SCA Press Text
Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Arendt, Hannah.Vita active: Oder vom tätigen Leben (The Human Condition). 2nd ed. Munich: R. Piper, 1981.
La Chinoise, Jean-Luc Godard, 1967
Arendt categorises art-making as „work“, something artificial is put into the world which is not primarily thought for consumption. „Working“ as an activity which (ideally) makes oneself feel at home in the world. What does it mean to feel at home in the world? To settle down? To keep moving? To reconcile with reality? To understand? For the 1996 show "Austria im Rosennetz"/"wunderkammer österreich" at MAK Vienna the Austrian sculptor Franz West constructed sofas with iron frames and foam mattresses loosely covered with West-African wax fabrics. Critics saw these objects as „ontologically loose, and novel“ and as an invitation for the viewer to engage with the object, to become an active part of the installation. We might ask now, why did it need the Other, the "colourful far away", to make the white western subject feel at home in the white gallery? Sold on the art market these sofas became expensive obligatory objects of desire to be found in the stilish homes, galleries or studios of the rich Western intellectual class. And yet again, art serves a lifestyle.
At Galeria Plusminusnula, Nora-Swantje Almes and Elena Strempek assemble a variation of Franz West sofas and an audio-installation which investigates questions and condition of contemporary labour, art-making and, yes, love. 'Shores of Crucial Activity“ opens up a dialogue, not restricted to only two people talking to each other but rather in the Greek sense of the word διάλογος, diá-logos - the flowing of words.
In The Human Condition the German philosopher Hannah Arendt is concerned with the question of “what we are doing,” and in it she differentiates between three different categories of the active life: “labour,” that which covers our basic needs and creates products for consumption; “work,” which introduces arti cial, human-made things into the world; and “action,” a “non-material interaction with the plurality of humans that live on our planet.” Arendt is convinced that in modern times labour became glori ed and is now the one crucial activity that preoccupies society. In the German version of the book from 1958 Arendt states that Dichter und Denker (poets and thinkers) is the only group of people who are still engaged in philosophical and spiritual activities without calling it their job in the way that politicians and "Geistesarbeiter" (brain-workers) do. But how can this apply to our times in which artists are professionals of the self, large parts of the labour we do is immaterial and every creative gesture is instantly hijacked by capital? So, we ask, what is our motivation to dedicate our lives to art? Is it the possiblity of a critical activity that helps us to handle the chaos of the world around us, to transform it into something that makes sense, maybe just for us, maybe just for a second? Or is it the life style? A whole different set of values, the glamorous promise to stand at the forefront of a capitalist society one day, always newly inventing ourselves, being extremely exible and creative, constantly shape-shifting – what's hot today might not be hot tomorrow. And who is the 'us' anyway?