Disobedience, an ongoing video archive
Marco Scotini

Curated by Marco Scotini

Assistant Curator Andris Brinkmanis

Display design Xabier Salaberría


At a time when many still consider the reterritorialisation of the classic Left as a possible response to the advancing neo-capitalistic cultural barbarism, Disobedience, an ongoing video archive aims to provide an alternative model of thought and action, which is wide-reaching, though the archive is limited in its space-time dimensions. It is an investigation into practices of artistic activism that emerged after the fall of the Soviet bloc, which paved the way for new ways of being, saying, and doing. What the Disobedience archive intends to represent in ‘A History of Irritated Material’ is the set of artistic strategies and dissent tactics that have been brought to bear over the past few years as a way of overcoming classic modernist dichotomies. In particular, this is a way out of an idea of art and culture that, in a modernist manner, recognises only its use – but not its intrinsic nature – in political terms. Disobedience, on the contrary, shows how the political status of the image is today bound up with recognition of the aesthetic character of its manifestation. What matters in Disobedience is not so much an ‘alliance’ between activist demands and artistic practices in order to achieve common goals: it is more that of a common space or a common base that is emerging. This space is not clearly defined, thus making it impossible to draw a precise line between forces and signs, between language and labour, between intellectual production and political action.

Disobedience brings together a series of practices and forms of self-representation just as they are finding the key to their strength in an alliance of art and activism: a transformation in the languages that society produces as a political subject and as a media object. It does so through a display of the archive format, in which all the materials on show share the same level of equivalence – without hierarchies and without exhibiting any preordained set of institutional rules. It is up to the public to choose and to organise their vision of the available material: turning the archive into a toolkit ready for use. The Disobedience archive is being shown in London in a freestanding structure, disengaged from the physical impositions of an exhibition space. The references that the exhibition structure makes to models such as El Lissitzky’s Soviet Union Pavilion of 1928 and to the display of the first documenta in Kassel in 1955, makes it possible to overlap and stratify both images and contexts, thereby creating a polyfocal approach that is not immediately directed, channelled, and disciplined. The theoretical premises that underpin the idea of disobedience displayed here, mainly emerged from radical political thinking in Italy which, starting from the time of the societal events in Italy in 1977, viewed post-Fordism as the destiny of late global capitalism. Compared with previous presentations of the archive, the version of Disobedience shown here retraces many of the implications of this theoretical notion in the very subsoilof Italy, through a whole constellation of events and videos that intermittently return as the exhibition tour progresses. One corner, which is separate from the rest, is devoted to 1977 Italy, while a rhizomatic, assemblaged series of videos sheds light on events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as the situation in Argentina in 2001, on the ubiquitous nature of movements from 1994 onwards, on the former Eastern European bloc, on Israel-Palestine, on post-9/11 America, and on insurrections to come.