Fiction: a tool to open up new realities

This year DAS Theatre has invited Silvia Bottiroli to curate the Block titled Anywhere, Anywhere Out of This World. Silvia has composed a ten-week study programme that revolves around the concept of fiction. ‘It is time to focus again on the most specific tool art has: fiction.’

‘There are two sources for the phrase ‘Anywhere, anywhere out of this world’. It is both a sentence from a short poem by Baudelaire and the title of an exhibition at Palais de Tokyo by artist Philippe Parreno. In the context of my Block it is an invitation to the students to engage with an adventure, a journey, to research the border between fiction and reality. We will be focussing especially on the ways fiction works, its potentials and  power.’

Two opposing views on art

‘For me, focusing on fiction is a response to two ongoing and opposing discourses about art we are very much being exposed to nowadays. On the one hand there’s the discourse that basically says art is disconnected from reality, art is a bubble, art has no consequences for reality. I see this as an attempt to diminish the power of art. It comes along with many political discourses, for example that art is a leftist hobby.

On the other hand there’s a strong discourse saying art should have a social impact. As a curator in recent years I’ve seen many community-based and socially and politically engaged projects, a lot of activist works. I saw a strong need to deal with reality in a direct way. There were great projects, but I think this also created a misunderstanding – that art has value because, and only if, it has direct impact on the real world.

I think we should be engaging with a third discourse that really focuses again on the art itself. We can see art as intervening in the world and reflecting upon it. Fiction is maybe the most specific tool that art has for inventing new worlds, creating new narratives, pre-imagining the future. It’s a tool that art doesn’t share with other disciplines, such as philosophy or activism.’

Money on trial
‘One of the artists we invited is Christophe Meierhans. He’s working with the students right now on a possible trial. And what they’ll be putting on trial is Money – the current monetary system. The students are researching three distinct layers. One group is working on the prosecution, and another on the defence, researching possible lines of argument for their side. A third group is working on the form for the trial, looking into how to make this trial legitimate – since we cannot use the current legal system for a trial like this. We will also apply fiction in the trial. For example, characters from a novel could be witnesses for or against Money.  The Trial of Money is, I think, a great example of what Christophe Meierhans is proposing in his practice: to really use the weapons of fiction to create a bigger space to think about reality, but also to speculate, to imagine what could be.’

How to become obsolete

‘Another example of an outcome of this Block is the Investigative Institute for Obsolescence, a new institute the students created in dialogue with Daniel Blanga-Gubbay and Livia Andrea Piazza. Something becomes obsolete when there’s a new version of it – take mobile phones for example. Social practices, relationships or artworks can also become obsolete. What do we consider obsolete and why? What are the symptoms and the process of becoming obsolete? To be obsolete, undesirable and purposeless might mean freedom to operate differently. Writing a letter for instance, which is obsolete because we have email, is very romantic.
In this new Institute, people can also decide to go through this process, like when you enter a beauty centre and come out a changed person. Also when you enter the Institute for Obsolescence you can be treated to become something else: obsolete.’

‘I’m really enjoying working with the students a lot. I normally teach at university, not at an art school. At universities you have much larger groups and only intellectual, rational contributions are valued. Here I work with a small group where emotional and personal experiences can also be brought into the process. It’s a real privilege to be the mentor of this small group of professional artists spending two years researching their practice.’

text and interview: Petra Boers

Silvia Bottiroli