Antwerpen, België | The welfare state | MHKA

AU CONGO BELGE. Inscription d'enfants à l'école officielle de Maindombe, à Matete, une des communes à Léopoldville. Photo J. Makula, Congopresse


Exhibition: fri 29 may at 11u til sun 27 sep 2015 at 18u
Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen | 2nd floor

The welfare state is an abstract notion. But also very concrete. Political, but also bureaucratic. What does it have to do with art?

The welfare state operates with regulations, rights and obligations that apply to everyone in the same way, requiring individuals to identify themselves as members of society first and foremost. In this sense, the welfare state is the antithesis of art. Many artists support the welfare state in both theory and practice, and they are fascinated by rules as such, but they have little interest in following rules formulated by others than themselves …

The welfare state is an emancipatory political project, although it was first invented as a way of keeping class struggle and revolution at bay. It is hard to disassociate the European welfare state from the darker elements of recent history, such as militarism, colonialism and the degradation of the natural environment. Yet the welfare state, as a model for social cohesion and political stability, is now gaining ground in new parts of the world, notably in East Asia.

The exhibition The Welfare State does not look back with nostalgia at the welfare state in its 'classical' form as a utopian blueprint for an egalitarian (and homogenous) society in postwar Western Europe. It does not invite artists to 'illustrate' political and social engagement. But it does ask some fundamental questions. What is the 'imaginary' of the welfare state? Does it have a 'form'? Can it be 'shown'?

The Welfare State contains new and existing works by eight artists of different generations: Francisco Camacho Herrera (Colombia/The Netherlands, 1979), Josef Dabernig (Austria, 1956), Kajsa Dahlberg (Sweden, 1973), Róza El-Hassan (Hungary/Syria, 1966), Donna Kukama (South Africa, 1981), Artūras Raila (Lithuania, 1962), Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven (Belgium, 1951) and Stephen Willats (England, 1943). It also contains visual and textual material from the four cultural archives in Flanders: Amsab and the Liberal Archive in Ghent, KADOC in Leuven and ADVN in Antwerp.

The exhibition is both explicitly and implicitly socio-political, and raises topics of relevance to the current situation in the world, such as the communication between citizens of different socio-economic status (Willats), the social implications of artificial intelligence (Van Kerckhoven), the changing status of labour (Dahlberg), the rise of the European far-right (Raila), the plight of refugees from the civil war in Syria (El-Hassan) or a possible shift to a non-monetary economy (Camacho Herrera).

The Welfare State is accompanied by a printed publication, and by an ambitious discursive programme. During the spring of 2015 M HKA organises a series of public seminars in collaboration with the researchers at the Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy at the University of Antwerp. Public forums are organised on 30 May 2015 at Cinema Zuid in Antwerp, in collaboration with CAHF (Contemporary Art heritage Flanders) and in September in Brussels, in collaboration with the Flemish-Dutch House deBuren.

Curator: Anders Kreuger

Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen
Leuvenstraat 32,
2000 Antwerpen, België

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