Stephane MALKA, Auto-Defense/Poche de Resistance Active, 2009

When yellow cats warn society

It happened in a transition period, at the end of the period of post-war history often referred to as the “Golden Age”, when curator Harald Szeemann staged a large exhibition about the advance of science fiction at the end of the 1960s and with it the question of the future potential of art provided for society. The Kunsthalle Bern, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris and the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf presented the remarkable show, which questioned science fiction, loosely based on the author Ray Bradbury, as the “art of the possible”.

Center Pompidou Metz

Apartment buildings in the Grande Arche de la Defense, dreamed up by Stephane Malaka

Exactly this approach is now being taken into account in Metz in the Center Pompidou and the museum is not only used as an exhibition space, but also as a crystallization place for future debates, in which a discussion, film, retrospective and concert program is staged, where the questions of the solvability of the Living under extreme conditions are the focus.

Between irritation and hope

The core remains an exhibition with over 200 works from the late 1960s to the present, all selected with the aim of stepping through the gates of the possible. The show “The Gates of the Possible” (until April 23, 2023 in Metz) wants to establish the connections between the imaginary worlds of art and our present. Irritation is just as much part of the concept as the principle of hope that the tasks of the present can be solved after all.

One may remember: When one was still on the way to Solaris with the filmmaker Andrej Tarkowski, one encountered the cultural tradition of the West in the vastness of space. The great classics of the indispensable were taken to the space station and they were allowed to experience the alienation of these values ​​in new settings. For contemporary visual art, utopia and dystopia are much more imminent. That’s what many of the pictures presented here say. Everyone has the environment and climate issue in front of them as a major solution or design task.

Photo series with 4 pictures

Aida MULUNEH, The Shackles of Limitations, 2018

Center Pompidou Metz

Aida Muluneh, The Shackles of Limitations, 2018

Kevin MCGLOUGHLIN, Repetition, 2019

Center Pompidou Metz

Kevin McLoughlin, “Repetition,” 2019

Jon RAFMAN, You Are Standing in an Open Field (Mental Traveler), 2020

Center Pompidou Metz

Jon Rafman, You Are Standing in an Open Field (Mental Traveler), 2020

20 radioactive cats in a gray room

©1980 Sandy Skoglund

Sandy Skoglund, “Radioactive Cats,” 1980

“We still have a choice”

“We are still faced with a decision to make,” says exhibition curator Alexandra Müller, who has assembled exhibits ranging from classical modernism to cyberpunk and Afrofuturism: “We can redefine our relationship to our world and turn away from a chosen path – or we can stay on the paths we are on, with the consequences that follow.”

In any case, Müller wants the show to be understood as a positive immersion in solution utopias. The exhibition’s sci-fi terminology is less about superheroes or invading superspecies threatening the world from the outside. The challenge is among the people – and the “fiction” is already relatively close to present here, which the works present in a partly ironic, partly of course also apocalyptic way, for example when in Sandy Skoglund’s work two dozen bright yellow “radioactive cats” roam through a gray room. If you look at this date, you will see that the warning dates from 1980, one of the key years of the anti-nuclear movement. Other contemporary works make it clear to what extent the climate catastrophe has penetrated into one’s own living quarters without one perhaps noticing it – such as a work by the Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour.

Image Female Robot by Kiki Kogelnik

Philippe Migeat

Kiki Kogelnik, Female Robot (1964)

Kogelnik as an Austrian contribution

Austria is represented in the show with a work by Kiki Kogelnik from the mid-1960s: “Female Robot” from 1964 refers to later debates on gender, politics and also the question of whether one still wants to decide on a fixed gender role. Because science fiction also says one thing: Nothing, especially not the images of one’s own body, yes, of one’s own body, is taken for granted in this genre.

In any case, for the exhibition organizers, the opportunity for science fiction lies in the irritation that the genre evokes in the public – only irritation brings about a change in habits, according to their credo.

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