allora & calzadilla in - alienations or the fire next time

zacheta - warsaw
july 13 - september 29, 2019

allora & calzadilla, installation view from the great silence, allora & calzadilla: intervals exhibition, philadelphia museum of art; the fabric workshop and museum, 2014

The title of the exhibition consists of two parts defining its thematic scope. The former introduces the concept of alienation, which is used by some research perspectives to describe contemporary society in its multiplicity and diversity resulting from the complexity of our surrounding reality: post-industrial, digital, global, consumer, informational, postmodern, late modern, etc. Since the late 19th century and the dawn of modernity, the concept has been inscribed in one of its critical trends — the alienation of humans in modern society caused by the negative changes taking place as a result of the increasing objectification and capitalisation of all values and relations. This reflection is dominated by the view that society is not organised in such a way as to meet human needs in their full and authentic dimension. As a consequence, this concept no longer describes the individual experience of alienation, but in the diagnosis of researchers, it refers to a collective disease.



The exhibition consists of seven films that show in different ways the condition of people, the Earth, what we are losing and what we desire, the effects of the different forms of alienation that we experience globally today. They make us aware of the causes of alienation, the mechanisms of destructive human behaviour, recalling historical and contemporary events that affect the state of today’s world. These works are part of a diverse trend of alienation criticism of contemporary culture, which aims to uncover the truth about often hypocritical aspects of reality. Behind them are political, economic, racial and gender differences, as well as violence, greed and anti-humanism. This also includes isolation from nature and its devastation, which is a real threat to the entire planet. Both the works at the exhibition, and above all the contemporary socio-political context, resonate with the views of Joseph Conrad, who already at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries captured the universal mechanisms associated with globalisation, the dark sides of civilisational progress: imperialism, terrorism, plundering exploitation, all those hearts of darkness, where, under the guise of development, cruel exploitation continues. The exhibition also features a cosmic motif — a desire to make contact with ‘aliens’ resulting from our sense of isolation, but also a desire for extra-terrestrial expansion, which seems paradoxical in the absence of harmony on Earth. Another theme is the search for roots, the primeval beginnings of humanity, perhaps as an antidote to alienation, but also marked by difficulties, chaos, information overload and just plain inability to reach the truth. Racism and colonial and post-colonial issues are important in the context of the exhibition as an example of multiple ‘betrayals’ of humanity. In the dimension of individual and group experiences, alienation criticism of culture touches upon the issue of restoring dignity and equal treatment of every human being, the right to live in accordance with one’s own convictions. By showing the processes of de-alienation, such as escaping into sophisticated wealth, rejection or exemption from the obligation to understand others, the exhibition does not only show a catastrophic (though very real) vision. Its finale is an act of also counteracting alienation through assertiveness, resistance and the strength of the body and soul. The power that lies within us — individual and collective — must resound in a cathartic burst. Otherwise, as Baldwin wrote, there will be the fire next time!

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