• Economy Class – Lukas Pusch

    Date posted: August 8, 2006 Author: jolanta

    From April 6-30, 2006, the exhibition "Economy Class" is taking place at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. The organizers of this spontaneous show, which includes a good 100 prominent Austrian artists, were Barbara Husar, Michael Lampert, Alexander Nikolic and I.

    Economy Class – Lukas Pusch / Translated by Michael Badolato

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    Lukas Pusch, “Vienna Voodoo,” 2006.

     

    From April 6-30, 2006, the exhibition "Economy Class" is taking place at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. The organizers of this spontaneous show, which includes a good 100 prominent Austrian artists, were Barbara Husar, Michael Lampert, Alexander Nikolic and I.
    We considered ourselves to be neither classical curators nor a uniform artistic collective. The entire organization and preparation of the exhibition was done in only three weeks. Overall, we wanted to reproduce and put the Central European "Art Bubble" into question.
     In the present cultural world the here, now and today of the artistic avant-garde has yielded to a universal predictability. Today, contemporary art means "Planned Economy." Exhibitions are conceived years in advance. The standardized correspondence of art and artist, curators as civil servants of the new taste. "Economy Class" should analyze the conventional, institutional art business. An exhibition as performance. All-inclusive tourists as carriers of European culture. A spontaneous sculpture against a long-established art business, which has become sluggish and continuously reproduces itself. The only limitation for the participating artists was the ability of their works to fit into suitcases. We flew economy class and without travel insurance to Kenya, Nairobi.  A last minute trip to Africa. A continent, which, in Europe, doesn’t exist. The colonial exploitation followed the imperial ignorance.
    The exhibition, "Economy Class," was the romantic attempt to break through the narcissism of the art world and its reproduction. We were interested in the criticism of our foreign cultural connections. Kenyan newspapers and TV stations reported on the exhibition. The reactions to the displayed works were mixed. Along with many positive views there were certain visitors who thought most of the works were too sexual.
    After the opening there was a seemingly large program consisting of public discussions and lectures about the art institutions in Nairobi.  Usually there were many visitors and the program itself seemed to generate cooperation for the future. After the private viewing Alexander Nikolic and I traveled to Mathare, the largest of Nairobi’s slums with about 700,000 inhabitants. Nikolic, Hopkins, Mwelu and Otieno helped me realize my art performance. For three days straight I wore a white tuxedo and traveled through the swamp of Mathare, impregnated with shit, people and rat cadavers, corpses of vermin and scattered AIDS-patients.  The white man on inspection in his colonial estate. School classes jumped up singing "welcome!" and "thank you for visiting!" when they saw me in the white tuxedo. I gave out candy and let the school’s director show me the damp, windowless classrooms. We visited illegal Dschanga-brewers on the Nairobi River, whose alcohol-like muck is often the only water source in the slums leading to consumption and blindness for many.
    The performance with my white tuxedo was a part of my "Vienna Voodoo" Series, which will also come out as a separate photo edition. I wanted to show two worlds in one picture. The perspectives change. Capitalist Realism. Realities join together, when normally they would be separated by border fences and restricted areas. The inhabitants of the slum were happy when they saw me in a suit. They weren’t shocked. On the contrary, I symbolized normality for them. In their reality every white person is rich. For them the nice suit was more an expression of respect than a provocation. Our view of Africa is at the most a compassionate one. Starving children. War. AIDA. We don’t appear there, except as Samaritans, Humanitarian Aid workers or Aerzte ohne Grenzen (Doctors without borders). Social workers.
    Julius Mwelu and Fred Otieno live in the slum. They grew up there. They work as filmmakers and photographers and document life and death in the slum. They’re writing a story about the slum. A story nobody else is writing. Together with Nikolic they document my slum-performance. What began as Making of Vienna Voodoo developed with numerous Interviews to a small documentary about the problems and perspectives in Mathare and a first general test for our next project: Slum TV.
    The starting capital for the slum station will come from the sales of the photo-edition.

     

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