Statement by Christophe Slagmuylder and What, How & for Whom/WHW

This project constitutes a prologue for And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers?, an exhibition that starts from Indigenous epistemologies to explore the possibilities of interweaving the poetic gesture with radical political action. It examines artistic practices that counter the destructive ways in which the legacies of colonialism, entangled with patriarchy and extractive capitalism, continue to produce suffering and environmental disaster on a global scale. The exhibition was scheduled to open on 29 May 2020, but in the final stages of its realization, it was put on hold by the worldwide coronavirus crisis. Its Costa Rica–based curator, Miguel A. López, in lockdown on another continent, the exhibition space of Kunsthalle Wien closed for more than two months, the Wiener Festwochen, of which the exhibition was to have been a part, cancelled in its original form, international artists unable to travel, and the exhibition’s artworks, boxed up in their wooden crates, still waiting to be picked up. This group exhibition, with over thirty-five artists who are located everywhere from the Amazon region to Australia, from Guatemala to India, is unable to take place this year in its originally conceived form, but we intend to realize it in full in 2021.

Until then, we are happy to introduce to you a first manifestation of the exhibition – one that is designed to be encountered in public space. In an attempt to translate some of the exhibition’s voices and topics into a medium that is compatible with the current obstacles and circumstances facing cultural presentations around the world, six artistic statements have been produced specifically for the advertising-billboard format. These works have been digitally sent, printed, and mounted all over Vienna. Public space lately has been the field experiencing the most significant change within our lives. It was made unavailable and charged with restrictions, but we are now experiencing a reopening of its possibilities for physical and social dialogue – and thus a calling for its artistic activation. We invite you to discover these six newly commissioned artworks on 250 billboards across the city.

We would like to express our gratitude to curator Miguel A. López and artists Manuel Chavajay, Chto Delat, Inhabitants with Margarida Mendes, Daniela Ortiz, Prabhakar Pachpute, and Sophie Utikal for this inspiring collaboration and for their topical and poetic contributions. We are very much looking forward to seeing their work on the city streets, and to presenting the full iteration of And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers? at Kunsthalle Wien in May 2021.

Christophe Slagmuylder, Artist Director, Wiener Festwochen, and What, How & for Whom/WHW, Directors, Kunsthalle Wien

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The Wiener Festwochen would like to thank their partners