There is a widespread belief today that light will do away with ignorance, the abuse of power, and inequality. This trust in light is not unlike how “enlightening” operated during the old Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, shedding light on dark corners and getting rid of unawareness, mysticism, and other unruly phenomena. In both cases it is a penetrating light that creates transparency and visibility. Today it is put in practice as the light of surveillance, communication, and speculation. Transparency has even gone a few steps further nowadays and has come to be seen as a guarantor of many things, including accountability and trust, and by extension the free market and the stability of the capitalist system itself. The scholar Clare Birchall calls this “the contemporary transparency assemblage.” She argues that today transparency, through “the fervour for light,” has even become a pan-ideological democratic value that no one can afford to question. Thus, at the same time as “being transparent” remains important in any democratic context—we have the right to know a lot of things—it has taken on some characteristics of a dogma.
At the same time, light that creates reflections, abstraction, opacity, and shadow abounds in contemporary art. Some of it has migrated into Escaping Transparency in the expansive exhibition space at the MAK. This light is non-transparent, it is refracted and operates obliquely. It is relational light, a sort of trickster light, it is light that goes on and off. It is light as a carrier of commercial messages but also more obscure indications as to when and how something is visible and not. It is the light of reflection and endless reproduction in a condition where beingvisible is considered equal to being or to existing at all.
Perhaps Birchall is right when he says that each era gets the transparency it deserves. It is unclear what that will mean when, in the future, life is more likely to occur on planets with two small suns creating a saturated photosynthesis that makes vegetation black. For now it might be the moment to exchange the “right to privacy” for “the right to opacity.” We remember Eduard Glissant’s powerful call for the latter, which arose from colonial subjects’ refusal to be totally knowable and therefore able to be controlled by the colonizers. Here opacity is not the same as obscurity but simply that which cannot be reduced and contained.
Pablo Accinelli (Buenos Aires)
Doug Ashford (New York)
Claire Barclay (Glasgow)
Rana Begum (London)
Elena Damiani (Lima/Copenhagen)
Shezad Dawood (London)
Annika Eriksson (Stockholm/Berlin)
Matias Faldbakken (Oslo)
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Tehran)
Ane Hjort Guttu (Oslo)
Tom Holert (Berlin)
Philippe Parreno (Paris)
Amalia Pica (Buenos Aires/London)
Bik Van der Pol (Rotterdam)
Yelena Popova (Moscow/Nottingham)
Walid Raad (Beirut/New York)
Haegue Yang (Seoul/Berlin)
Maria Lind, Director, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm
SymposiumA mini-symposium convened by Tom Holert and Brian Kuan Wood, with Céline Condorelli, Metahaven, and Natascha Sadr Haghighian.
Sat, 13.6.2015, 2:30–6 p.m.
VIENNA BIENNALE Pass184.108.40.206.2015
MAK, Kunsthalle Wien, Az W
22 / 16,50 reduced (for students under 27)
MAK, Kunsthalle Wien
16 / 12 reduced (for students under 27)
ÖBB Rail Tours
Combined Ticket >>>
For all T-Mobile customers:
Discounted VIENNA BIENNALE Pass
From 14 Sep: Discounted admission to the MAK ( 7.50)
Ideas for Change app:
2 VIENNA BIENNALE tickets for the price of 1 ( 16)
From 14 Sep: 2 MAK tickets for the price of 1 ( 9.90)
Opening HoursTue 10 a.m.10 p.m.
WedSun 10 a.m.6 p.m.
Free Admission on
Tuesdays 610 p.m.
Admission 9,90 / reduced 7,50
Free admission for children and teens up to 19
Free Admission on
Tuesdays 610 p.m.
Family ticket 13
(two adults and at least one minor child)
Vienna 1900-Combined Ticket
17,90 / reduced 14,50
valid for MAK and Leopold Museum
Guided ToursMAK TOURS every Saturday at 11 a.m. a tour through the MAK in German; every Sunday at noon in English.
Attendance fee 2 per person, except children under 6
Special and Group Toursby advance booking
Gabriele Fabiankowitsch, Head of Educational Program and Guided Tours
T +43 1 711 36-298
(MonFri 10 a.m.4 p.m.),
Multimedia Guidefor Vienna 1900: 2
Or download the app for free to your own tablet (iOS and Android)!