The Redistribution of the Sensible (2007)

curated by Warren Neidich

Magnus Müller Gallery, Berlin

Participating Artists: Eric Angles, Matthew Antezzo, Pash Buzari, Krysten Cunningham, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gillick, Jan Mancuska, Yudi Noor, Tomas Saraceno, Erik Smith, Nora Schultz, Jordan Wolfson



The “distribution of the sensible” (Partage du Sensible) refers to the implicit law governing the sensible order that parcels out places and formsof Participation in a common world by first establishing the modes of perception within which these are inscribed. The distribution of the sensible thus produces a system of self-evident facts of perception based on the set horizons and modalities of what is visible and audible as well as what can be said, thought, made or done. Strictly speaking, distribution therefore refers both to forms of inclusion and to forms of exclusion. The sensible of course, does not refer to what shows good sense or judgment but to what is aistheton or capable of being apprehended by the senses.

Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics

But sovereignty today organizes this distribution with sophisticated apparati that are reminiscent of the Society of Control expressed in Michael Hardt’s and Tony Negri’s Empire. The logics of perception and experience are no longer materialistically defined only by contours of geometric and linear time and space arranged hierarchically in a rigid lattice but rather follow curved, non-linear Rheimannian paradigms that are expressed in complicated, non-hierarchical, rhizomatic shifting patterns. Consider for a moment the way commodities are now linked together as branded networks that intensify their desire quotient or how people communicate on chat rooms or move in and out of blog sites. Sovereignty, utilizing these methods and those of the global market place with the help of the continuing scientific research on perception and cognition, has conspired in creating powerful complex networks of attention which allow for the manufacture of explicit “connectiveness” that today defines the distribution of the sensible. Phatic Stimuli, as Paul Virilio refers to them, have evolved into highly attention grabbing conglomerates of stimuli that act as multiplicities and operate beyond the sensorium reaching into the folded gyri and sulci of the brain itself. These networks form a hegemonic cultural syntax which is inscribed en mass on the society as a whole producing new forms of subjectivity and in the case of world tuned in to global media, a bounded multitude. When these networks are internalized and become part of the automatic operation of the body’s or mind’s habitual relationships they form a Society of Control rather then the Disciplinary Society. Self-Censorship is a perfect example of the Society of Control and how insidiously this process becomes self-evident. These images together produce the “Institutional Understanding.” “Institutional understanding” is the framework through which most of us operate in the real world of material things. But artists also create their own distribution of the sensible. They use their own historical referents, materials, processes, apparati, spaces and performances, to create complex assemblages that together compete with institutional arrangements for the attention of the brain and mind. Their artistic imaginations produce practices that allow for the exploration of remote territories, like the paranormal, non-linear, psychic, and insensible, which pulsate beyond the reach of the formulaic methodologies of the philosophers logic and the scientist experimental design. This is not to imply that art is disengaged and distanced from life as some form of hermetic endeavor but quite the opposite. It is embedded in the interwoven fabric of social, political, economic, psychological, historical and spiritual relations. It in fact commingles with it and forms complex systems of recurrent and recursive loopings that in the end help produce novel forms of networks that empower the imagination of each receptive/productive subject with new possibilities for creativity which in the end reconstitute the cultural landscape with new objects, object relations, contexts and arrangements. They inhabit the same spaces and temporalities as the institutional arrangements that characterize the institutional understanding. Their presence however acts to bend and contort it, in the end, altering its static and rigid arrangements in significant ways. Works like installation art, performative sculpture and urban geographies act to redistribute the facts of this distribution of the sensible while conceptually-based works, relational aesthetics and the institutional critique operate on more metaphysical levels superimposing meaning, contexts and critiques upon it in order to change the way those distributions are read and understood and processed for instance as memories. For instance, Situationism has taught us to kinesthetically understand the urban space differently through the derive and detournement, attend to what before was uninteresting and insignificant, and process all of this in ways that allow us to understand the significance, of the urban sprawl in the context of a grand conceptual schema of the meaning of contemporary life. (Of course the institutional understanding is always attempting to co-opt its methods, terminology and processes.) The Re-distibution of the Sensible took place at Magnus Müller Gallery in Berlin in the spring of 2007 attempting to investigate some contemporary art practices that are addressing these issues.