2012-10-12 - 2013-01-13

Curated by: Magda Lewoc, Marlena Chybowska-Butler

Artists: Bartek Otocki, Irene Murphy, Jan Håfström, Janek Simon, Johan Muyle, Lisl Ponger, Mick O’Shea, Thomas Chable, Tim Sharp, Tomasz Kozak, Yinka Shonibare MBE

Dark Side of the Moon, the 9th Baltic Contemporary Art Biennial is an exhibition that  refers to the experience of colonialism and the impact of post-colonial fantasies on the modern Western imagination.

Since the 1970s, reflection on the long-term history of the effects of colonialism and the relationship between the dominate and subordinate has been anong the most vital currents of contemporary humanities. Cultural studies are its essential element; their research goal is to determine the range of contribution of cultural outputs– literature, visual arts, scientific and parascientific literature, reports from exotic travel – to the colonial expansion of the West based on a conviction of the superiority of its own civilization. Analysis of the ways of representation of the East (understood to be the rest of the non-white world) carried out in that spirit reveals how Western culture perpetuated the symbolic relationship of asymmetry between what is known (marked positively) and what is alien, Other (triggering negative connotations). On the basis of  “colonial encounter,” the West’s cultural expansiveness has generated countless images and texts of fundamental meaning for formation of Western subjectivity. Many of these archetypal and phantasmatic images have not lost their ambiguous factuality.

The goal of the project named Dark Side of the Moon is self-analysis – the work of self-knowledge made by a European imagination seeking to reinforce deeply internalized convictions, associations and perceptions about the Others and their philosophical, historical, psychological, and cultural sources. It is the story of our ideas about ourselves, mediated by images of the Others. It is a tale about symbolic capital worked out on the basis of Western culture and popularized by the most influential institutions and visual frescoes referring to image-archetypes and image-phantasms, and of their unfading power.

Identity, ambivalence, hybridisation, bipolarity, migration, projection and representation form a net of key concepts for post-colonial critique that are useful for interpreting the exhibition’s presented works.

Invited artists  take up issues arising from encounters with the Other and the place those encounters occupy in the collective imagination. They are inspired by canonical references of Western culture: images – such as works Pereda (Ponger), Bruegel (Muyle), Böcklin (Håfström) and Goya (Shonibare); music – Tchaikovsky (Shonibare); literature – Conrad (Håfström), Borowski and Jünger (Kozak); and anthropological studies – Lévi-Strauss (Simon). Rooted in an analysis of high culture, this scholarly aspect meets its counterpoint in works that reference popular culture – those that pass on knowledge and perceptions of reality on an incomparable scale. The Hollywood productions (Ponger), ethno-documentaries (Sharp), large-cicrulation publications or tourism (Simon) and social rituals (Chable, Muyle) that play significant roles in these processes are displayed here.

Images that are deeply rooted in mass imagination – the Others, racial differences impossible to eradicate, overseas travel, exotic fauna, violence, fears – constantly appear in works that refer to both  high and popular culture. It is an amalgam of fascination and fear, uncontrollable obsessions and negative fixations. Taken together, the exhibition reflects a dichotomous vision of the world in which European rationalism struggles with the ‘forces of chaos’ and cannot liberate itself from the ghosts of its own making that torment it.