vom 15. Juni bis zum 13. Juli 2003

Knowledge, Fear and Cult
On the KUNSTBÜRO exhibition at Kubus Hannover
Michael Stoeber

The year 2003 was an important one for art. The biennial art festival took place in Venice for the fiftieth time, thus outlasting a century. In Venice, institutionalized art has become the witness and interpreter of a century that is unparalleled. It was oppressed by two powerful and frightening dictatorships. Two dreadful wars raged, each of which killed more human beings than any previous war had ever done.
But this is also a century in which humanity has gained knowledge and insight in a breathtaking way and to an extent that has never been the case in its entire history. Technologically scientific knowledge. The moral-ethical knowledge of humanity seems to have been determined in a valid way in the teachings of antiquity. Compared with this, the past century with its wars and dictatorships is an atavism second to none.
Even if the Venice Biennial 2003 was not the greatest in its history, a particular theme appears to dominate many of the artistic contributions, in particular Christoph Schlingensief's neo-Dadaist contribution Church of Fear. The theme is fear. Behind this theme, the experiences of the past open up as if in an echo room, experiences which likewise throw their shadows on the future.
We are afraid of very many, very different things. As citizens of a community we are afraid of terrorist attacks, afraid of the consequences of globalization, afraid of genetic engineering and so on. But we also have—as has always been the case—very private fears. The fear of aging and being alone, of misery and poverty, of illness and death.
The theme of fear short-circuits the Venice Biennial with the exhibition Kult by the KUNSTBÜRO Hannover. "Cult" is not only part of compound nouns such as cult film or cult book, indicating a product that is valued and admired by many; the word stems from the Latin word cultus and also refers to religious worship and ritual. We encounter cultic activities primarily as religious rituals, which essentially provide protection against fear. The invocation of a god, above all in situations of distress and fear, is a widely known phenomenon, and many sociologists explain the birth of faith, the birth of the cult and every religion with hopeless human need.