DD: How did you hit on the idea of “Art and the Age of Emotion/Non-emotionality” as the theme of this year’s festival of contemporary art? Is this an attempt at defining the prevailing situation in art today? How do artists come to grips with a depersonalized world that merely pays lip service to individuality? Does the nature of society mean that their work tends to become non-emotional, or perhaps more emotional?
SS: As artistic director of the Danube Dialogues Festival, I came on the idea of “Art and the Age of Emotion/Non-emotionality” for the theme of the key exhibition because I felt it chimed with the present moment, both in the world and in art. It’s a question that affects art and artists and springs directly out of the current sociological situation. What we see around us today is ravening capitalism unleashed on the world and using the huge resources available to it for open exploitation. It caused, and continues to direct, the current international recession. This is why there are so many countries who now find themselves in a debtor crisis and why 85 per cent of the world’s wealth is in the hands of only 10 per cent of its population. Advances in computer technology support this crisis in extraordinary ways, by manipulating the consumers. The process leads to fresh alienation, because people are less concentrated on themselves, swayed by all that is going on via virtual contact and virtual dialogue. The same development, that in its original form offered us the blessing of universal communication, has turned into a propaganda industry whose owners are the wealthiest people on Earth, but who do not feel the need to employ an adequate number of people who could make a living out of the network industry. Back in the 1980s, Porempski foresaw the formation of the iconosphere which today surrounds us everywhere, and which imposes its own rules for living. The core of this manipulation is the image. And so we come to the field of visuality and art: the way in which we understand a picture has been changed. Painting is no longer the leading visual medium, because by reducing it to a minor role, its importance for an artistic grasp of what it is, the philosophy of the picture and what it means to us have been reduced. At the present moment, art has increasingly embraced technical images which, true to their fundamental character, are mainly documentary, informational and scientistic. Instead of emotions, there is an analytical attitude towards the impulses of reality, frequently guided by a computer algorithm, as leading American media theorist Lev Manovich tells us. In this state of affairs, the impulses of the artist’s heart are regarded as something rather quaint, a relic of the past. Our exhibition, therefore, endeavours to place this interesting juncture under scrutiny, since already the opportunity has arisen for a certain renewal of the image and its meaning. There is an inversion at the heart of it all: as an authentically human product, painting has become a rarity, something exclusive. Reflecting on Art and the Age of Emotion/Non-Emotionality will, I hope, enable us to explore technological art from within, as here too are artists capable of imbuing their work with an emotional charge, with aesthetic and emotional sensitivity, a special and precious sense of feeling.