We Are The Narcissistic Generation
Immigrants climb over four-meter tall fences and risk their lives trying to reach Europe in small boats. In their attempt to create a world where only the Sharia laws apply, people are decapitated by IS of which the imagery is spread through the internet and shared with the whole world. The beheadings seem to be a form of radical iconoclasm, the ultimate gesture of someone being silenced, not only in a gruesome but especially in a visual manner.
These are happenings that we cannot avoid any longer. They have become impossible to circumvent and we can't just remain looking at ourselves in the mirror.
At the same moment one could say that we live in a time of narcissism. 'We are focused on who we are and what we can get, instead of on what we can give to others. Social media aren't necessarily the driving force behind it, but they do have part in a more and more extensive navel-gazing. We speak of 'online sharing', but rather you send something into the world, only in the hope to receive something back. I constantly feel the need to be fed with external attention. It is this we hope to find online, but actually we hardly ever get there what we really want: love' said Nicolaas Veul in his lecture about his Television program Super Stream Me, a 24/7 live stream of his life.
An artist is not a journalist, because personal obsessions and fascinations lie at the core of his practice. 'What are my qualities? What do I do with great pleasure? What really keeps me busy? And,what defines me?' Yet in what ways do artist connect their own themes with what's going on in the world? And how do their practices –be they artistic, curatorial, or academic– engage in and open up these complex, though fundamental (socio-) political discourses? Engagement can be manifested in abstract ways, like in the performance of Juliacks, the fashion designs of Duran Lantink or the installations of Thierry Oussou.
In this paradox –narcissism fueled and made visible by the same media that engages and connects people in global conflicts through vast amounts of information– the contemporary artist too must find its way. This years' Studium Generale attempts to discuss this dichotomy and its consequences for the arts.
The second part of Studium Generale's 'We are the Narcissistic Generation' will be extended by a more geographical framework, Africa: twelve people from different professional fields will –among other topics– address the colonial histories that predominately determine strategies of urban planning, the neocolonial realities of material resources, economic and ideologic problematics of charity and the linguistic appropriation of a mediatised 'blackness'.
In a more general way, the lecture-series aims to break with a position towards art which anno 2016 remains strongly euro-centric.
by Hanne Hagenaars