On the other hand, Entre/acte by artist Alejandra Riera, about the clandestine economy between Argentina and Bolivia's frontiers, was a bit didactic. It's just another set of photos with text, only this time the situation portrayed isn't clearly developed.
For viewers of "How do we want to be governed?" there's a lot of reading to be done, which brings up an interesting connection between the art on display and the catalogue. Many of the essays are so theory-laden that the pleasure of going back and forth between reading and seeing (or remembering) becomes needlessly tedious.
Detail from Martha Rosler's Unknown Secrets (The Secrets of the Rosenbergs)
Phrases like "neoliberal immanence," or "gesture describes a type of action that does not have an external objective, but is, rather, an objective in itself," seem straight out of Hegel's Science ofLogic. But this is not a philosophy textbook; it's a catalogue for an art exhibit.
For instance, consider Harm Lux's notes on Francesca Woodman's photos: "Her works offer viewers the possibility of honing their sensory perception and awareness of the borders of their own realm of existence." Not just pointless but also pedantic.
Artist Ines Doujak's Follow the Leader is impenetrable. It can only be understood by reading Carola Platzek's attempt at deciphering in the catalogue. Platzek tries really hard to make sense of Doujak's diverse sources. Her narrative involves (among others) Herman Melville's short story Benito Cereno, Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Marcos, Carl Schmitt (the German Catholic intellectual and Nazi ideologue), Robert Wyatt's 1982 album Nothing Can Stop Us, Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man, Christopher Columbus, and imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. When you're done reading, Doujak's installation appears contrived, as if it had been built by following Platzek's instruction manual.
The same goes for curator Roger M. Buergel's validation of Rainer Oldendorf's disparate color photos. Acknowledging that the artist's work may be perceived as disconnected, he writes, "Perhaps interchangeability is but a cipher for contingency...which our neoliberal ego cannot experience as other than a narcissistic insult."
Finally there's the curators' effort to denounce neoliberalism as the West's fundamental problem with governance. Which would be fine if it weren't for the lack of any mention of seven decades of ruthless communism in the Eastern Bloc (an obvious example of bad governance), or the present rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Buergel and Ruth Noack seem nostalgic for a Cold War world, a longing that apparently led them, as curators, to ignore 9/11 and its aftermath in the Middle East. It left me baffled.