Everyone talks about (and far too often against) Europe, and even a common Europe is only slowly getting off the ground. The particular interests of the nation states, bureaucracy and the economy are too deeply entrenched, reflecting the attachment of many to what is immediately familiar. The future, however, can only lie in an open, cosmopolitan approach, with a good relationship between each individual and the local as well as the international community. This critical balance of the individual to the group was already outlined by ancient Greece in order to strengthen democracy on the basis of individual and general freedoms and responsibilities. From a history conceived into the future, the extensive project Europe: Ancient Future formulates current contributions to an urgently needed discussion on egality in difference, in order to advance a culturally and therein politically conceived Europe./// Artists: Jimmie Durham, Haris Epaminonda, Ira Goryainova, Renée Green, Franz Kapfer, Barbara Kapusta, Jutta Koether, Oliver Laric, Shahryar Nashat, Steven Parrino, Franco Vaccari, Franz West
Etymologically, “Europe” derives from the ancient Greek “Eurṓpē” meaning “she with the wide gaze.” In Greek mythology, a Phoenician princess of that name was abducted and seduced by Zeus. The HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark has made Europe the center of its reflections for its launch as an institution. The inaugural exhibition, Europe: Ancient Future, unites selected ideas on the concept of Europe and sheds light on them from multiple perspectives beyond the common pragmatic criteria./// For a long time now, the European Union, which is primarily seen as an economic and political association of nation-states, has been criticized for its shortcomings, predominantly in its practice of democracy. The stated based on the rule of law, and insufficient transparency with regard to fundamental issues of power. What is increasingly overlooked, however, is the origins of the idea of Europe, which can be discovered within the field of culture. This perspective seems all the more important during a time in which nationalism and populism have regained strength, putting pressure on the European Union from individual member states. For this reason, the common focus of the artists featured in Europe: Ancient Future, is “the history of ideas.” The myths, values, and breaches of a — now rather guardedly — united Europe, which is studied beyond its economic and political developments and contextualized within the history of culture, allows for a more positive and at times utopian potential. The exhibition rejects a Eurocentric reception and forces us to thematize and broaden the usual and often restricted gaze, in order to revive and intensify the conversation about and for Europe with a critical emphasis. The extensive oeuvre of the Greek polymath Aristotle offers an important impulse for this show’s efforts to come to terms with the fundamental philosophical pillars of the European ideal. His egalitarian approach to society, which does not neglect the autonomy of the individual, has recently begun to receive new attention: In her Politische Gleichheit (Political Equality) (2020), a reception of the concept of equality free of domination, the political philosopher Danielle Allen calls for an updated version of democracy, a balanced coexistence of individuals in a society that transcends the idea of a nation-state. Moreover, the beginnings of an idea of Europe, points back to the early democracies of Greek antiquity and its consequences. Against this backdrop, Europe: Ancient Future addresses the utopias of the past and, taking up ancient and in part mythological ideas about the understanding of Europe, sketching out possibilities for a more positive future. The exhibition is thus conceived as a thought experiment about transnational community life in the European realm and seeks to develop another attractive idea of a united Europe with cultural diversity that, in the spirit of its original meaning as “she with the wide gaze,” looks ahead confidently and circumspectly. The exhibition project Europe: Ancient Future will be accompanied by a weekly program of supporting and educational events and an extensive publication.
Curator: Sandro Droschl