It's Never Too Late to Speculate

fluc wanne – Praterstern 5, 1020 Vienna, Austria
Billboards outside 24/7, videos inside 8pm – 4am
Opening: July 10, 2019, 9pm

With contributions by: Edgar Arceneaux (US), Zanny Begg (AU) and Oliver Ressler (AT), Jamie Hilder (CA), Vanessa Kwan (with Diyan Achjadi) (CA), Kathy Slade (CA), The Speculative Archive (Julia Meltzer and David Thorne) (US), and Urban Subjects (CA/AT). 


Curated by Urban Subjects (Sabine Bitter, Jeff Derksen, and Helmut Weber)

Speculation is an act through which meaning and value are made and challenged. With the rise of financialization in the global economy, speculation is both fast-paced and patient, looking to produce surplus value out of a magical act rather than a material process. Financial speculation is also famously omnivorous – expands to all spaces, it eats up whatever it can identify and it demands our participation. Art, of course, has been the object of intensive economic speculation, but artistic practices can also speculate back, so to speak, and turn speculation into a practice that can break out of the systems and logics of financialization. Radically inside speculation, art can generate 'counter-speculations', as Max Haiven suggests, that can create other types of relationships between people, places and things. If our lives are bundled together and speculated on by all forms of financialization, then art can unbundle and rebundle life in ways that can be profoundly critical and compellingly human.

The works we have gathered together for this project speculate in broad social, philosophical, artistic and novel ways. All are speculations against inevitabilities or closure. Several of the works reflect back on the very economics that have lead to this cruel participation in financialization. For instance, Jamie Hilder's The Methodenstreit uses the medium of a puppet show to speculate on how the economic has come to dominate our lives; Zanny Begg and Oliver Ressler present their film and images from The Bull Laid Bear, a counter-speculation on the financial crisis of 2008. Edgar Arceneaux's transformative triptych of drawings, Artificial Intelligence, Forbidden Knowledge, Forbidden Intelligence, is itself a counter-dialectic of the hierarchies of knowledge that links Alan Turing, Snow White and Frederick Douglass. Kathy Slade's Nazi Punks Fuck Off opens the political archive of North American punk music to speculate on past Antifa acts within today's horizon of rising (populist) fascism. The guitar tabs show us how to form the chords to this punk anthem – another call to participate. Addressing the intense speculation in the urban territory in which the creative destruction of cities erases the historical texture of neighbourhoods, Vanessa Kwan in collaboration with Diyan Achjadi imagines a different temporality by using the individual letters of signs, from established businesses that were being pushed out of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood due to property speculation, to form the work forever. Urban Subjects take up a dialogue with architect Bernard Tschumi's Advertisements for Architecture series from the 1970s to address present conditions of life and urbanism in Vienna. And, addressing the urban space of Damascus, Julia Meltzer and David Thorne poetically speculate on the built and the unbuilt, centering on a proposed building that would replace the 14th-century Mamluk mosque in Martyr's Square.

Exhibition Notes

Nazi Punks Fuck Off
Site specific billboards, 2019­
Kathy Slade

The site-specific work is a set of instructions, taken from a guitar tab, for playing the chorus of the 1981 song Nazi Punks Fuck Off  by the Dead Kennedys. The chords indicated by the diagrams, A flat and B flat, repeat three times (accompanying the repeated phrase "nazi punks"), followed by the pitch-less shout "fuck off!", which is indicated in chord diagrams with two Xs. The song was a declaration by members of the San Francisco punk subculture that they would resist attempts by nazis to infiltrate and dominate their spaces and music, and also served to celebrate the instances where the nazis were driven out.

Kathy Slade lives and works in Vancouver, Canada

Artificial Intelligence, Forbidden Knowledge, Forbidden Intelligence (from Triadic Drawings)
After original drawing, 107 x 107 cm, 2012­
Edgar Arceneaux

This particular work came about through a visit to a used bookstore. The two images in the drawing are renderings of the first book that I found and the first book that my daughter found upon us walking through the door of the store.  A chance event that when juxtaposed produces a web of meanings that expresses a wisdom normally obscured by the mundane.Learning, how to write and how to draw is the formal linkage between the two books. I purchased the books and while reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave, I came across this passage, “During the time, my copy-book was the board fence, brick wall and pavement. My pen and ink was a lump of chalk.” This was the process by which Fredrick Douglass learned to write and represent the world back to itself. The first image on the left is of Alan Turing, the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. While reading Douglass autobiography, I heard a story on the radio about Turing. It is a common belief, though unproven, that Turing killed himself with a poisoned apple inspired by his favorite fairy tale was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Edgar Arcenaux lives and works in Los Angeles, USA

So Long We Miss You Forever
After original poster, 2008­
Vanessa Kwan with Diyan Achjadi

Vanessa Kwan and Diyan Achjadi’s work addresses the rampant property speculation that has erased so much of the historical texture of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. By using the individual letters of signs belonging to businesses that were pushed out of the neighbourhood, their series of 3 posters endeavours to imagine a different temporality from the one that has been imposed on the city of Vancouver and other rapidly-gentrifying urban regions. Forever, the one poster from the series on display, reflects on the condition of fluc’s own status as a continually-renegotiated temporary project.

Vanessa Kwan and Diyan Achjadi live and work in Vancouver, Canada

The Bull Laid Bear
Film, sound, 24 minutes and print poster, 2012
Zanny Begg and Oliver Ressler

In their second collaborative film, Zanny Begg (Sydney) and Oliver Ressler (Vienna) focus on the financial and economic crisis post 2008. The Bull Laid Bear “lays bare” the economic recession (bear market) that hides behind each boom time (bull market). The film pokes fun at the slippery justifications made for the bailouts and austerity packages by exploring how governments in the United States, and other countries such as Ireland, turned a banking crisis into a budgetary crisis at the governmental level. The work is structured around a series of four interviews with US economists and activists. The material gathered from these interviewees has been blended with hand drawn animations to create a quasi-fictitious criminal world of gangster bankers and corrupt courts.

Sydney based performer Singing Sadie provides a sound track for the film with a reinterpretation of Billie Holiday’s classic lament on money, God Bless The Child.

Zanny Begg lives and works in Sydney, Australia

Oliver Ressler lives and works in Vienna

Take into the air my quiet breath
Video, sound, 17 minutes, 2007
Julia Meltzer and David Thorne

In 1966, the Syrian government's Ministry of Endowments solicited plans for a building to replace a 14th-century Mamluk mosque in Martyr's Square in the center of Damascus. A young architect proposed a design for a 5-star hotel and new mosque. In 1971, his plans were scrapped. In 1982, a building began to be built. Hospital? Parking garage? Military housing? The project—now called the Basel al-Asad Center—has been the subject of much rumor and speculation. As of 2007, the building remains unfinished. In this documentary video, an architect recounts the chronicle of the building and considers its possible future.

Julia Meltzer and David Thorne live and work in Los Angeles, USA

The Methodenstreit
Video, sound, 22 minutes, 2018
Jamie Hilder

The Methodenstreit is a single-channel video installation of a puppet show that emerges from an archive of photographs of economists collected by Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School of Economics. For his 70th birthday in 1910, Menger requested photographs of the world's greatest economists, and one hundred and thirty-nine obliged him. The only two economists to explicitly refuse him were Gustav von Schmoller and Lujo Brentano, two leading German Historical School economists with whom Menger was engaged in a 20-year long argument over methods (referred to as the Methodenstreit). Menger was said to be very pleased that so many of the photos were taken in court-style portraiture, in 3/4 view, because he  believed one could measure the eminence of an economist based on the size of his beard. The puppet show takes this anecdote as emblematic of the shifts in economic thinking that the Austrians initiated (emphasis on logic, universal actors, and quantitative analysis) in order to build a formal and narrative structure that considers what the limits of our economic understanding has done to us culturally, emotionally, and socially. What kinds of dominant subjects are produced by these spreadsheet calculations and index counts? What might an economics that could account for love look like?

Jamie Hilder lives and works in Vancouver, Canada

The Organisation of Life
3 posters, size variable, 2019
Urban Subjects (Sabine Bitter, Jeff Derksen, Helmut Weber)

In a series of three black and white posters, Urban Subjects’ new work combines images recently taken from various sites in Vienna with short texts about architecture, spatial experience, and configurations of life. This site-specific work at fluc continues their dialogue with architect Bernard Tschumi’s Advertisements for Architecture series from the 1970s.

Inspired by Tschumi’s critique of mere formalism in architecture, the artists strive to orient architectural and spatial thinking towards the social and political conditions of present-day Vienna. The posters invite people to reframe the given through the possible in order to speculate on the city’s future.

Sabine Bitter, Jeff Derksen and Hemut Weber live and work in Vancouver, Canada and Vienna

July 10, 2019