press release

An extensive new exhibition entitled BRAVE NEW WORLD at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art compares famous dystopian visions of the future as described in the novels of Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), George Orwell (1984), and Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), with the current social situation. The works of over twenty artists from around the world who deal with topics such as social monitoring, consumerism, and the world of the media bear the same warning message. Alas, they refer to a future that has already arrived.

The authors of Brave New World (1932), 1984 (1949), and Fahrenheit 451 (1953) wanted above all to galvanize readers and point out possible future threats. In his warning against the control of individuals based on psychological manipulation, fear, and a total absence of privacy, George Orwell presciently predicted the perfection of today’s surveillance systems. In the 1930s, Aldous Huxley saw a fundamental threat in technological intervention leading to the implementation of a social caste system, and in the 1950s, Ray Bradbury predicted the victory of a superficial mass media culture over a society that recognizes the value of books. The first part of the exhibition, entitled “Life in a Cage”, is inspired by George Orwell’s novel 1984 and its dismal vision of life in a dictatorship. The photographs, paintings, installations, and three-metre statues of dictators in this part of the exhibition reflect the ideological propaganda, fear, and terror inflicted by twentieth-century totalitarian regimes that were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions. At the same time, this part of the exhibition reminds us that even today, in the twenty-first century, there are still countries where Orwell’s vision is reality.

While Orwell warned against the control of individuals via oppression from without, Aldous Huxley and Ray Bradbury saw the main threat in the voluntary slavery of those being manipulated. Today’s methods of control work with the illusions of freedom and choice, and are implemented with our agreement and voluntary cooperation. The systematic monitoring of individuals in both the physical and virtual world, the control exercised by today’s consumer market through manipulation of choice, or the contemporary media world, which is increasingly taking on the characteristics of controlled mass entertainment – this is today’s reality as referenced by the second part of the exhibition entitled “Freedom in a Bubble”.

The paintings of US artist William Betts, created from recordings made by public cameras, point out the ubiquitous monitoring of our activities. Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s 3D portraits based on analysis of DNA from cigarette butts, hair, and other materials found in the street draw attention to the dangers of a genetically controlled culture. A project by Italian artists Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico comments on how personal information can be misused on social networks. In a similar manner, the works of other artists comment on the mechanisms of the consumer market and media reality. The world of advertising is for example illustrated by Petr Motyčka in his impressive installation, which takes place on fifty TV screens.

The third part of the exhibition is devoted to the invisible category of “drop-outs”, whose sensitivity or inability to adapt to standards of performance and function has relegated them to the role of “patient” in the mechanism of today’s society. Entitled “Detachment”, it includes a live installation created by the DOX Centre in cooperation with the Farm in a Cave theatre troupe. This part of the exhibition deals with the contemporary Japanese phenomenon of hikikimori - individuals who isolate themselves from a society in which they can no longer function. Over one million hikikomori are currently thought to exist in Japan, and it is obvious that similar cases also exist in other parts of the world. In cooperation with Farm in a Cave, a new work is also being created that will be featured at the DOX Centre during the exhibition.

The fourth and final part of the exhibition, “Absolute Happiness”, consists of an installation spanning all three floors of the DOX Centre’s tower that applies to various phases of biological and social predestination as described by Aldous Huxley in his novel Brave New World (1932). In the exhibition, the novel’s descriptions of a predestination centre from where the quantity and quality of the human population is scientifically controlled are transformed into a satirical commentary on the pseudo-scientific, technical, and moral tinkering of social “engineers”.

The exhibition also includes a monumental site-specific installation by the NUMEN/FOR USE group. This network of passages created from transparent adhesive tape, six metres above the exhibition space, is a metaphor for the life in a bubble and labyrinth of dead ends that characterize contemporary society.

The attendant programme will offer a number of discussions on topics broached by the exhibition, workshops with artists (Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Numen/For Use, etc.), discussions with experts on the subject of the hikikimori phenomenon, and more.

Exhibiting artists:

Barbora Bálková (CZ), Zarko Baseski (MKD), Denis Beaubois (AUS), William Betts (USA), Hans Jürgen-Burkard (GER), Bureau d’Etudes (FR), Michal Cimala (CZ), Paolo Cirio & Alessandro Ludovico (IT), Sylvie Fleury (CHE), Farma v jeskyni & Lucia Škandíková (CZ), Jason Florio (UK), Douglas Gordon (UK), Heather Dewey-Hagborg (USA), Jens Hikel (GER), Martina Hozová (CZ), Shinseungback Kimyonghun (KOR), Krištof Kintera (CZ), Ján Macko (CZ), Simon Mckeown (UK), Petr Motyčka (spolupráce: Filip Hepnar) (CZ), Numen/For Use (HR/AT), Daniel Pešta (CZ), Reynold Reynolds (USA), Jaroslav Róna (CZ), Surveillance Camera Players (USA), Daisuke Takakura (JAP), Lukáš Weishäupl (CZ), Anonymous

Exhibition concept: Leoš Válka

Curators: Leoš Válka, Michaela Šilpochová