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accumulate, collect, show - Bik Van der Pol (film by

In his book, Houellebecq uses the fictional course of a successful artist’s life as the framework for a series of essay-like observations on the failure of the capitalist system and the decline of modernism. But also in the reality of the Twenty-teens, increasing numbers of writers and theorists are attempting to think beyond modernism. How can these attempts make a difference when The Map is Not the Territory and the relationship between words and reality is an impossible one? Between the Map and the Territory manifested itself as a frame story for a number of artists who address our complex relationship to modernism, capitalism and citizenship in the contemporary city, in a productive, but also deliberately evasive way.

Bik Van der Pol have been prominent standard bearers for an artistic practice that reaches further than just the exhibition space. The meaning of their art becomes manifest in symposia, educational programmes, exhibition concepts and essays. In TENT, they placed a monumental scoreboard with letter-cards. The board was animated live by assistants who constantly changed the modular text elements to spell out a number of abstract idioms, quotes and maxims. The profusion of texts activated the observer into thinking and, thus, was also a plea for language as an important form of capital in today’s knowledge economy.

The work of Karin Hueber consists of installations of architectural elements that are apparently waiting to be used, as pieces of scenery for a stage production, as attributes for a performance. Elements are bent, folded, doubled, reversed or enlarged. Hueber’s interest in the differences and similarities in the languages of architecture and sculpture results in precise compositions that create conflicting sensations, oscillating between the physical and mental experience of space.

Maaike Gouwenberg and Joris Lindhout conducted joint research into ’gothic as a cultural strategy’. They went on road-trip through the south of the United States in search of Southern Gothic; Brazilian Gothic was the objective of their stay in Brazil, the country in which Oscar Niemeyer is a hero and modernism is almost sacred. Gouwenberg and Lindhout decided to focus on an alternative hero: Zé do Caixao (loosely translated: Coffin Joe), the alter ego of filmmaker José Mojica Marins. For Zé, Gouwenberg and Lindhout created a ‘locus amoenus’ as a temporary habitat — originally a literary term referring to an idyllic place devoid of rules.

Central to Anna Okrasko‘s video work is the idea of a shared urban space and how the decisions that affect it are made, and the negotiations this involves. In a cinematic form, she aims to discuss issues relating to migration, housing and redevelopment. In her fictional documentaries she often incorporates various film genres and references to filmmakers, such as in Justus Story, a storyboard about the Van Effen complex in Rotterdam, a modernist national monument that was temporarily uninhabited due to renovation. Okrasko transformed the block of houses into a surprisingly appropriate setting for a Robin Hood-like tale.

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Urban utopias such as Brasilia, Kaliningrad and the Cité Modèle in Brussels have all been the subject of photographic research projects by Elian Somers. She searches for traces of the various ideologies that define the history of a city. She presented a series about California City, a city in the Mojave Desert in the United States. In the nineteen fifties, sociologist Nathan Mendelsohn developed the plans for this utopian desert-city. Mendelsohn acquired a huge piece of land (330 square kilometres) and had designs drawn up for a grid of 52,000 lots, complete with roads, shops and facilities. The roads were built, but hardly any inhabitants arrived and in 1969 Mendelsohn sold his development company. California City is a work about utopia and dystopia, about the dream of the developer and the real estate bubble. In Somers’ photographs the landscape presents itself as both deserted and untouched: with traces of a past history, but also opportunities for a new story.

For Emily Whitebread, writing is an integral part of her artistic work, which also comprises video, audio, printed matter and performance. Her audio piece ‘The Birth And Growth of Worlds’ takes listeners along on a journey through the cosmos. A man measures the distances between the planets in the Solar System. The greater the distance, the longer the pause before the next planet is named. The relationship between time and space is translated into silence and sound. The logic behind this does not solve riddle of its purpose. In 2012 Whitebread was artist-in-residence at artists’ initiative Duende in Rotterdam.