This week, curators Katya Degot and David Riff revealed more about their plans for this year’s Bergen Assembly, which is designed as a triennale for Norway’s second city in art. In a statement penned February 9, 2013, the duo announced their title – “Monday Begins on Saturday” – which is taken from a story by the Strugatsky Brothers (of Roadside Picnic fame, which itself is of Stalker fame…)
The Strugatsky Brothers wrote Monday Begins on Saturday in 1961, at the height of the Cold War Soviet research boom. It tells the story of a programmer who gets sidetracked by hitchhikers while vacationing in the Northern region of Karelia, and winds up working at the Research Institute for Wizardry and Sorcery, which is organized into sections such as the Department of Prophecies and Predictions or the Department of Linear Happiness. Its researchers are on a modest quest to solve all of humanity’s problems. The institute’s main philosophy is dialectical: positivism and vulgar materialism must be fought off at all costs and opposed with the weapons of magic and the imagination. Its ethic of incessant research—alluded to in the title of the novel—is similarly dialectical: an ideal life of perpetual inquiry and thinking, opposed to the quick fixes of consumerism and immediate satisfaction. Here even knowledge of the future should not be “consumed”—it must remain an open horizon. But this utopian atmosphere is secured by almost inexhaustible state support, propped up by an ever-growing bureaucracy, and protected from the demands of the market. Although some institute researchers even want to work on New Year’s Eve, others nonetheless become terribly complacent, which leads to a profuse growth of hair from their ears…
While that last bit about hair in the ears has us a little queasy, the rest of it has us pretty excited. Particularly the part about how “the Bergen Assembly attempts to “read” this narrative through a literary and intellectual re-working of the novel for today. A montage of newly commissioned artists’ projects and historical material, punctuated with fragments from literature, and quasi-fictional curatorial annotations, the Assembly is conceived as an aggregate or archipelago of fictitious research institutes—a little like the departments in the novel—“hosted” by existing institutions in Bergen.” (You can get a gander at some of these venues here or read the full statement here.
Degot has more than proved her chops as the thinking woman’s curator (read about her 2012 Moscow Biennale project “Auditorium Moscow” here as one of the “Discursive Interventions into Russian Art”), so needless to say we have great faith in this exhibition, which will run from August 31 – October 27, 2013. More artists and info to come over the next few months, so we’ll keep you posted or you can follow on the website.
On a side note, Degot followed up an e-flux blast of the above statement with a post of the Nordic paper, Klassekampen. While we’re not exactly fluent in Norwegian, we did appreciate the title: “Utopien under lupa.” Read (?) it here.