son MOT MOrT – or Micro and Macro Scripts for Militant Withdrawal.
Eine Sonderausstellung im Robert Walser-Zentrum vom 12. August bis 13. September 2013.
<media 463 - - "SONSTIGES, EVB MAKROGRAMME CSB FLYER 2013, EVB_MAKROGRAMME_CSB_FLYER_2013.jpeg, 145 KB">Flyer</media> | <media 462 - - "SONSTIGES, EVB Makrogrammes TXT 2013, EVB_Makrogrammes_TXT_2013.jpeg, 253 KB">Text</media>
<media 461 - - "SONSTIGES, son MOT MOrT - or Micro and Macro Scripts for Militant Withdrawal., EVB_son_MOT_MOrT_Aug_2013_01.pdf, 93 KB">Drawings by Constance Schwartzlin-Berberat (1884-1911) and Robert Walser (1878-1956)</media>
What is militant withdrawal? Is it simply a reactionary fatalism: the retreat of the maladjusted into willed social exclusion? Or is militant withdrawal deliberate play with the tactics of refusal? How has this ambiguity generated approaches to life and art that evade the pervasive rituals of commoditization; of social, cultural and human capital? Militant withdrawal is a commitment to rites of invisibility, but how can a commitment to erase all traces be historicized when its very intent is to resist the industries of heritage? Militant withdrawal is a struggle for the value of solitary life, for solidarity in the multitude, in an authoritarian culture of entrepreneurialist cohorts and collaboratives.
The exhibition son MOT MOrT or Micro and Macro Scripts for Militant Withdrawal is the result of participant-observation in the Zentrum Paul Klee SommerAkademie 2012. It has been organized by Fellow Emily Verla Bovino as part of her contribution to the 2012 SommerAkademie publication, a recipe book curated by Guest Curator Marta Kuzma. The exhibition links the experience of SommerAkademie 2012 – an experiment that showcased the limits of identity politics and contrived sociability – with the theme of Guest Curator Sue Williamson’s SommerAkademie 2013 – the nomadic existence of the contemporary artist today. The objective of the exhibition is to contribute to continuity among the SommerAkademies, and to report back to the public with insight from participant-observation in the 2012 Akademie.
In his anthropological-clinical study of the diagnosed anorexic Ellen West (c. 1890 – 1924), Swiss-German existential psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger argued that suicide among certain subjects had the potential to be a rare authentic act of existence. Meanwhile, suicide attempts by anarchists Simone Larcher (1924) and Germaine Berton (1924) were debated among activists as legitimate forms of political action in France: Berton and Larcher were apotheosized by some, but denounced by most others. In 1929, the Swiss-German writer Robert Walser admitted himself to the Waldau psychiatric clinic in Bern, and was transferred to the psychiatric clinic in Herisau in 1933, where he is said to have voluntarily stopped writing. The exhibition son MOT MOrT presents the recipes and journals of Walser’s fellow Waldau resident Constance Schwartzlin-Berberat, looking back through the interwar decade that followed her death.
The exhibition uses the theatrical device of mise-en-abyme as a curatorial mode. The mise-en-abyme is a reflexive process in scenography, film, literature and painting. In this process, an embedded or framed object and its embedding or framing support take on the symbiotic life of bodies and organs: through doubling and mirroring, the embedded and the embedding, the framed and the framing, lose their likeness to the platitude of container and contained. In the exhibition son MOT MOrT, the mise-en-abyme is tryadic; the calligraphic drawings on view are visual, verbal and aural. At the Robert Walser-Zentrum, a vitrine has been specially designed to “embed” the recipe books and journals – the “macroscripts” of Constance Schwartzlin-Berberat – within a small showing of what Walser scholars refer to as his “microscripts”. In son MOT MOrT, the gestures of exhibition-making – framing, selection, display – are used to produce the effect of a conical mirror, an anamorphic technology of looking, through which Walser’s microscripts appear to “reflect” the macroscripts of Schwartzlin-Berberat, and vice versa. In this dialogic exchange, call-and-response between the calligraphic drawings of Schwartzlin-Berberat and Walser encourages visitors of the exhibition to consider the contradictions of art and the psychiatric clinic: one example of early twentieth century militant withdrawal.
In the early twenty-first century, the heritage of political neutrality has been institutionalized by new liberal regimes in shelters for asylum-seekers called exclusion centers. The macro and microscripts of Schwartzlin-Berberat and Walser foreground surreptitious speech, dialogues with the dead and suicidal ideation as methodologies for militant withdrawal: object lessons for a new underground in the margins.
Text by Emily Verla Bovino
Special thanks to Andreas Altorfer, Jacqueline Burckhardt, Susan Bernofsky, Jeroen Dewulf, Lucas Marco Gisi, Jörg Kreienbrock, Winifred Kudszus, Euan Macdonald, Uwe Peters, Reto Sorg and the fellows of SommerAkademie 2012
The exhibition has been organized with the support of Robert Walser-Zentrum, Zentrum Paul Klee, Psychiatrie-Museum Berne and University of California Institute for Research in the Arts