Hauntopia / What if

The concept of haunting has been employed to create a language for the many ways in which an unfinished past makes itself known in the here and now (Avery Gordon) and violent histories, or stories, cause ongoing disruptions, wronging the wrong (Eve Tuck). Haunting often takes place when an official narrative insists that the violence of subjection and injustice is overcome (after liberation from colonialism, after Stonewall, after the end of a war, etc.) or when their oppressiveness is strictly denied. Signs appear – we might call them ghosts or specters –, disturb us and produce cracks in the surface of normality.

These ghosts are alive, equipped with agency they do not subjugate under human control. They don’t “belong” to the person, who experiences them, they rather “appear” as agency in-between subjectivities, images and space. They draw us affectively: Something has to be done! As such, ghosts allow for a distinct way of producing knowledge in and for research. Haunting is “a special way of knowing what has happened or is happening”, Avery Gordon asserts.

In times of violent political conflicts, the exhibition explores the conjuring of specters as a proper method of arts-based research. It welcomes the appearance of ghostly events, signs, images, practices and objects that recount the ferocities of the past while also holding the possibility of a different future. Building on a glossary of hauntopic devices the work exhibited is looking for traces, negations even, of things, stories and future visions, while in many instances making use of formats that employ ephemeral, opaque or sci-fi elements. Thus the exhibition explores the range of a ghostly aesthetics, but with a reference to “What If” it also highlights that haunting can open up a future possibility or work as an exile for our longing; it stimulates an imagination of how things could be otherwise. In the utopia we mingle with the presence of colonialism, with tamed revolutionary moments, subjugated knowledge and other ghosts. We explore artistic practices that invite ghosts to appear and dance while simultaneously making traces of a possible future in the here and now.

Anette Baldauf and Renate Lorenz

This text is a curators’ statement that will also be present in the Research Pavilion for visitors to read during the Pavilion’s third exhibition Hauntopia / What if during September 8th – October 15th.