The exhibition Reset Modernity! which will open on 16th April 2016 in Karlsruhe is a Gedankenaustellung, a hybrid of exhibition and thought experiment. Now that modernity has crashed into a crisis of global proportions, we ask visitors to reset its operating system.
In computer parlance, a reset is what you do when so many bugs, pirated software, and useless programs have encumbered your machine to the extent that it no longer functions. Then it is time to risk a hard reset — but save your files first! After that the machine will be back at the state when the operating system was installed. And then, one at a time and proceeding very carefully, you can reinstall each piece of software and check that everything is now running smoothly.
This is what we want to do with this most obscure of all terms — “modernity.” Modernity now has so many meanings and carries so many contradictory values that it keeps crashing every time we use it to define our future.
Reset Modernity! will take place within the framework of Globale, a new, 300 day long art event initiated by the ZKM. Reset Modernity! is curated by Bruno Latour and the team that worked on the AIME project — an inquiry into modes of existence, an anthropology of the Moderns.
The exhibition‘s brief is to ask visitors to experience the range of contradictory values that pass for a definition of modernity, and to identify what they want to keep or to abandon. Since it is clearly impossible to modernize the planet in the old ways — for lack of alternative planets! — it is vitally important to decide how we will inhabit Earth in the future without losing the values which, during the history of the Moderns, we have learned to cherish. But for this much careful sorting has to be done because science, religion, politics, economics, law, art, and technology have all ended up by offering simultaneously a cornucopia of goods and a huge amount of bads. Those who have never been modern, but who have nonetheless extended the modernizing frontier to the entire planet, need to do a bit of soul searching. Just what Reset Modernity! offers them.
The exhibition will have two main parts and a smaller one. The first section will introduce the visitors to the Globale framework by showing them how local the global always is. This is equally true of the “global” world of finance and economies, of the “global” world of geopolitics, and of the “global” working of the planet as it is studied by the sciences. This localization of everything global is necessary for resetting the state in which individual actors can begin to feel active inhabitants of the planet.
The second section will comprise a succession of sites where visitors will be asked to experience conflicts of values typical of modernity. These sites will feature films, documents, and interviews presented by the curatorial team to which visitors are welcomed and encouraged to add their own views, opinions, commentaries, and documents. As the visitor makes their way through the exhibition he or she will begin to form his or her opinion on how to sort, rank, and order the range of values associated with modernity.
It is in this sense that Reset Modernity! is a thought experiment and a Gedankenaustellung: visitors should be prepared to work by themselves and use the setting the curatorial team has established to define the new position in time and space which has been imposed by the crash between modernity and planetary concerns.
A third, smaller section will document the work done under the AIME project as an example of a digital humanities protocol.