Are you fit enough to survive Worlds in Collision, Adelaide International 2014?
Are you fit enough to survive Worlds in Collision, Adelaide International 2014? Trotsky in full ﬂight. ‘You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on – into the dustbin of history!’ The Mensheviks, to whom Comrade Trotsky addressed his remarks in 1917 would rather the Bolsheviks hit the dustbin but history records otherwise. This idea that things get consigned to ‘the dustbin of history’ is very persuasive. Culture – and within it, the visual arts – isn’t immune. Until quite recently, the history of art was taught as the History of Art, a grand narrative of sorts with a star-studded cast of talents and key events chronologically arranged. Then the 60s and 70s came along, upended the dustbin all over it and nothing’s been the same since. The idea of art as counter-culture subversion held sway at the time and explains the rather naughty behaviour of many art activists in bollocking institutions like galleries and the protesting the crass commercialisation of art. Crass by the way, was an English punk rock band formed in 1977. Like the Mensheviks, Crass came in for a fair share of criticism. Another activist organisation, Class War, said of Crass that ‘like Kropotkin, their politics are up shit creek’. Kropotkin was, among many things, a Russian evolutionary theorist and prominent anarcho-communist. Class War had obviously consigned him to the dustbin. It’s getting very crowded in there. Hardly enough space for worlds to collide. Collision’s embrace of space as a means of interrogating human affairs is robust. The Lebanese Rocket Society by Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas, for example, references the historical fact that in the early-to-mid-1960s a group of undergraduate students, their lecturer and the University College Science Club in Beirut developed a solid fuel rocket program. This work in the exhibition is both archival and generated by the artists. Where does fact end and ﬁ ction begin? The slippages and doubt between the two are characteristic of a spin that Richard Grayson brings to the curation of this project. His catalogue essay foregrounds the ideas of an `outsider’, Immanuel Velikovsky, the Russian catastrophist and psychoanalyst. Velikovsky was pushed into the dustbin by Carl Sagan as presenter of the much-watched 1980 TV series Cosmos: A Personal Journey. The wider scientiﬁc community, opposed to Velikovsky’s methodology, lent a hand. And yet ‘The Velikovsky Affair’ as it became known, did open up discussion about the way academic disciplines deal with ideas from outside their ﬁelds. Enter Grayson and his interest in the Russian as someone who, `in the cinematic space- opera of his vision’ created a demographic not exclusively about a search for the `truth’ but rather magical and discursive models for imagining the world. Conclusion? Conspiracy theories, SF meta worlds, nostalgia for a youthful imagination and ideals capable of taking on the world – these may not be cerebral space junk. Revisit them before a Collisions viewing experience. They will prove useful. The late 60s-early 70s counter-culture was mish-mash of youth culture, sexual liberation, utopianism, psychedelia, political revolution and anarchy. It got dust-binned too – done in by economic rationalism and ideas about the free play of market forces. But, to paraphrase Grayson, it may be possible to imagine a time, now in fact, when the forces of darkness have temporarily lost momentum sufﬁ cient to create spaces in which ‘new relations and structures’ that serve the greater good, can emerge. Out of the dustbin of course. Worlds in Collision Friday, February 28 to Sunday, March 16 (open daily). Also Tuesday, March 18 to Sunday, March 30 (various times) SASA Gallery, Contemporary Art Centre of SA, Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art and Australian Experimental Art Foundation. adelaidefestival.com.au Image:The Lebanese Rocket Society