Creating Common Good


In Cooperation with VIENNA ART WEEK 2015

According to American sociologist and economist Saskia Sassen, an unfettered international market – in the finance industry, for example – creates conditions that enable people to construct an environment that is conducive to their individual interests, but stultifies public interests...

The privatization of public spaces and goods in recent years has led to a gradual shift in our understanding of what constitutes the “common good.” Given the global, sociocultural and eco-political upheaval of our time, we all find ourselves confronted with new challenges. The slogan “No man is an island” – as can be read on a poster by artist Ramesch Daha and political journalist Susanne Scholl – is a public appeal in public space. The idea of a “common good” is grounded in the sharing of resources such as air, public spaces and services, health, education, research, the Internet and cultural institutions. Common properties are fundamental to the survival of societies. While Greek philosopher Aristotle understood the common good to be the greatest possible happiness for the greatest possible number of people, neoliberalism sees the common good most strongly realized in individual freedom.

Refugee movements, distribution crises and youth unemployment (partly triggered by systemic corruption and lobbying) signal the need for a major restructuring of political conditions, lending further urgency to the call for a new, public awareness of the common good. Massive bailouts for the financial sector have led to skyrocketing government deficits, as the state and community of states pursue targeted, superego strategies. The predominant system behind the neoliberal market economy and its focus on profit maximization have raised urgent questions about what alternatives would in fact be viable. The state of emergency threatens to become a permanent condition.

The decision to title the exhibition “Creating Common Good” was made before we could discern the tangible impact the global political situation would have on our lives, or gauge its momentum. As we see in the level of civic involvement and the failure of politicians to effectively manage crises, words matter more than deeds here. It is therefore all the more important that the exhibition approach the question of “Creating Common Good” from various artistic perspectives, tackling a range of topics from alternative microsystems to gentrification processes and direct affectednessa with regard to refugee migration, to criticism of state budgetary cuts to education and culture. How does art contribute to the public interest? What do artist-initiated projects achieve for the common good of our society? To what degree have agendas that originally fell to the jurisdiction of the politics shifted over to the art sector, to its discourse on the current “political landscape”?

The artists and collectives participating in this exhibition are not only calling for a greater sense of political responsibility; they are not advocating for human dignity, solidarity and justice alone. Instead, they bring in new criteria and questions pertaining to the creation and use of resources, suggest alternatives to the established order, and hold themselves to the ethical task of shaping society themselves.

With works by: Akram Al Halabi, Atelier Van Lieshout, Joseph Beuys, Bernhard Cella, Ramesch Daha, Democracia, Ines Doujak, Teresa Estapé, Peter Friedl, Leon Golub, Tamara Grcic, Gruppe Uno Wien, Markus Hiesleitner, Heidrun Holzfeind, Anna Jermolaewa, Folke Köbberling, Ernst Logar, Teresa Margolles, Adrian Melis, Lucy + Jorge Orta, Lisl Ponger, Pedro Reyes, Martha Rosler, Isa Rosenberger, Tim Sharp, Santiago Sierra and Jorge Galindo, Axel Stockburger, tat ort, Johanna Tinzl, transparadiso, Patricia K. Triki, Nasan Tur, Anna Witt, Ina Wudtke, Sislej Xhafa

Curated by Robert Punkenhofer and Ursula Maria Probst