Reset Modernity! A Show at ZKM, 15th of April 2016

Posted: December 21, 2015

An exhibition at ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe
Run time: April 15 – August 21, 2016
Opening: April 15, 2016
Curators: Bruno Latour, Donato Ricci, Martin Guinard-Terrin & Christophe Leclercq
Scenography: Critical Media Lab (Institute of Experimental Design and Media Cultures Academy of Art and Design FHNW Basel): Jamie Allen, Paolo Patelli, Claudia Mareis, Moritz Greiner-Petter, Johannes Bruder, Flavia Caviezel, Carola Giannone, Deborah Tchoudjinoff
A catalog at MIT-Press, editors Bruno Latour and Christophe Leclercq
In cooperation with Sciences Po, Paris.

Michel Serres once said that, in the time of Galileo, people were just as surprised by the startling news that the Earth had a ''motion'' as we are now by the additional news that it might feel an ''emotion'' — and that such emotion is in part due to human activity! It seems that today we have to absorb the novelty not of new lands expanded in space, but of new ways to understand the old land under our feet. Enough to be deeply disoriented…
What do you do when you are disoriented, for instance, when the digital compass of your mobile phone goes wild? You reset it. You might be in a state of mild panic because you lost your bearings, but still, you have to take your time and follow the instructions to calibrate the compass again and let it be reset. The procedure depends on the situation and on the device, but you always have to stay calm and carefully follow some instructions if you want the compass to regain its ability to be sensitive again to the signals sent by the arrays of satellites dispersed in the sky, way above your head.
In this exhibition, we offer you to do something similar: resetting a few of the instruments that allow you to register some of the confusing signals sent by the epoch. Except what we are trying to recalibrate is not as simple as a compass, but this most obscure principle of projection to map out the world, namely Modernity.
What we are convinced of is that Modernity was a way to differentiate past and future, North and South, up and down, progress and regress, rich and poor, radical and conservative. However, such a compass, especially at a time of ecological crisis, is running in wild circles without offering much bearing any more. This is why it is time for a reset. Let’s pause for a while, follow a procedure and search for different sensors that could allow us to recalibrate our detectors, our instruments, to feel anew where we are and where we might wish to go.
After you have done the reset, unfortunately, you will not find your way much more easily because we cannot offer you a metric as straightforward as longitude and latitude. We have no vast array of satellites to send you signals and triangulate your position! Time to look for some other sort of ground, to invent some baseline, some groundline. As the saying goes, it might be time to “touch base”.
The layout of the exhibition itself offers such a disorienting/reorienting protocol. You have to enter inside a space made of overlapping and interlocking corridors that look like burrows dug into the ground. Each burrow invites the visitor to dive in, turn back and get out again. Yes, it is fairly disorienting at first, but after waiting a bit, you might feel that you have regained some ability to reorient yourself. No guarantee, of course: this is an experiment, a thought experiment, a Gedankenaustellung. And thus, fortunately, it can fail!
The exhibition catalogue will be published at MIT press. An international symposium as well as a series of workshops will also be part of the show.
The show will take place in the framework of the GLOBALE, a poly-phone event extending over 300 days to commemorate the 300 year anniversary of the city of Karlsruhe (June 20, 2015 – April 2016).