Confessions of the Imperfect is an exhibition on art, design, life and work, structured as a practical and experiential survey of the modern world. The exhibition presents a diverse mix of historical material, design and contemporary art projects to reflect on but also to use. It takes its title from the Romantic art critic and social reformer John Ruskin, who in Stones of Venice (1869), presented a holistic and ecological view on the relation between art and life as a perpetual and necessary struggle with human imperfection. “We may expect that the first two elements of good architecture should be expressive of some real truths. The confession of Imperfection and the confession of the Desire of Change”. You could not summarise the modern dilemma more succinctly than this. We dream of a perfect world which is actually within reach with all our technological progress, but every time that we achieve our ideal, the utopia we dream of turns out to be a dystopia.
He developed this vision as a critique of industrialising and capitalist societies that tried to resolve human imperfection through standardised forms of production and government. Instead of worrying about the outcome, however, Ruskin suggests we should focus on the process. How can we live life artfully and experience work not only as toil for reward, but as an organic part of a total social and ecological system of life and work? This question inspires this exhibition to take an unusual tour through modern times.
The basis of the exhibition is an impressive, architectural intervention by artist Liam Gillick, who constantly puts up different barriers in the exhibition based on the barricade, which the visitor has to conquer in a playful way. In this architecture you will come across new and old work by artists including Constant, Jeremy Deller, Fernando García-Dory, Liam Gillick, Renzo Martens, Antoni Miralda, Li Mu, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Alexandra Pirici & Manuel Pelmus, John Ruskin, Static and Akram Zaatari.
1848 and 1989 are two points of reference for modern history. Two revolutions: the first is represented by a symbol of the barricade during the February Revolution and the second by the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the exhibition Confessions of the Imperfect we would like to highlight the current relevance of these two moments. Both have created a basis for our world. 1848 resulted in the modern constitution and our democratic nation state, and 1989 determined our current geopolitical world order. The world is now once again at a crossroads. We need a new mentality, a different perspective, and this exhibition invites us to develop this. Together with a very diverse group of contemporary visual artists, the museum has developed an exhibition in which looking, thinking and acting become intermingled, and in which the visitor – that’s you – is challenged to think about his position in the world.
Therefore the exhibition is not a historical overview of art, but it traverses through modern culture and shows that art and design touch every facet of life.
The Karregat in Eindhoven is a good example of this sort of struggle with perfection. It was a 1970s experiment in urban planning by Frans van Klingeren and is the subject of a new work by Wendelien van Oldenborgh. Van Klingeren designed a for a community a house without walls. In no time at all the residents started to build walls within the building and began to use it in a way that was diametrically opposed to the original plan. Nevertheless, it is too simplistic to say that the project failed. For the residents, life in the Karregat was a life-changing experience. In the story of the Karregat the two great movements of 1848 and 1989 are reflected in miniature. Walls and barricades, perfection and imperfection, circle round each other.
In this way the exhibition presents a different approach to history. It is no longer a series of dead events, but a colourful collection of routes which continue to have an effect in the present. In the exhibition Alexandra Pirici and Manuel Pelmus develop this on a monumental scale with a continuous performance, embodying works of art and important episodes from the past. We invite you to experience this and to become aware that the past continues to live in us, in how we look and think, and above all, in what we do. Therefore Confessions of the Imperfect is not an average exhibition, but a voyage of discovery into ourselves. Care to join?
Confessions of the Imperfect is supported by Mondriaan Fund, the Culture Programme of the European Union, the Romanian Cultural Institute and n AC/E (Acción Cultural Española).
The exhibition is part of the five year programme The Uses of Art - on the legacy of 1848 and 1989, organised by L’Internationale. The exhibition is developed by the Van Abbemuseum and Grizedale Arts.