comparable radical imaginary, casting a lucid gaze upon its ethical and political implications.

Continue reading the essay

The Radical Imaginary: The Social Contract is the first project in a series of exhibitions about the Institution and its history, seeking to understand how artists have either associated themselves with or been opposed to it, gradually inflecting its positions. The objective is to observe an alternative form of institutional critique that conceives of the components of the Institution (the judicial system, the university, the economy, etc.) as processual forms, in constant transformation.

The judicial system is the institution studied in this initial component. The artworks presented call into question legal tools and concepts—rules, procedures, contracts, jurisprudence, trials—so as to understand how they act upon art, its system and its players, while altering the rules of the social game. The artists not only appropriate the apparatus of the legal system, exposing its ethical and political dimension, they also study the unseen codes governing it: for example, issues around intellectual property, which are inexorably transforming their work and the institutions in which they have agency.

Reading room: the artist, the law and the contract

The artist contract has existed since the Middle Ages. Originally, its purpose was to clarify the respective responsibilities of artist and patron in developing a work. Today, the nature of the artist’s work has become an issue unto itself. It has been transformed such that it has complexified the status of the artwork and, in turn, its legal purpose: the artist is the owner of their work, which they can sell, and the production of which may be entrusted to a third party; the artist is a worker, who may be compensated for producing a specific project for an institution or a collector; the artist is also a knowledge worker who may claim authors’ rights to the design and distribution of their work.

The reading room presents historical and legal documents, essays and other works about the artist contract and authors’ rights (copyright), along with works that subvert the uses of such.

Event

The Radical Imaginary: The Social Contract - Agency: Assembly, performance
2018.09.15

Agency calls a public assembly where a group of individuals from various backgrounds related to the court case Hawley v. Canada will be invited to respond to the controversy surrounding Thing 002296 (Mount Whymper), new “thing” presented at VOX. Admission is free, but seats are limited!

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Congo Tribunal, 2017 (100 min)

Screenings of cinema documentary by Milo Rau

Tuesday to Friday: 12:00 pm, 1:40 pm, 3:20 pm (ends at 5:00 pm)
Saturday: 11:00 am, 12:40 pm, 2:20 pm (ends at 4:00 pm)

This exhibition is presented with the kind collaboration of the LABOR gallery, Paula Cooper Gallery, the Collection of Patrick and Lindsey Collins, the Walter and McBean Galleries of the San Francisco Art Institute, the Warkworth Institution, MAGNETFILM, Pointe-à-Callière, Artexte, Lisa Bouraly and Beat Raeber, Galerie.