Minus Ego I Renouncing. Disappearing. Sharing (Preview)

Opening: October 6th, 7pm
Full exhibition October 7 to December 22, 2016, Mon–Fri 9–21h, Sat 10–14h
Goethe-Institut Barcelona, Roger de Flor 224, Barcelona

In the era of the narcissist selfie it is both urgent and necessary to reflect on the nature of Ego, on how it influences and affects our existence. As stated by Alejandro Jodorowski: “The ego is a cage with no bird that believes it’s a bird with no cage”. Surface and appearance become the system and rules that drive our actions. Egotism permeates political and social life and egos grow as strong, unsustainable and destructive entities that benefit neither the individual nor the collective. 

Ideologies, propaganda, seductive corporate messages, hyper-productivity and the astute architecture of capitalism, compose the elements of that cage which oppresses the essence and enhances the ego. 

Kaja Silverman, a psychoanalytic theorist who has studied the links between the ego, the gaze, the look and image, considers Lacan and Freud’s well-known perspective on the ego: “Lacan proposes that the ego comes into existence the moment when the infant subject first apprehends the image of its body within a reflective surface, and is itself a mental refraction of that image. Thus, the ego is the representation of a corporal representation”. She also underlines: “In The Ego and the Id, Freud maintains that the ego is ‘first and foremost, a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself the projection of a surface’”. 

How can we free ourselves from the ego’s cage? How can we move from optical consciousness, the threshold of the visible, the material surface towards the imperceptible self, the essence, mind consciousness? What’s behind our mirror-image? 

Minus Ego is an exhibition addressing universal and timeless questions of “ego”, focusing on the challenging aspects of its reduction as well as on a search for the contemplative essence. 

What do we refer to when talking about “ego reduction”? Is it about renouncing? Is it about disappearing? Perhaps, sharing? Is it related to silence? Is it about creating different relationships with people, ideas and contexts? 

The complexity and diversity of the ego is a central issue in the life of every human and has been analysed from the perspective of philosophy, psychology, ethics, mysticism, religion, politics and culture in different times and spaces. The exploration of ego goes hand in hand with the evolution of humankind and thinking: from the psychic apparatus [id, ego and superego] defined by Sigmund Freud; or the radical individual autonomy proclaimed by Max Stirner; to the multiple senses of annihilation, fading, fusion, dissolution or illusion that we could find in different spiritual beliefs, rituals and practices. 

The transient passage of life, the concept of impermanence, the Buddhist Anicca, the Fanaa vision in Sufism, the Hindu concept of Samadhi, the Pali term Nekkhamma, the active nihilism of Nietzsche’s philosophy, Heidegger’s Mitsein or Vattimo’s ‘weak thought’, all deal – in one way or another – with the idea of renouncing and disappearing. 

These main notions – renouncing, disappearing and sharing – compose the reflections on ‘Minus Ego’, dig into the idea of essence and raise different questions and thoughts concerning the structure, definition, position and composition of ego. 

The ‘Minus Ego’ project explores both the convergences and divergences of ego, its dependency and independency, its eternity and impermanence. Reflecting on this from within artistic contexts — themselves often filled with egotism — will provide an opportunity to explore the spirit and nature of ‘I’, ‘Self’, ‘Ego’ from different perspectives and their relationships with the ‘We’, the ‘Other’ and different ‘systems and superstructures’. 

The different works forming the exhibition reveal the many possible interpretations of the ‘Minus Ego’ concept. Envisioned as a research and exhibition project, ‘Minus Ego’ will be developed through several steps in different places and times, changing and transforming itself just as egos and identities do. 

Marko Schiefelbein (Berlin preview), and in Barcelona: Thilo Droste, Christoph Schwarz, Jordi Tolosa, Toni Serra, Abu Ali,  Jakob & Manila Bartnik, Kimsooja, Susanne Bosch, Michael Wesely, and Antoni Tàpies.  

Curated by: Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio
Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio holds an International PhD in “Art History, Theory and Criticism” from the University of Barcelona. He is a faculty member and core advisor at Transart Institute (NY-Berlin) and has worked as a Postdoctoral Visiting Researcher at United Nations University - Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM). He is invited Professor of the Cultural Management Programme of the University of Barcelona.

His current lines of research involve the subjects of intercultural processes, globalization, participation and mobility in contemporary art and cultural policies; the concepts of utopia, journey, mysticism and nomadism; the interactions between artistic, educational, media and cultural practices in the Mediterranean and the cultural cooperation between Asia and Europe.

He has participated in several international conferences and developed projects and research residencies in Europe, Asia, USA and the Middle East. As an art critic, editor and independent curator he collaborates with international organizations and institutions and writes extensively for several magazines and journals. He is Editorial contributor at Culture360 – Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), Managing Editor at ELSE – Transart Institute, and co-founder of the Platform for Contemporary Art and Thought, InterArtive.