The exhibition ‘BALAGAN!!! Contemporary Art from the Former Soviet Union and Other Mythical Places’ – taking its name from a popular exclamation used in contemporary Russian to indicate a farce, a mess, chaos – features works that in one way or another engage with such unruly states. Might it be that today’s tricksters are to be found in the creative political activity of artists and cultural practitioners attempting to respond to the oppressive mess they find all around them? Could the disarming, oblique ways in which the trickster takes on states of misrule that cannot be challenged face-on be a particularly apt strategy for resistance in times of turbo-capitalism: embracing chaos to turn it against itself? Are hegemonic oppressive forces a necessary condition for the emergence of tricksters – in fact, do the tricks and machinations of power themselves form the prototype and genesis of the trickster? As opposed to its traditionally embodied and most often male form, is the trickster of today more a mode than a figure, fragmenting and multiplying into an array of inanimate and collective forms?
Two connected events at the ICI Berlin will follow these and other leads. This first event looks for tricksters and their traces, both human and nonhuman, in contemporary art and culture. The second considers the concept of trickery in artistic and mediatic practice, and the ways it may open up alternative possibilities for resistance and deflection of power.