Independence, Kunsthalle Bern, 2018, installation view.
Under the term “autonomy”, independence in art long meant freedom of artistic creation independent of market or government influences. Especially in the second half of the twentieth century, artists served as a projection surface for a life freed from constraints that promised relative independence from socioeconomic conditions. Yet this unrealistic idea of artists having the freedom you, as a civic subject, do not dare to take has meanwhile been largely abandoned. A number of artists even pursued a critique of the institutions that include them and of the constraints associated with those institutions, though in the long run this didn’t lead anywhere. As necessary as it was, the constant pointing to the unfreedom of one’s situation eventually did start to smack of paid criticism and, instead of transforming the situation identified through analysis and critique, stabilised the institutions which accepted the criticism as a distinction. Nowadays, the situation is porous and the individual actors are more interdependent than ever. And yet the art world is at the same time a self-contained world whose rules and openings call for constant questioning.
The artistic practice presented in Independence is not a sceptical, detached position, but rather one that draws on unlimited resources inside the structures and stories of art. It is downright fascinated with mechanisms that shape the processes of value creation and taste formation. It is interested in how and when symbolic added value and desire are created. Especially in contemporary art, the latter manifest themselves as forms of a refined exploration of aesthetic and social dynamics – dynamics which occur in what tend to be more well-defined systems in other spheres also invoked here, such as fashion and film.
(Photo courtesy of Gunnar Meier.)