THE TEMPTATION TO EXIST
The exhibition The Temptation to Exist by Alfredo Jaar will be on show at Galerie Thomas Schulte in Berlin in the summer of 2023. For over four decades, Alfredo Jaar has used photography, film, installation, and new media to create compelling works that examine complex socio-political issues and the ethics and limits of representation. For the exhibition, which is constructed in two moments with two major installations, Alfredo Jaar has selected works from around 50 artists who have sought to resist and change the world since the 1950s. These are shown along with works by Alfredo Jaar.
The exhibition’s title makes a reference to a book by Emil Cioran, one of the artist’s favorite writers. A dark, subversive thinker, Cioran was the poet of pessimism. A philosopher who was always on the verge of suicide, he once said: “If I didn’t write, I could have become an assassin. Writing is a matter of life and death. Human existence, at its core, is endless anguish and despair, and writing can make things a bit more bearable. A book is a suicide postponed.” For Cioran, failure permeates everything. Great ideas can be stained by failure, and so can art and the human condition. “No longer wanting to be a man, he is dreaming of another form of failure,” he wrote. “The universe is one big failure, and not even poetry can succeed in correcting it.”
For Jaar, art is the impossible answer to an impossible question: how do we make art when the world is in such a state? In the gallery’s main space, an immersive experience is created with a large, red neon work. The words of the stoic philosopher Seneca take center stage—"WHAT NEED IS THERE TO WEEP OVER PARTS OF LIFE? THE WHOLE OF IT CALLS FOR TEARS.” Seneca strongly believed that if we have the essentials and a strong inner spirit, we can radically accept and endure any circumstances. Eschewing the presence of other objects, the room is entirely illuminated with a dense red light, building an atmosphere of poetic uncertainty, mirroring the unease of contemporary times. The philosopher’s emblematic phrase glimmers in the space, reacting to the tyranny of the white box space and filling it with an idea—a model for thinking about the world.
Jaar’s second installation in the exhibition fills the second, smaller gallery space with more than 50 works from a diverse group of artists as well as a small selection of his own works. Here, the artist has tried to create what he calls “a space of resistance, a space of hope.” Additionally, in the Corner Space, Hans Haacke’s work Grass Grows will be on display, and in the Window Space, Rebecca Horn’s Love and Hate, Knuggle Dome for James Joyce.
The list of further artists includes Bas Jan Ader, Rosa Barba, Letizia Battaglia, Dawoud Bey, Monica Bonvicini, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Stanley Brouwn, Giovanna Calvenzi, Angela de la Cruz, Hanne Darboven, Gino De Dominicis, Juan Downey, Theo Eshetu, Ayşe Erkmen, Valie Export, Hamish Fulton, Mona Hatoum, Jenny Holzer, Ann Veronica Janssens, Joan Jonas, Birgit Jürgenssen, On Kawara, Seydou Keïta, Grada Kilomba, Cosima zu Knyphausen, Joseph Kosuth, Jannis Kounellis, Mischa Kuball, Piero Manzoni, Gordon Matta-Clark, Zanele Muholi, Shirin Neshat, Yoko Ono, Anna Oppermann, Giuseppe Penone, Susan Philipsz, Charlotte Posenenske, Gerhard Richter, Fred Sandback, Karin Sander, Carolee Schneemann, Malick Sidibé, Katharina Sieverding, Dayanita Singh, Nancy Spero, Rosemarie Trockel, Reijiro Wada, Lawrence Weiner, and Francesca Woodman.
These works are brought together by Jaar in an examination of memory and political participation from the last 70 years, revealing the intersection between culture and democratic life. Exhibited in close proximity to each other, the resounding voices of the artists invoke a shared history and reclamation of agency—a “we” that urges to change the world.
This exhibition is dedicated to Letizia Battaglia (born March 5, 1935 – April 13, 2022), a friend of the artist who passed away during the preparation of the exhibition.
Artists on view
Inquire about works in the exhibition