Anders — Ästhetik der Differenz is a thematic exhibition that deals with the notion of ‘otherness’. The term is characterized by its perspectivity. It is based on the point of view of the speaker or perceiver. Instead of providing information about an empirically ascertainable reality, it points to models of perception and thought that are capable of breaking down reality into categories. Categories that unfold along thought constructions such as center–periphery, normality–abnormality, identity–alterity, health–disease, culture–subculture. The duality underlying these constructions is in turn characterized by a constitutive asymmetry: while one pole is considered normative and authoritative, the other represents its deficient deviation.
It proves to be a fact that relations of privilege and power are involved in these structures. The point of view from which differences are identified is embedded in the culture that makes it possible as point of view. And culture is always man–made. Thus, the notion of difference is related to the interests of the group that holds a privileged, dominant position in the social fabric: the majority society, which sees itself as normative, normal, central, healthy, uniform and self–identical, and which reproduces its view through language, science, and art. The topos of the ‘other’ plays an important role in the construction of this self–image as self–assurance. The ‘other’ is thus a function of the self, through which power orders are cemented, which in turn secure privileges: Are women the opposite sex? Is the particularity of the skin colour of people with albinism a defect? Are mental abnormalities diseases? Are homeless people the failure of society? Are migrants inferior strangers? Are queer people the deformation of gender identity and heterosexuality? Is subculture the negation of culture?
These questions reveal that the ‘other’ is the construction of a self that declares itself a universal ordering principle and accordingly overlooks the peculiarity of its existence by focusing on differences. A self that completely disregards itself as a relative standpoint. It is an art–historical fact that the notion of ‘otherness’ has been an important reference point for art production. Yet the approaches and perspectives that characterize such practices are highly diverse. This can be seen both in the forms of expression of artists dealing with the ‘other’ and in the content they engage with. Moreover, the concerns of such positions diverge considerably from one another: while some positions adopt a socio–critical stance, others advocate an adequate representation or perform acts of self–empowerment. Other positions, on the other hand, grope their way into the field without claiming to be programmatic, but with the need to express their subjective feelings and thoughts.
The exhibition Anders — Ästhetik der Differenz presents a focused selection of both national and international artists who deal with or reflect on the thematic spectrum of ‘otherness’. The focus is thus not on determining the typological characteristics that visual art exhibits in the present, but on making the specificity of a theme tangible. A theme whose significance appears increasingly urgent in the context of the cultural–political debates of the time. Taking this challenge, eleven invited positions discuss the peculiarities, complexities, and contradictions related to the notion of ‘otherness’. They are Arts of the Working Class (collective: Berlin), Anna Baranowski (Leipzig), Benedikt Braun (Weimar), Gino Dambrowski (Gera), Luisa Eugeni (Perugia), Gustavo Lacerda (São Paulo), Susann Maria Hempel (Greiz), Rana Matloub (Erfurt), Claudia Rößger (Leipzig), Tejal Shah (Mumbai), Oskar Zaumseil (Greiz).
Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend im Rahmen des Bundesprograms Demokratie Leben!; Fonds Soziokultur; KIM Kultur in Mitteldeutschland gGmbH; Kulturstiftung Thüringen; Kunst- und Kulturförderprogramm Art-Regio der SV Sparkassen-Versicherung; Sparkasse Gera-Greiz; Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Hessen-Thüringen; Staatskanzlei Thüringen.
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