“In the premises of the Department of Absolute Knowledge all the small upper windows were open, because the smell of Professor Vybegallo’s herring heads was seeping in. There was snow heaped up on the windowsills and there were dark puddles under the radiators of the steam central heating system. I closed the windows and walked between the virginally clean desks of the department’s staff members. Standing on the desks were brand-new ink sets that had never seen ink, but there were cigarette butts spilling out of the inkwells. This was a strange department. Its motto was: ‘The cognition of infinity requires an infinite amount of time.’ I could hardly dispute that assertion, but the staff drew an unexpected conclusion from it: ‘And therefore it makes no difference whether you work or not.'”
–Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Monday Begins on Saturday, 1964. Translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield (London: Seagull Publishing House, 2005).
The Department of Absolute Truth is but one of many departments of a magical research institute inMonday Begins on Saturday, a Soviet fantasy novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. It tells the story of a programmer who gets sidetracked while vacationing in the northern region of Karelia, and winds up joining the staff of the Research Institute for Wizardry and Sorcery, where a motley bunch of eager researchers, bureaucrats, demagogues, and fairytale beings are all searching for ways to achieve human happiness. Some work day and night, hence the title of the novel. Others do nothing, like those in the Department of Absolute Knowledge, and their laziness is punished by a magical curse that leads to a profuse growth of hair on their ears.
The first edition of the Bergen Assembly is a contemporary rewriting of the Strugatsky novel, conceived as an archipelago of fictitious research institutes. It delves into the idea that paradoxically, contemporary art is the place where the dialectical materialist magic of Monday Begins on Saturday has its afterlife, albeit as a potential accomplice to the real ravages of fictitious capital and as a victim of rampant precarization and austerity. Spread over multiple venues in Bergen, the exhibition gathers works that are themselves the outcome of critical-imaginative research into the heightened contradictions and particular injustices of our time. Ours is an age of animal uprisings and imaginary nations of vagabond cats, soy republics, seed vaults, and human zoos—a fluid world under constant surveillance. The future is disappearing, a dream from the past, once a function of love and the lack thereof, now the domain of the ultra-rich. Everything turns to air and water, except those strange footprints in stone.
Contributing researchers include:
Aeron Bergman & Alejandra Salinas / Christian von Borries / Olga Chernysheva / Chto Delat / Keti Chukhrov / Carlfriedrich Claus / Lars Cuzner & Fadlabi / Josef Dabernig / Stephan Dillemuth / Dora García / Pedro Gómez-Egaña / Boris Groys / Inti Guerrero / Ane Hjort Guttu / Dmitry Gutov / Jan Peter Hammer / IRWIN / Kiluanji Kia Henda / Yuri Leiderman & Andrey Silvestrov / Jumana Manna & Sille Storihle / Ivan Melnychuk & Oleksandr Burlaka—Grupa Predmetiv / Eduardo Molinari—Archivo Caminante (in collaboration with Azul Blaseotto, Ana Broccoli, Ala Plástica, Hernán Cardinale) / Anna Oppermann / Uriel Orlow / Our Literal Speed / Pavel Pepperstein / Aleksandr Rodchenko / Roee Rosen / Ada Rybachuk &Volodymyr Melnychenko / Renata Salecl / Konstanze Schmitt / Benedict Seymour / Andreas Siekmann & Alice Creischer / Maxim Spivakov / Imogen Stidworthy / Władisław Strzemiński / Pelin Tan & Anton Vidokle / Mariusz Tarkawian / Minze Tummescheit & Arne Hector—cinéma copains / Urban Fauna Laboratory / Dimitri Venkov (in collaboration with Antonina Baever) / Jan Verwoert / Clemens von Wedemeyer / Wong Men Hoi
Exhibition architecture by Studio Miessen (Markus Miessen, Diogo Passarinho, Yulia Startsev, Martin Pohl, Mehran Mojtahedzadeh, Sophie Burgess)
Monday Begins on Saturday is accompanied by a comprehensive publication and short guide to the exhibition, which is on view in Bergen from 31 August to 27 October 2013 (preview 29 to 30 August). An international symposium featuring artist’s talks and panel discussions with the project’s researchers, as well as a number of performances, take place during the opening days of the Bergen Assembly. A more detailed program will be available on our website shortly.
For more information, image material, and to read the full version of the curatorial concept, please visitwww.bergenassembly.no.