Magazine article Artforum International

"Making Things Public": Zentrum Fur Kunst Und Medientechnologie

Magazine article Artforum International

"Making Things Public": Zentrum Fur Kunst Und Medientechnologie

Article excerpt

The night before my visit to "Making Things Public," I had a bizarre dream: After a modification in the electoral process, and because the major political parties were not able to come up with a fully legal candidate, the State Assembly, urgently convened, had appointed Bruno Latour, the philosopher and sociologist of science, President of the French Republic! The new chief of state immediately announced a presidential regime change and the inauguration of the Sixth Republic. Another strong decision: He did not appoint a single commerce or finance minister but surrounded himself instead with a circle of economists of various orientations. But the strangest thing was the touching memory of the philosopher-president's press conferences: Organized in a lecture hall in the Ecole des Mines, France's prestigious graduate school of science, rather than in the press room at the Elysee Palace, they ended systematically with a lecture by one of Latour's students! Holding forth on the social life of flies or the idea of parliament in Machiavelli, these scholarly presentations signaled a will to govern in cognizance of the social and political sciences through an open interdisciplinarity between scholars and politicians.

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In short, as though in anticipation, this dream floated in one of those "atmospheres of democracy" that gave the subtitle to this exhibition, curated by Latour and ZKM director Peter Weibel. Democracy was part of the curatorial process, nourished as it was by collaborations between artists and scientists, ethnologists, sociologists, and philosophers, the fruit of long preparation and regular meetings at Latour's Paris home. And it entered into the viewer's experience too, for instance with The Phantom Public, 2005, a work by Michel Jaffrennou and Thierry Coduys whereby the public can vary the lighting and sound of the exhibition at whim. …

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