Affect and Exchange is an exhibition that addresses the relationship between economic exchange and subjectivity within the shifting social institutions of capitalist society. It brings together a group of international artists, using a range of media to explore the current social and economic system and its emotional impact. Its title is borrowed from an essay by contemporary artist, Melanie Gilligan, and the works all bear witness in their own way to the intersection between affect, bio-politics and capital. Encompassing painting, photography, video and printmaking, the works examine the medical industry, psychiatry, the police force and architecture. Since the 1980s, theorists such as Foucault, Guattari, Lazzarato and Berardi have designated the production of subjectivity as an important contemporary political problem and one that might indicate an exit from the current political impasse in which we are caught. The exhibition attempts to set this theoretical and political issue into productive dialogue with the artworks, not only to highlight the way that artists are addressing it, but also in order to raise the question of what role art can play in creating new forms of subjectivity.
Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s work examines the use of psychiatry as a bio-political regime that shapes the emotions of the consumer/patient. Set inside clinical interiors, her CGI animation Seroquel ® (2014) takes the bipolar medication of the same name as its subject in order to expose the relationship between psychoactive drugs, social control, and the way they both operate on an intimate and molecular level.
Two forms of mark making coalesce in Patricia L Boyd’s photographs, which show shadows cast by graffiti falling onto a floor sculpture by the artist. Skin marked by round bruises left after cupping therapy is the subject of the floor sculpture. Black and white images embedded under glass display a body concerned with maintaining health and, one might infer, productivity. By permanently fixing the transient shadows of graffiti, the artist draws together two socially coded spaces, the inside and outside of the gallery, and disrupts the clear distinction between them.
Investigating the amount of rent paid by art institutions and cultural workers, Sean Dockray and Liang Luscombe have created a Real Estate Survey. Their work delves into the history of ‘rent stress’ and how it relates to other forms of stress, whether psychological or material.
Anthea Behm’s abstract paintings use pepper spray to allude to recent demonstrations and protests and their policing. The paintings mimic and re-function Abstract Expressionist painting, hinting towards the relationship between Abstract Expressionism and the American ideology of freedom. The works shed light on forms of control and affect in terms of the pain that pepper spray induces on the body and its psychological repercussions.
Taking the form of a humorous musical, Chto Delat’s film The Lesson on Dis-Consent (2011) is based on a number of texts produced by the anti-psychiatry movement which emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, particularly those of the Socialist Patients Collective in Heidelberg. Staged as an interaction between performers and museum goers at an opening in Baden Baden, the work critiques the modern concept of a healthy lifestyle and questions how it might be radicalised.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.