Cybernetics of the Poor
Installation view: Cybernetics of the Poor, Kunsthalle Wien 2020, photo: © eSeL.at - Lorenz Seidler
In cooperation with Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture, Donostia/San Sebastián
Cybernetics of the Poor examines the relationship between art and cybernetics and their intersections in the past and present. From the late 1940s on, the term cybernetics began to be used to describe self-regulating systems that measure, anticipate, and react in order to intervene in changing conditions. Initially relevant mostly in the fields of administration, planning, and criminology, and early ecology, under digital capitalism cybernetics has become an economic factor (see: big data). In such a cybernetic totality art must respond to a new situation: as a cybernetics of the poor.
This exhibition presents works that use the powerlessness of art—its poverty—vis-à-vis the cybernetic machine to propose countermodels. In addition, the show gathers recent and historical works by artists who believed in cybernetics as a participatory, playful practice or were pioneers in delineating a counter-cybernetics. How much of the “counterforce” (Thomas Pynchon) exists within art when it is conceived as a cybernetics of the poor?
Cybernetics of the Poor was shown in its first iteration at Tabakalera in the spring and summer of 2020. The subtitle of that exhibition, Tutorials, Exercises and Scores, named three different genres curators Diedrich Diederichsen and Oier Etxeberria identified as using either anticybernetic or cybernetic artistic strategies. In addition to presenting a selection of examples of these genres, the show’s second installment in Vienna focuses on cybernetic instruments of social control and methods of circumventing it as well as the art market’s very own economic cybernetics.
The exhibition is complemented by an extensive public program, taking place live as well as in digital space. It includes artistic activations of the exhibition space, interventions by participants in the “Cybernetics of the Poor” seminar (Master in Critical Studies course at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna), and a symposium, as well as a multifaceted program of guided tours.
Coleman Collins Guilt Coin
During the exhibition Cybernetics of the Poor, Coleman Collins’s installation will be activated every Thursday from 2 to 6 pm through the sale of Guilt Coin in the booth he has put in place. This coin has been derived from the ultra-cybernetic Bitcoin currency and inspired by the word Schuld which in German means both “guilt” and “debt”. Therefore, this currency plays with notions of moral and ethical control and the limits of value.