Despite contemporary advanced theories about complex systems and the vertiginous potential of synthetic biology, we are still unable to determine what constitutes life. An attempt to address the question by means of an art exhibition therefore seems justified, if only to demonstrate ways of dealing with our incapability to find a satisfactory answer.
"A starting point for the exhibition is the growing uncertainty about the boundaries of life. This bewilderment around the nature of life has only increased in our technologically altered environments, entirely permeated with artificial components behaving as though given by nature. As in the installation GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, in which Mark Leckey gives voice to a ‘smart fridge,’ scrutinizing how the high-tech objects around us are ever more distinctly modelled on ourselves," says Jo Widoff.
The exhibition Life Itself stretches from the early 20th century, when artists in and alongside the abstract avant-garde were endeavouring to categorise existence, and up until today’s world of objects existing in a state somewhere in between what we call the living and the non-living. Among the artists featured in the exhibition are Giovanni Anselmo, Olga Balema, Hicham Berrada, Joseph Beuys, Karl Blossfeldt, Victor Brauner, Trisha Donnelly, Pierre Huyghe, Tehching Hsieh, Josh Kline, Hilma af Klint, Helen Marten, Katja Novitskova, Philippe Parreno, Rachel Rose, Paul Thek, and Rosemarie Trockel.
Carsten Höller comments on the selected artists:
“Our choice of such disparate works from the last one hundred years was made with the purpose of exploring the potential of art to express the astonishment we feel when confronted with the question of what life really is. At the same time, we get a hint that the reason why we cannot grasp life is either because the methods at our disposal today (including art) are insufficient, or simply that we are not supposed to understand, since the consequences would be profound and deeply disturbing.”
Curators: Daniel Birnbaum, Carsten Höller and Jo Widoff
Moderna Museet Website