Maenad Collective, New York US
SOVEREIGNTY REIMAGINED Videoart exhibit in solidarity with Ukraine
Sovereignty, many political philosophers argue, is an ‘ambiguous concept’; it is the foundation and source of authority, an instrument and argument in international relations, a legal entity, a technology, a normative code, an artifact, an expression of the popular will, the foundation of the modern state, a territorially defined entity with final decision-making power, and an extramoral and extra procedural pole”.
Working closely with New York based co-curator and moving image artist Alex Faoro, antiwarcoalition.art (The International Coalition of Cultural Workers in Solidarity with Ukraine) has organized this special exhibit dedicated to the investigation of sovereignty. After organizing more than twenty events throughout Europe since its inception in early 2022 during the outset of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the coalition now presents its first North American show devoted to a deep study of this destructive object.
Sovereignty Reimagined exhibition invites audiences to consider a series of urgent questions: What is sovereignty? What can be learned from deconstructing and reconfiguring this multifaceted and often contradictory term? And how can this process help us better understand its limitations and potentialities?
Sovereignty has been enshrined as a transcendental condition of contemporary politics, self-rule and ostensible peace-building efforts in the world. However, at the same time, it has also been invoked to justify war, colonialism, irredentism, statecraft and foreign intervention, and to vindicate subsequent dispossession and humanitarian crises. In many ways, it is an ideology that holds state conflict to be the primary and rightful agent of historical change. For these reasons, it seems imperative to problematize sovereignty; not as a general concept for virtuous autonomy –– that which is scarcely realized –– but rather as an amorphous legal, political and rhetorical code that ensnares vast populations in the thinly veiled cross-hairs of imperialism, patriarchy, authoritarianism, oppression, violence and coercion.
In her book, Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, Ariella Azoulay introduces the important distinction between Imperial Sovereignty - described above - and Worldly Sovereignty, “which refers to the persisting and repressed forms and formations of being in the world… [a practice] that consists of care of the common world in which one’s place among others is part of the world’s texture”. It is a process born out of compassionate and constructive world-building and life-affirming convictions which seek to actively unlearn the stratifying and destructive tendencies of Imperial Sovereignty; those which are deeply imbricated within normative global, political, social and historical structures.
Drawing inspiration from Azoulay’s elucidating text, this presentation of antiwarcoalition.art navigates the precarious threshold between these modes of being-in-the-world. Employing a wide variety of technical, conceptual and aesthetic approaches - including the use of photography, illustration, animation, graphic design, performance, found footage and personal materials - the participating artists engage in a collective process of analyzing, circumscribing, inverting and reimagining the many violent dynamics that constitute imperial sovereignty. Focusing on related subjects like trauma, interborder conflicts, demilitarization, ideological warfare, historical revisionism, stateless aspirations and the politics of memory (among other matters), the exhibit offers a critical and impassioned response to the problematic structures that continue to define and delimit our understanding of contemporary world events, their mediated relationship to the past, and their latent utopic potentialities for the future.
Alex Faoro, Maxim Tyminko, Aleksander Komarov
Antiwarcoalaition.artand Maenad Collective