Illuminations

Moscow 2018

Curator: Roy Brand

We’re not living in a time of great light and very few of us still believe that we are moving forward or even moving at all. For the most part we are lost, roaming, waiting for something to happen, good or bad, anything. Contemporary life is not so much about the living present as it is about an empty expectation, a delay, a postponement without any promise. We are simply wasting time. 

 

No great light, but there are weak illuminations that shimmer in the dark; flickering signs of hope, short and fleeting moments of joy. They appear, quiver and quickly vanish. Sometimes they form what Walter Benjamin calls constellations, like the dimmed groups of stars that we see as figures and read as signs. That’s all that we have at present and the task left to art today is to make them linger longer as ciphers. 

 

These are the works that Illuminations gather: fractured, broken, muted but nevertheless glimmering in the dead of winter and in the thick of night. The exhibition begins vibrating with movement and life once we let our eyes and hearts readjust to that which is quiet, restrained, slowly enveloping, at the antipode of the loud spectacle that dominates our public sphere. 

The works of art in this show are light-producing objects whose source of energy is trapped within them, dimly but constantly glittering with hope. 

 

That’s what art can do, at least in our present time: it can pass on the torch of hope, to survive the stupidity of our present times and preserve something of the soul of humanity for prosperity. These artists are like ancient philosophers or monks disseminating wisdom, one conversation and one manuscript at a time. Art today cannot change the whole world at once but it can create small pockets of energy and life that can resist the mainstream. This is not the triumphant and heroic art of high modernism brandishing utopian promises, but neither is it defeatism. Illuminations is a form of acting for a future we cannot yet imagine.