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Neues Museum - State Museum for Art and Design in Nuremberg opens exhibition of works by Goshka Macuga
"International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, Configuration #11, Last Man: Noam Chomsky, Georg Wilhelm Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mikhail Gorbachev, Francis Fukuyama", 2015 (Detail) Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle · Foto: Neues Museum (Annette Kradisch)

NUREMBERG.- Intellectual Co-operation is the first solo exhibition by the Polish-British artist Goshka Macuga (born 1967 in Warsaw) at a major institution in Germany. In her many-facetted work, the artist creates networks between places and times, people and stories. She is known for her diverse practice that extends to curatorial and narrative fields, using media as varied as photo collage, sculpture, large-format tapestry, video and performance.

The exhibition offers a wide-ranging insight into Macuga’s oeuvre and takes its title from a series of large-scale sculptural works, International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (2015). They refer to a historical gathering of scientists and intellectuals who met in the 1920s and served as a council of elders (for the League of Nations).

In these works, she interconnects the specially made bronze heads of scientists and thinkers who took an interdisciplinary approach, as well as revolutionaries and activists, who—beyond the constraints of time and space—are set in relation to one another. These encounters are hypothetical gatherings that open up potential spaces for thought: Albert Einstein gets in touch with Sigmund Freud, Slavoj Žižek meets Pussy Riot, the Guerrilla Girls and Francis Fukuyama. Their heads are connected by rods, the balance resulting from their mutual stabilization creating an installation that resembles a molecular structure.

Not only in this series but in Macuga’s work as a whole, cooperation plays a key role. Accordingly, the Nuremberg exhibition project centres on a partnership between Neues Museum and Germanisches Nationalmuseum: Macuga’s Before the Beginning and After the End (with Patrick Tresset, 2016/2018)—rolls of paper covered with drawings and three-dimensional objects presented on six large printer’s tables—deals with the end of humankind and becomes a stage for objects from the collections of the two museums.

With this reference to the original form of historiography (rolls of papyrus as one of the earliest media supports) she visualizes the current debate about post-humanism: from the dawn of history (beginning with Adam and Eve or with Darwinian evolution) via the Enlightenment, the rise of humanism (social development, technologization, modernization), transhumanism (including spiritual influences) and the self-destruction of humanity, through the artistic systems of the 20th century and the artist’s own contemporaries. All of these themes are “accentuated” with objects that stand for turning points in human history. For the “Nuremburg Version” on show at Neues Museum, Goshka Macuga was able to draw on the treasures of Germanisches Nationalmuseum, the largest museum of cultural history in the German-speaking region. From the richly endowed collections of our partner institution, she selected archaic tools, scientific equipment, weapons, pioneering everyday items or cult objects to illustrate her themes. On the final “scroll,” two robots, developed by the artist Patrick Tresset, move around and sketch diagrams, which cannot be clearly identified as the robots are overloaded by the data they are fed with.

Further important groups of works, including Macuga’s tapestries, also feature in the exhibition: as well as the political implications of Marxism and feminism, Death of Marxism – Women of All Lands Unite (2013) also deals with the Czech voyeur artist Miroslav Tichý. The link to current debates on sexism in the #metoo era offers new perspectives on this work. Another highlight is a recently produced tapestry, Make Tofu Not War (2018).

In her artistic work, Macuga aims to keep nonchalantly linking theoretical and real matters in new ways, to think differently, and to facilitate an actualization of historical artefacts via artist process of recontextualization. With this exhibition project, she takes the viewer on a journey into the cultural history she illustrates, where, in the spirit of Aby Warburg, there is much to be discovered in phenomenological terms. Her works take shape via thinking about how history is written and the possibility of unmasking the illusion of objective historiography. In passing, she embeds within them topical material such as gender issues and critiques of capitalism. In aesthetic terms, she puts together sumptuous visual worlds, resulting in gleeful appropriations of the troubled spots of history.

Macuga’s engagement with the history of humankind, individual personalities (especially those of the 20th century), and post-humanism, as well as the resulting thematic networks, forms the basis for the works in the show and opens up spaces for this Intellectual Co-operation.

The exhibition is a co-operation between Neues Museum and Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg

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