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"Populism: Artists Reflect This Contemporary Political and Cultural Phenomenon"
2005-04-29 until 2005-08-28
The Populism project tries to formulate concrete spaces for experience, reflection, and discussion linked to a contemporary political and cultural phenomenon that is as complex as it is widespread. "Populism has many different faces. Many different things can be called populism for very good reasons. We may not necessarily agree on the meaning of the term populism. And maybe the term populism should not necessarily have only one meaning. The usefulness of a term with different meanings resides in the fact that it may hint at family resemblances between different phenomena called populism. Therefore, in any project on populism, it might soon appear that the contributors – artists, academics, writers and other intellectuals – will use the word in many different ways."
Dieter Lesage, “Populism and Democracy”, 2005, in The Populism Reader
In spring 2005 NIFCA, the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, launches Populism, an exhibition project in four European cities exploring the relationships between contemporary art and current populist cultural and political trends.
There is little doubt that populist movements gain large parts of their persuasive power from their ability to play on affects and desires that are supposedly exempt from the procedures that mark official democratic politics. At this level an art exhibition can provide a space that differs from that of other public forums. The point of departure is the idea that the affects and desires that characterise populist politics are not necessarily separate from the ones that find expression in the sphere of art. Key questions are how forms of populism – whether left wing or right wing, progressive or reactionary – promote themselves and their quest for mass appeal through a stylistic and aesthetic consciousness. The political imagination of visual art can get involved in these economies of signs and desires, and address current cultural discussions through proposals for other directions for democracy.
Populism includes new works and projects by around 40 international artists and artist groups, bringing together challenging works in a multitude of artistic strategies. The exhibitions take place in parallel at the following venues:
The Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius. Opening April 8 through June 4
National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo. Opening April 15 through September 2
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Opening April 29 through August 28
Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt a.M. Opening May 10 through September 4
Los Angeles, 2004
(Photo: Sean Dack)