Declining Democracy

Francis Alÿs
Michael Bielicky &
Kamila B. Richter

Roger Cremers
Juan Manuel Echavarría
Thomas Feuerstein
Thomas Hirschhorn
Thomas Kilpper
Lucy Kimbell
Cesare Pietroiusti
Artur Żmijewski


Exhibition catalogue is published by Silvana Editoriale and includes entries about the artists featured in the show and essays devoted to the topic of the exhibition, written by:

Michele Ciliberto
Piroschka Dossi
Axel Honneth
Franziska Nori
Peter Weibel

Franziska Nori
Declining Democracy

Declining Democracy
: a possibly declining democracy? It is with this word game – rather questioning than affirming – that the idea for an exhibition conceived as a reflection on the increasingly pressing issues of the Italian and the global political situation of our days started. The project is not based on a political scientific analysis, but rather on an attempt to observe a reality that is directly affecting us, often mainly through the filter of the media.  
During the past year we witnessed the fight of movements and political forces trying to overthrow authoritarian political systems: from Libya to Egypt, from Tunisia to Syria. Simultaneously, in the course of the last years, groups of citizens have endeavoured to contrast the ruling classes, from the NO TAV protests against a high-speed rail path being built through northern Italy and the outrage towards the scandals of the Italian Prime Minister to the Stuttgart 21 movement in Germany, from the student demonstrations in the United Kingdom to those against the harsh economic measures carried out in countries like Greece, Spain or Portugal. As reported during the course of the last months, also the Italian financial crisis has made the implementation of heavy economic measures necessary, which have created a profound discontent among the majority of the citizens.

Precisely in a moment where in the Western countries the model of democracy, based on individual freedom, liberty of speech, equality and political responsibility is enduring a period of crisis, in various countries that same ideal of democracy has become a model for those revolutions that are pursuing the goal of asserting principles like egalitarian participation and the citizens’ right for self-determination.While after the financial crisis that started in 2008, the values and the functioning of democratic forms have become questionable in the Western countries, in the North African countries or in the Middle East a new sense of political and revolutionary utopia seems to have arisen, which is different but apparently simultaneous to the European phenomenon and has many citizen groups fighting for the conquest of fundamental values of political participation. It is surely too early to evaluate the events of the so-called “Arab Spring”, but they possibly mark a point of departure in confronting issues and problems of the reality we are living in.  

In the light of a context that is so complex and still in its development phase, we are aware of the fact that the format of an exhibition can merely offer a platform for debate. Declining Democracy does not set itself the utopian or pretentious goal to provide a political answer, but rather to supply a cultural space in which the positions of the different artists invited to participate offer visitors the possibility to reflect on subjects and values that shape our contemporary society, with the awareness that art, by itself, cannot offer solutions for real change, but can serve as a critical instrument to confront reality.

Excerpt from the catalogue Declining Democracy, published by Silvana Editoriale; soon available online the full text.

Declining Democracy