What Are the Clouds?

An exhibition at Kunstgebäude Stuttgart
November 18, 2017 – March 4, 2018

Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, CPKC (Emily Fahlén, Peter Spillmann, Marion von Osten), Tim Etchells, Glenn Ligon, Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Catarina Simao, Ana Torfs, Ana Vaz, a.o.

Iris Dressler, Christine Peters

A Project by
Akademie Schloss Solitude, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Schauspiel Stuttgart, Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Theater Rampe, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart 

About the exhibition
The exhibition What Are the Clouds? takes as its point of departure the Reformation Anniversary in order to reflect on freedom, emancipation, and imagination from the perspective of contemporary art. The exhibition’s main starting point is the short film Che cosa sono le nuvole? (What Are the Clouds?) from the year 1968, by the Italian film director, author, and journalist Pier Paolo Pasolini. This film revolves around a performance of Shakespeare’s Othello as a marionette theater—with the marionettes played by actors on strings. During the play, the marionettes question both their roles and their actions, with even the audience rebelling against the narrative: in order to avert the murder of Desdemona, they rush onto the stage and overcome the schemer Iago and the “Moor of Venice,” Othello. By having the latter played by a light-skinned actor with his face colored black, Pasolini is criticizing the racist rendering of dark-skinned people by white actors, a practice that is today called “blackfacing”. In the end, Iago and Othello are carried away by a garbageman. At the dump, Othello sees clouds for the first time in his life …
By introducing the emancipatory gesture of resistance as a narrative, Pasolini’s film may be read as a parable from both historical and contemporary perspectives: A central motif is the agency of the subject—his yearning and quest for the freedom of other ways of life, as well as the political dimension of one’s own thoughts and actions, defined here for instance as doubt, revolt, and reformulation.
Other topics in the exhibition include the ramifications of modern colonialism and the global slave trade, known to be rooted—together with capitalism—in the age of the Reformation. Not until the eighteenth century, in parallel to the height of the modern slave trade, did the European concept of liberty with its notion of the autonomous subject emerge, thanks to the philosophical theories of the Enlightenment. Hence, our present-day definition of freedom and emancipation cannot be understood without precisely these dimensions tied to the history of ideas and the sociopolitical sphere.
Moreover, What Are the Clouds? references forms, discourses, and cultures of resistance with regard to the reworking of contemporary historical events, such as the protests against the Vietnam War or the independence movement against the Portuguese colonial powers in Mozambique during the 1960s and 1970s.
A key concept of the exhibition is “the emancipated spectator”: in his book of the same name, the French philosopher Jacques Rancière thematizes the necessity of relations on equal footing between the “schoolmaster” and the “pupil,” which may
be read as referring back to Pasolini’s “liberation pedagogy”. In his essays titled Lutheran Letters, Pasolini relativizes, among other things, the competence of the elders or teachers by interpreting learning as a broad understanding of the world through cultural appropriation and through mental and bodily processes.
What Are the Clouds? explores such aesthetic and discursive planes of resistance and participation, as well as the political and social implications evident in Pasolini’s film, and then places the artistic positions with their historical and current reflections on freedom, emancipation, and imagination into an intertextual relationship. Shown here especially are works based on rereadings or dis/reassemblies from the realms of art, literature, film, and theater.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive program featuring performances, lectures, workshops, and films, thus forming an associative field that complements the conceptual guiding motifs.
For example, issues related to political and societal participation will be negotiated in the Forum on Civic Initiatives, realized in collaboration with the Hannah-Ahrendt-Institut Stuttgart, Die AnStifter, and the Fritz-Erler-Forum Baden-Wu?rttemberg.

Still on show at the Württembergischer Kunstverein until January 14, 2018, is Alexander Kluge’s homage to Pasolini’s What Are the Clouds? as part of the exhibition Alexander Kluge: Gardens of Cooperation.

Entrance fees
5 Euro / 3 Euro reduced

Flyer and Program

Information / Registration / Press Contact:
Phone: +49 (0) 172 344 69 77

Main Support
Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg

Supported by
Pro Helvetica, Schweizer Kulturstiftung

Schlossplatz 2
D-70173 Stuttgart
Fon: +49 (0)711 - 22 33 70
Fax: +49 (0)711-22 33 791
Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart