The talk of the deluge of images has always sounded a bit hackneyed. And someone or other had also already observed that it makes no sense for an artist to bring yet more photographs into the world. Then came the smartphone and made short work of the rest. And the more photographs and films flowed through the streams, the more streamlined their formats became. Collage, which I started working with in the early 2010s, enabled me to extricate the images from all their algorithmic embellishments — to start over by understanding images again as the peculiarly outlandish figments they are. Collage, moreover, struck me as capable of cutting to pieces the impositions of a new kind of public sphere so as to turn them into a material out of which I might forge my own weapons. Collage was a counterstrike. Here, after all, was a public that for far too long was not understood to be one. The aesthetic attributes of the amateur image became the subtle flavour enhancers of a growing mass audience — and not just in pornography. YouTube was replete with it.
The video collages I produced imitated the mayhem on my computer screen, where the imageries concurrently appearing in multiple open browser windows struck up an endless series of interrelationships. The meme has made the spontaneous combination of widely diverse visual sources a staple of pop culture, and thanks to the reaction video, the picture-in-picture format has become a routine form of communication. So, if clippings from theatrical-release movies or, as in the following pages, the idiom of classic adventure comics now surface in my collages, they’re meant to challenge the new tacit consensus of today — and vice versa. Because by the same token, collage also produces parodies of the traditional iconographic program.
I hope that something similar can be said about the Briefing Room as well. When Andrzej Steinbach and I were pondering what kind of character we sought to lend the room, the first thing we knew was what we did not want. No performances. No installations. No social media. Above all, no more tedious explanatory notes, a medium in which a strange hubris has hardened into jargon that ascribes magical social-political powers to the pettiest artistic manoeuvres. Sometimes you simply need to cancel certain routines to envision a future. And sometimes a few ingredients from the past can even be helpful: the framed picture, the white space, a good conversation. Today’s cultural industry is expert above all at replacing such conversations with the same unvarying algorithms of outrage. The figure of the online troll has made it clear that provocation is now just as boring as the institutional attempts to avoid making the slightest mistake. If we want to preserve politics as an object for art, we need to bring ambivalence back into the game. We need more real-world politics in the head and less apocalypse in the discourse. So, above all: more dry oddness in the room. More tactical silliness. A new collage. Post-woke, but full of love. Galerie Le Bailli, an aging shopping arcade on Avenue Louise, is now home to the headquarters of a lobby organization for problems of form. An ideology-critical copy shop. A polyamorous travel agency.
A few month ago, Jonas Roßmeißl came up with the idea of making an exhibition about the Luddites at Briefing Room. Not about the Luddites themselves, but around the question of which future technologies would need to be sabotaged today. I asked him if it wouldn’t be enough to just not use them. Jonas, who had taken great pleasure in blowing things up since his early youth, thought my approach was hopelessly outdated. Well, he’s still young, I thought. Hopelessly young. So we titled the show ‘The Conservative Joy’ — the following collages were part of it.
Translated by Gerrit Jackson