Artists: Sabian Baumann, Jesse Darling, Demian DinéYazhi', Eva Egermann, Magdalena Fischer, Justin Fitzpatrick, Carolyn Lazard, Park McArthur, Annie Sprinkle und Beth Stephens, Patrick Staff, Sunaura Taylor, Romily Alice Walden, What Would an HIV Doula Do? and Triple Canopy, and Constantina Zavitsanos
curated by: Fanny Hauser & Viktor Neumann
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“Disease is never neutral. Treatment never not ideological. Mortality never without its politics”.1 -Anne Boyer
The group exhibition When the Sick Rule the World brings together the practices of fourteen artists and two collectives that destabilize the dominant conceptions of health, productivity, and ability. The exhibition borrows its title from the author and novelist Dodie Bellamy’s eponymous essay in which those considered sick, weak, or inefficient and therefore ‘less valuable’ are alternatively celebrated as bearers of hope within a system that is itself inherently broken2.
The malleable social construction of ‘sickness’ has been decisive for the development of Modernity in its contribution to the relations between production and reproduction and the violent denial of bodily autonomy and agency to specific subjects in society and/or entire groups. Today, ‘sickness’ continues to serve as a violent category to justify systemic oppression beyond medical wisdom, instead unfairly motivated by class, gender, racial discrimination, and the specifics of individual mental or ‘functional diversities’ (a term coined in the mid 2000s by the Spanish Foro de Vida Independiente y Diversidad in order to surpass the normative distinctions between abled and disabled3). Although constituting the largest minority, people with functional diversities are predominantly rendered invisible in the social, cultural, and political strata that structure our society. Our economies produce fragile environments in which human and non-human bodies suffer in pain and/or depression, indefinitely waiting to receive treatment and auspicious results or mentally prepare themselves for the worst. In ‘The Undying’, author and poet Anne Boyer makes manifest that “no patient is sovereign” by attesting that “the history of illness is not the history of medicine - it is the history of the world - and the history of having a body could well be the history of what is done to most of us in the interest of a few 4.”
Following Dodie Bellamy’s prophesy that anticipates an inversion of the regime that capitalizes on sickness, the exhibition When the Sick Rule the World rethinks the resistance to power from the perspective of those treated as weak, deviant, and, consequently, non-compliant. The invited artists explore critical (self-)care work and alliances in and through sickness, potentials of opacity for generating one’s own infrastructures and a visual language beyond represent-tational politics, strategies that unsettle the chrono-normative principles, and, ultimately, forms of living together beyond ruling or being ruled.
The group exhibition presents local and international artistic positions that build a dense network of references, emphasizing the importance of alliances and solidarity beyond time, space and vulnerabilities. In addition to the media of painting, sculpture, graphic art, photography and video, the exhibition also includes the presentation of magazines and publications.
1 Anne Boyer. The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and care. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.
2 Dodie Bellamy. When the Sick Rule the World. New York: Semiotext(e)
3 Javier Romañach & Manuel Lobato. Functional Diversity, a new term in the struggle for dignity in
the diversity of the human being. Leeds: The Disablity Press, 2005.