Article: “Nervous Systems” (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

If you need brain food, some irritation and some art for inspiration – the House of World Cultures in Berlin is an excellent place to turn to. For years, their team has puzzled me with events and exhibitions around topics as diverse as the Whole Earth Catalogue, Ape Culture, Stupid Music or with their ongoing series 100 Years of Now.

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The White Room, an installation by Tactical Technology as part of the exhibition. © Laura Fiorio/HKW

For an exhibition around the ever-growing reality of having our behaviour and motion tracked by all kinds of devices, services and companies, HKW’s well connected fine art curator Anselm Franke teamed up with Tactical Technology Collective, a group of information activists, who consult NGOs and policital activists on the use of technology for their work. The show is titled “Nervous Systems. Quantified Life and the Social Question”.

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The installation “Delivery for Mr. Assange. Replica of Assange’s Study” by Mediengruppe Bitnik (2014). It reconstructs the room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange has been living since 2012. © Courtesy FBM Studio, Helmhaus Zürich (installation view from a former exhibit)

I really liked the exhibition as it combines three very different approaches: it shows art works in the main part, it features several collections of historical and theoretical background pieces, and then there is the installation “The White Room”, in which Tactical Technology give an overview of their work and all themes revolving around data tracking in our daily life.

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Installation view, showing a work by Mari Bastashevski on shredded documents revealing the corrupt practices of the former Ukrainian government under president Janukovic. © Laura Fiorio/HKW

This combination of the three approaches seemed very inspiring to me because it felt like the exhibition opened up a very big area of how to think about this whole topic – how it has evolved since the 19th century, about what it means to observe and measure human behaviour and about the backlash this could have on us. I discussed this in a short exhibition review published yesterday in Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The show is open to the public until May 9, 2016. The accompanying book was published by HKW and Spector Books.