Mini Things (for Big Contexts)

The financial crisis that began in 2008 has not only made the underdevelopment of the Mediterranean peripheries of Europe endemic, but is above all marginalizing the project at the very roots of the EU, namely a community of peoples, in constant growth owing to proximity, based on the civilization of free exchange and mutual respect for cultural differences. Europe appears to be suffering especially from the global capitalist reorganisation that has gradually led states to withdraw from giving support to public affairs, upsetting the balance between the market and institutions. For this very reason, it is necessary to rediscover and renew community cohesion: to counter the imbalance of political and economic powers, even the most advanced countries of the north in an ever less relevant Europe in the current configuration between centres and peripheries of updated global “empires” [1], will have to come up with a matching remedy.

But how is such a political delay possible for a continent that, as a whole, holds the world record in the economic field, the largest and richest market, and is also an immense cultural storehouse? The question is even more pressing in light of the very topography of Europe that graphically suggests the obsolescence of a model of global society based on constant attempts of centralization by this or that super-power, be they economic or political. The representation of the map of Europe would indeed refer more to complex systems of peer-to-peer networks, decentralized and self-generating values and meanings, than to the relationships of power of an axis with its rays.[2]

It should be said that Europe can also be seen as an original and universal project[3], by which extremely polarized political systems will have to become multi-polar systems for an era of inter-connections and interactions between people and countries that need the development of a new cosmopolitanism, as the requisite cultural condition for an updated definition of citizenship.[4] Following these guidelines, the art system will also have to convert itself functionally from mere market into one of the main public spaces of the continental and interconnected megalopolis. A common challenge for artists, intellectuals and institutions, but also dealers and collectors, who will need to contribute towards forming a new piece of civil society.

In the Sicilian case specifically, this means having to tackle the void left by the pertinent authorities, owing to the chronic inconstancy of public investment in the cultural field. In doing this, we must first address some fundamental critical issues. In recent years, there has for example been a belated emergence of an entire group of intellectuals able to historicize the contemporary language[5], so as to enhance a specific local system with strong and stable international connections. This is a difficult and complicated challenge because what happens in the “contemporary” is unstable by definition – any attempt at designation is inept and inappropriate if not developed and subjected to constant verification.

The new program of initiatives by the Fondazione Brodbeck should therefore be a prerequisite to provide continuity to the choices of the past in the light of new challenges. Besides themed exhibitions, which make the most of the accumulated capital from the collections, the operational scope of Mini Things draws inspiration from the phenomenon of Social Media[6]. Its protagonists, the artist, the dealer, the collector, will implement the social network of contemporary art “dynamically”, exchanging information not only with other professionals in the field, for instance critics, journalists and so on, but also with the public that will be invited to actively take part.

The “mini” activities we propose here focus on two main areas of discussion: on one hand, of course, the visual arts, the “common good” of local communities in close international relationship with other similar communities and, also for this reason, an example of the “lingua franca” of globalization; on the other, the networks, their functions and aesthetic principles. The reasoning and the work carried out on these issues should then touch on and interact with other disciplines,with continual references to different local and international contexts, a well-founded tribute to the tetrad method of Marshall McLuhan – the foremost instigator of an increasingly shared “global” sense for a time that never before was so contemporary.

Federico Baronello, November 2014.

[1] China and the US above all with the London international stock market at the centre and, in addition, a whole set of other possible regional actors, aspiring followers participating in the planet’s “Great Game”.
The concept of empire has been discussed at length throughout the first decade of 2000: Empire by Hardt/Negri, published in 2000 and Empire … Lessons for Global Power by Niall Ferguson, 2002, are just a few examples as suggested by antinomy by the political scientist John Alexander Motyl in Is Everything Empire? Is Empire Everything?, published in Comparative Politics vol.38, No.2, pp. 229-249, January 2006, Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York.

[2] Empire is “…a hierarchically organized political system with a hub-like structure – a ‘rimless wheel’ – within which a core elite and state dominate peripheral elites and societies by serving as intermediaries for their significant interactions and by channelling resource flows from the periphery to the core and back to the periphery”, Alexander J. Motyl ‘Imperial Ends’, p. 4, Columbia University Press 2001.

[3] The Mind And Body Of Europe, joint statement of artists, scientists and intellectuals for the III General Assembly for a New European Narrative, Akademie der Künste – Berlin March 1, 2014.

[4] “A single large city that stretches for thousands of acres and that has many huge natural parks inside, like the protected areas of the Alps or Scandinavia …”, Stefano Boeri quoted in L’Europa cerca la mappa per il futuro – Raccontare un continente come una città, Luigi Offeddu, Corriere della Sera del 01/03/2014.

[5] The term should be understood here in its critical sense, an approach designed to consider cultural production in question together with the social, historical and ideological forces and structures that determine it.

[6] On the profound relationship between the visual arts, design and Social Media, I refer to several essays by the philosopher and media theorist Boris Groys, published in e-flux journal since 2008.

[In the picture above, Christoph Meier‘s Untitled, 2012; painted steel, plastic, lacquer,]