The starting point of this exhibition and subsequent publication is the novel The Man Who Was Thursday by British poet G. K. Chesterton from 1908. This mysterious crime story about a seven-headed anarchist council, which consists of spies from the London secret police, addresses a world in a permanent state of emergency. Yet in the end, the real danger emanates from artists and intellectuals. The text weaves an unsettling web out of surveillance and anxieties, takes unexpected metaphysical turns and ends in utter chaos. Nothing less than the question of what constitutes genuine anarchy is negotiated. Are the policemen who defend law and order the real anarchists? Is the law necessarily based on the act of its transgression?
The atmospheres conjured up in the book, ranging from discomfort to paranoia, resonate in many ways with the present. In a time when the German intelligence service enables assassinations by neo-Nazis, or criminal banksters loot globalized financial markets, political-philosophical ambiguity, as described by Chesterton with its causes and consequences, is as red hot as the question of whether a system can be reformed from within or has to be detonated by a coming insurrection. Thus, the exhibition and book fuse the skepticism of classical modernity toward absolute freedom with contemporary attitudes. Additionally, the curators and editors have formulated a criticism of the dominance of neoliberal and plutocratic models of society. But The Man Who Was Thursday is also a defense of nonsense. And this denial of logic is taken very seriously, considering that the novel's subtitle reads: A Nightmare. This pessimistic, anti-modernist tenor is countered by the liberating forces of artistic practices without being escapist.
The catalogue is published on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition at Kunstverein Hamburg, January 26–April 14, 2013.
With works by Thomas Bechinger, Robert Crumb, Jeremy Deller, James Ensor, Tessa Farmer, Andreas Fischer, Gilbert & George, Rodney Graham, Mike Kelley, Joachim Koester, Mark Lombardi, Cildo Meireles, Olaf Metzel, Wilhelm Mundt, Bruce Nauman, Tony Oursler, Gregor Schneider, Marten Schech, Max Schulze, Andreas Slominski, Rolf Stieger, Suzanne Treister, Félix Vallotton, Lawrence Weiner, Stephen Willats, et al.
Copublished with Kunstverein Hamburg; in collaboration with Michael Liebelt & The London Thursday Institute
ContributorsDorothee Böhm, Joachim Koester, Petra Lange-Berndt, Dietmar Rübel, Suzanne Treister, Florian Waldvogel, Slavoj Žižek