What keeps elites alive?

A project of Vasil Artmanov and Pavel Sterec called „What Keeps Elites Alive?“ will be presented for the first time in a gallery Hit in Bratislava.The artists pick up the threads of their previous joint project, which was created in a co-operation with chroniclers of several Czech towns and it was exhibited in 2010 as „Recorded events in the region“. This time the artists focused on an association of exceptionally intelligent people. They were meeting the society’s members whose ideas and opinions became a part of the exhibition.

Why the society of exceptionally intelligent people?

By means of the project, the artists tried to trace the mechanisms of some societies´ functions, the process of their formation and to define their values and standards. The primary starting point was a critical reflection of the art world itself and artwork which has its specific rules, which can seem to the observers outside often completely incomprehensible. Certain reclusiveness and isolation on one hand, utopian ideas of possibilities of change and atonement of the world and society on the other hand, characterize the contemporary art and the association of exceptionally intelligent people as well. These very parallels aroused an interest of the artists in a potential co-operation, it led them to address the association and then to several meetings it’s members.

Art, utopia and IQ

The name of the exhibition is a paraphrase of a song „Denn wovon lebt der Mensch?“ which closes the second act of Beggar’s Opera by Bertold Brecht, Elisabeth Hauptmann and Kurt Weill. Brecht’s belief in the potential of artistic engagement as one of the instruments of political and social change has been recently updated again through series of artistic and curator projects. Issues of utopia and Utopianisms typically resonate in the contemporary art experience as well.

In autumn 1945, a professor of psychology and the first official president of the society mentioned, Prof. Cyril Burt, in his lecture broadcasted by BBC, in which he paid attention to utopian communities, started by an analysis of Plato’s The Republic and ended by analysis of Gulliver’s travels, supposedly expressed for the first time the idea of establishing an organization which would unite exceptionally intelligent people.

How to choose a leader of an expedition into an unknown land?

The original vision of founders of the association was to create „really democratic aristocracy“. Since joining the newly established organization was conditioned by „just“ passing an intelligence test and subsequent IQ definition, this procedure was thus considered entirely democratic. In the process of constituting a new „democratic elite“, the class, racial, religious or political affiliation cut no figure, but at the same time the concept was burdened by a biological determinism and thus automatically implied new forms of unequality. If intelligence is an innate and genetically given condition, materialized in a form of IQ – are the differencies of social groups given predominantly by a heredity? Is human ignorance a cause of poverty and problems in today’s society?

How to use intelligence in favour of humanity?

To use intelligence in favour of humanity is the message and aim of association of exceptionally intelligent people. The authors of the project tried to find out through an interaction with the association’s members, which way is the declared mission of the association fulfilled. Since the time the association was established, it has been among others working on the platform of interest meetings of their own members beyond the bounds of so called sigs (sig – special interest group). The artists could follow activities of the art sig in the days of its establishment. Through their own questionaire they addressed another members of the association and they immediately got many answers, which became a part of the installation. Ideas of the association’s members about its crest then became a subject of art visualization.

How to perceive intelligence and the favour of humanity?

One of the aim of the artists was to point out wider problems of efforts to specifically fulfill ideals and utopian ideas through specific figures such as IQ. What does the effort to assign just one numerical figure to such a complex and complicated quantity such as intelligence imply? Doesn’t a reduction and an objectification of abstract ideas lead automatically to a danger of classification and subsequent hierarchization? What is hidden beyond such cultural constructs and what are its mechanisms? Aren’t they just a sign of declining concept of the western society which is based on the ideas of progress, objectivity and rationalization?



Ivan Svoboda / Keying White Screen – Človek z Dunaja

When I realized that I am not able to create my long-time prepared film project according to my vision without any technical and financial support, I decided to make a video without severe production. Therefore, I used my friends instead of professional actors and I completely eliminated complicated coordination of actors and recording dates and places. White tiles in a bathroom (the neatest room in an apartment) were used as a chroma key bluescreen in a film studio. In front of the white tiles in the bathroom I was filming scenes with actors. Subsequently, I was shooting all the other settings separately. During the final post-production I did not merge them together, how it is usual in film studios, but I let it run parallelly.





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