The title of the exhibition And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers? quotes Cecilia Vicuña, a Chilean poet and activist who urges us to weave aesthetic and spiritual threads between people and nature. The exhibition, organized in collaboration by Kunsthalle Wien
and Wiener Festwochen, was scheduled to open on May 29, 2020, with over 35 artists who are located everywhere from the Amazon region to Australia, from Guatemala to India. But in the final stages of its realization, it was put on hold for a full year, and will now take place in 2021.
Across the planet, the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted our everyday lives and the ideas that form the basis of our understanding of the world. Public space has been the field experiencing the most significant change within our lives, made unavailable and charged with restrictions. Understanding the importance of keeping a collective, transnational conversation going beyond the closing of borders and doors brought about by the lockdowns, Kunsthalle Wien and Wiener Festwochen initiated a public intervention based on the And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers? exhibition. The project, subtitled A Prologue in Public Space, attempts to translate some of the exhibitions voices and topics into a medium that is compatible with the current obstacles and circumstances facing cultural production and presentations around the world. Six artistic statements have been produced specifically for the advertising-billboard format, which will be mounted at 250 locations all over Vienna throughout June and July.
This prologue in public space brings together artists and collectivesManuel Chavajay, Chto Delat, Inhabitants with Margarida Mendes, Daniela Ortiz, Prabhakar Pachpute, and Sophie Utikalwhose practices engage in the struggle for collective survival and the processes involved in restoring social bonds that have been disrupted by misogyny, colonialism, and imperialist violence. The artists were invited to reflect on the current pandemic from the perspective of their own experiences, concerns, geographies, and political communities. Each work responds to and reflects a different outlook on a shared world that is collectively, but unevenly, being affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
In keeping with the spirit of the original exhibition, the billboard interventions seek to start a dialogue about self-determination and social and ecological change. The showcased works critically examine the breakneck pace with which raw materials are mined and the environmental destruction inflicted by neoliberalism. Indigenous positions burst through colonial legacies to remind us of the continuation of extractive logics in the twenty-first century. Solidarity-based and anticolonial feminisms highlight the struggle against patriarchal capitalism and state oppression, while other works tell stories of reverse migration and forms of affective belonging. Collectively, the works of And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers? A Prologue in Public Space call for the urgent development of a degrowth society that has justice and equality at its core.