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Generali Foundation present Against Method: The Collection Seen by Gertrud Sandqvist

Generali Foundation present Against Method: The Collection Seen by Gertrud Sandqvist on view September 13–December 22.

To celebrate the Generali Foundation’s twenty-fifth anniversary, three international curators—Guillaume Désanges, Helmut Draxler, and Gertrud Sandqvist—each composed a show using a unique presentation format to reflect on the Generali Foundation’s collection and exhibition politics, and thereby examining its contribution to historiography on the basis of institutional work. Guillaume Désanges focused on the “pioneer days” of Conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s; Helmut Draxler highlighted the complex interrelations between the principles of collecting and exhibition making. And the yearlong anniversary program concludes with Gertrud Sandqvist’s exhibition Against Method.

The title of the show refers to Paul Feyerabend’s book Against Method. Outline of an Anarchist Theory of Knowledge of 1975, in which the philosopher casts doubt on the scientific ambition to attain knowledge through the application of exact and systematic methods and instead proposes “irrational means” as the basis for experimental research. Scientists, he argues, should follow the principle of “anything goes” and adapt artistic approaches to facilitate the spontaneous discovery of theories. Feyerabend’s critique came during the heyday of Conceptual art, when artists, for their part, sought to integrate structuralism and rationalist, scientific methodology into their work. Conceptual art may be based on the primacy of the “idea,” but as many works by its representative artists illustrate, it also involves much that is object-like, material, and irrational.This ambivalence can already be spotted in Sol LeWitt’s famous Sentences on Conceptual Art from 1969: “Conceptual Artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.”

If we view Conceptual art in relation to Feyerabend’s scientific theory, each seem to project the other’s desire. The artist Mary Kelly, who was the first to discuss the love for systems in Conceptual art in terms of desire in her Post-Partum Document (1973–79), holds a key position in the exhibition. With her work questions concerning materiality, process, the unconscious, and sexuality enter the conceptual discourse under mock-scientific disguise. But other aspects that the idea of “Conceptualism” seems to exclude—such as aesthetics, gesture, the gaze, and physicality—are manifest in the art works of the Generali Foundation Collection. They create an art experience that cannot be completely translated into signs or systems.

On the basis of this dynamic interplay between an approach guided by the idea and one that is attentive to the senses, curator Gertrud Sandqvist presents a selection predicated on the notion of “elective affinities”—part of the title of Ana Torfs’ work from 2002. Elective affinities, an eighteenth-century chemistry concept, describes chemical reactions in which the combination of known elements produces unexpected results when new substances come into play.

With works by Lili Dujourie, VALIE EXPORT/Peter Weibel, Morgan Fisher, Andrea Fraser, Isa Genzken, Andrea Geyer, Dan Graham, Hans Haacke, Mary Kelly, Joachim Koester, David Lamelas, Martha Rosler, Ana Torfs, Franz West, and Heimo Zobernig

Curator: Gertrud Sandqvist

Generali Foundation
Wiedner Hauptstrasse 15
1040 Vienna, Austria
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Thursday 11am–8pm
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