Illiberal Lives – Ludwig Forum Aachen

Written on 21. April 2023

April 22 – August 27, 2023

With Pauline Curnier Jardin, Johanna Hedva, Ho Rui An, Blaise Kirschner, Jota Mombaça, Henrike Naumann, Melika Ngombe Kolongo, Bassem Saad, Mikołaj Sobczak, and Jordan Strafer. And selected by the artists: a rehanging of works from the collections at the Ludwig Forum Aachen of Vincent Desiderio, Jann Haworth, Domenico Gnoli, Renato Guttuso, Jörg Immendorff, Magdalena Jetelová, Lev Kerbel, Konrad Klapheck, Jeff Koons, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Wolfgang Mattheuer, Klaus Paier, Tõnis Vint and Andy Warhol.

Curated by Eva Birkenstock, Anselm Franke, Holger Otten and Kerstin Stakemeier

Illiberal Lives

The disintegration of the liberal-capitalist postwar order which seemed firmly established after 1989 also left its mark on the art of this society. This is precisely where Illiberal Lives, the current exhibition at the Ludwig Forum Aachen, inserts itself. It probes how, with the dissolution of the liberal promise of progress, the unfree, illiberal core of modern freedoms inevitably surfaces, and the liberal fiction of art as a space of expression for bourgeois freedom also comes under increasing pressure. Where art is not just defending these properties, or making itself subservient to the invocation of national communities, it is increasingly crystallising at present as a practical scene of social conflicts and exclusions. The invited artists break with the constraints and violence of liberal freedoms and let artistic forms of an illiberal life take their place.

The rehangings of the works from the collections at the Ludwig Forum Aachen selected by the artists add seminal intensifications of the relations pasts and presents enter into the exhibition. The invited artists are always also re-situating the post-fascist history of an institution whose collections are intractably associated with the rhetoric of the bloc confrontation between East and West in the post-war period, and the liberal narrative of “free” and “unfree” art. The presentation of five installations by Henrike Naumann in the museum’s spacious hall, into which works such as Magdalena Jetelová’s sculpture Der Setzung andere Seite and a bust of Peter Ludwig by Lev Kerbel are integrated, forms the centre of the exhibition: Naumann’s installations, in which furniture ensembles, accessories, and design objects become sculptural, with video and sound works running within them, inescapably contextualise Illiberal Lives within post-fascist Germany.

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