"The Eye and the Sun" in the exhibition "Referendum on withdrawal of the human race"

The referendum – in theory, a process of legislation by popular vote and an instrument of direct democracy – that took place in several regions of Ukraine in spring 2014 was ultimately used for the outright political manipulation of public opinion, and later served as a pretext for Russian military intervention and annexation of Ukrainian territory. The undeclared war that Russia has launched against Ukraine has brought about not only thousands of deaths, but also radical doubt amongst many people in Ukraine about preserving the very possibility of its former more-or-less stable existence.

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We are witnessing a breakdown of all conceptions about humanity and the civilized nature of man. The loss of illusions – a painful but irreversible process – demands rethinking the very question of man, and of “humanism”, and posing these questions in a new way.

Perhaps a uniform world where all living beings are hierarchically organized no longer exists?

Perhaps the existence of what is most luminous in man depends on the dark sphere that separates him from the animal?

Perhaps the animal in man gives humans a chance at a more complex view of the world?

"Referendum on withdrawal from the human race" questions the idea of the human race as monolithic, and offers another view of the human in the world, one where a particular human being may have a lot more in common with a plant or, say, a mosquito than with another human.

Here “the human race” refers to the totality of all people who inhabit the world and consider themselves its center. Humankind is a phenomenon that grants itself dominion over the world and then continuously complains about it, that fights for freedom while constraining itself through various limitations, and that is willing to suffer to the greatest extent, only so as not to suffer.

If we recognize the human as resulting from the coexistence of animal being and Logos, natural and supernatural, then following Giorgio Agamben, we must “investigate not the metaphysical mystery of [their] conjunction, but rather the practical and political mystery of [their] separation… . It is more urgent to work on these divisions, to ask in what way—within man—has man been separated from non-man, and the animal from the human, than it is to take positions on the great issues, on so-called human rights and values.”

The animal in man cannot be controlled from outside, just as it cannot be controlled (suspended) by man himself. Let’s say that the entire experience of humankind in the age of humanism consisted of calling for, convincing (or obliging) man to be humane – and it failed. In order to be human, man must come to know himself as nonhuman. Perhaps this knowledge would give rise to the figure of “great ignorance,” revealing the central emptiness, the hiatus, that divides man and animal, and it will signify a “suspension of the suspension,” the Shabbat of both animal and man.

With friendly support of Pro Helvetia and the Swiss Arts Council.

More information under this link.


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