Bergen Assembly 2013
Monday Begins on Saturday
31 August–27 October 2013
29 August: Opening Media Conference
29-30: Media & Professional Preview
31 August: Public Opening Ceremony
31 August – 27 October: Show on view
31 August – 1 September: Symposium
Bergen Assembly 2013 is a critical meditation on the potentials and pitfalls of the ever-more ubiquitous yet at the same time elusive notion of “artistic research.” It borrows its title Monday Begins on Saturdayfrom a novel by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky about a fictitious research institute staffed by a motley assemblage of fairy-tale beings and mad scientists who are trying to solve the problem of human happiness through magic.
The Strugatsky Brothers wrote Monday Begins on Saturday in 1961, at the height of the Cold War Soviet research boom. It tells the story of a programmer who gets sidetracked by hitchhikers while vacationing in the Northern region of Karelia, and winds up working at the Research Institute for Wizardry and Sorcery, which is organized into sections such as the Department of Prophecies and Predictions or the Department of Linear Happiness. This utopian atmosphere, underpinned by an ethic of incessant research, is secured by almost inexhaustible state support, propped up by an ever-growing bureaucracy, and protected from the demands of the market.
And this leads us, albeit circuitously and perhaps surprisingly, to the city of Bergen. Coming from the outside, it already looks like a utopian island for artistic research, paradoxically Hanseatic and Alpine, sailor’s port and Zauberberg at once, with an overdeveloped (or ideally saturated) artistic topography for a city of its size. Its artistic landscape is punctuated by many small art institutions: publicly funded to varying degrees, unburdened by the art market, committed and modest. At the same time, all must struggle against pressures which define cultural inquiry in the European post-welfare state more broadly: the tides of increasing academization, deliberative and strategic complicity with political or institutional agendas, and even complacency. In that sense, one could argue that there are analogies with the intellectual, economic, and ethical landscape of Soviet research institutes, ironically (but lovingly) described by the Strugatsky Brothers.
The first edition of Bergen’s new triennial will undertake an oblique contemporary re-writing of the Strugatsky text as a multi-venue exhibition and accompanying publication. The Assembly is conceived as an aggregate or archipelago of fictitious research institutes—inspired by the departments in the novel—”hosted” by existing institutions in Bergen. A montage of newly commissioned artists’ projects and historical material, it will be punctuated with fragments from literature, and quasi-fictional curatorial annotations. The positions of more than 40 international artists working in a variety of media will be on view throughout the city.
The project Monday Begins on Saturday will be accompanied by a publication, a print version of the curatorial montage with newly commissioned and anthologized theoretical, literary, and artistic texts and contributions. An international symposium featuring artist’s talks and panel discussions with the project’s contributors will also take place during the opening days of the Bergen Assembly in early September.