MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38 is pleased to present The problem today is not the other but the self, the first exhibition of this year’s program. Featuring works by James Gregory Atkinson & Helen Demisch, Doug Ashford, Andy Coolquitt, Flaka Haliti, and Lena Henke, The problem today is not the other but the self is dedicated to artistic productions that question the current status of subjective freedom and reflect about related issues in open processes. The exhibition runs through April 5.
The problem today is not the other but the self is concerned with questions arising from the increasing neoliberalization of society and digitalization of communication. Both processes thrive on our belief in individual freedom and are products as well as engines for political agendas and a free market economy. Yet, instead of a boundless surge in freedom, we are currently witnessing a crisis in our subjective experience of freedom. Chronic depression, excessive demands on our sensory perception, and burnout syndrome are some of the consequences of this development.
The exhibition title is based on the essays of philosopher Byung-Chul Han, in which he describes our constant striving for freedom and self-realization as a social constraint. According to Han, virtual self-marketing has become a form of self-exploitation and, in the process, the “disciplinary society” that philosopher Michel Foucault described in 1975 has transitioned into a “society of self-discipline.” In this system, an individual’s opponent is no longer “the other,”—the individuals themselves have transformed into their own enemies.
The problem today is not the other but the self thus gathers six artists of different generations whose works reflect on the themes of freedom, powerlessness, and neoliberalism. Andy Coolquitt creates expansive installations of found materials and objects, which he calls “somebody-mades” and “in-betweens.” He arranges these mostly discarded and forgotten objects in site-specific compositions that redefine spaces and pathways. The works of Doug Ashford combine painterly abstraction with political intention in a constant search for the origins of empathy. His video Untitled Film (2013) shows—in slow motion—pornographic scenes where the explicit material is overlaid with fields of color. The wall works Madison Street, Jefferson Ave, and Halsey Street (2013) by Lena Henke are casts of facade structures from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Her works reflect urban development concepts, urban design, and “third places” as snapshots of a time when self-initiative and self-responsibility embodied hope for a better future. Flaka Haliti’s small series of drawings Hoods Requared Beyond This Point (2013) stylizes our life trajectory as a loop between failure and success. The site-specific installation Expression Management (2015) by the artist duo James Gregory Atkinson & Helen Demisch refers to the logic of surveillance and self-imposed transparency in contemporary society. The work takes on the prevalence of the selfie and connects this phenomenon with the screening and scanning methods of public facilities.
James Gregory Atkinson (born in 1981, Bad Nauheim) currently lives in New York. He studies at the Städelschule, Frankfurt/Main, and The Cooper Union, New York. Together with Helen Demisch, he creates installations that combine different medias to comment on (pop) cultural issues as well as gender identities. Atkinson has had exhibitions at Kunsthalle Krems and, together with Demisch, at 401contemporary, Berlin. Together with Clara Jo, he has performed at HAU Hebbel am Ufer and Club Transmediale, Berlin.
Doug Ashford (born in 1958, Rabat) lives in New York. Since 1989 he has taught fine art at The Cooper Union. Ashford was part of the artists’ collaborative Group Material, developing the exhibition form into an artistic medium using display design and curatorial juxtaposition as a critical location. Since 1996, Ashford has continued to make paintings, write, and create projects for museums or other public institutions. His work has been subject to solo exhibitions at Bureau Publik, Copenhagen; Grazer Kunstverein; and Wilfried Lentz Gallery, Rotterdam. Recent group exhibitions include MAK, Vienna; dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Andy Coolquitt (born in 1964, Texas) lives in Austin. He studied art history and sculpture at the University of Texas, Austin, and the University of California, Los Angeles. He combines carefully chosen assortments of objects into sculptures and tableaux. His contemplations of color, material, and formal relationships address both aesthetic and social concerns. Coolquitt has had solo exhibitions at Lisa Cooley, New York; Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna; Maryam Nassir Zadeh, New York; and Blaffer Museum, Houston. He also participated in group exhibitions at Alter Space, San Francisco; Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles; and James Cohan Gallery, New York.
Helen Demisch (born in 1982, Fischbachau) lives in Frankfurt/Main, where she studied fine art at the Städelschule and graduated in 2012. Her artistic practice expands from painting to drawing and collages, and often juxtaposes different visual cultures. Demisch’s works were presented at Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main, and, together with Atkinson, she participated in the group exhibitions at 401contemporary, Berlin, and Nassauischer Kunstverein.
Flaka Haliti (born in 1982, Priština) lives in Munich and Vienna. Haliti studied at the University of Priština and the Städelschule, Frankfurt/M, and is currently working toward her PhD at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Her artistic practice is based on conceptual ideas and relates in its critical analyses of media and society to her distinctly European perspective. Haliti’s work was presented at venues including Mumok, Vienna; Kosovo Art Gallery, Priština; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; and Portikus, Frankfurt/Main. This year, she represents Kosovo at the 56th Venice Biennale.
Lena Henke (born in 1982, Warburg) lives in New York. She graduated from the Städelschule, Frankfurt/Main, in 2010. In her sculptures she considers the human form within representations of urban space and draws on the spirit of her adopted city. She has had solo exhibitions at Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, Marl; White Flag Projects, St. Louis; Kunstverein Oldenburg; among others. Henke participated in international group exhibitions at New Museum, New York; MOCA, Miami; and Kunsthalle Bern. In 2013, together with Marie Karlberg, Henke co-founded M/L Art Space.