Desearch Repartment Institute for Durational Futures: Brought to you by ESSENTIALHAPPINESSPOSSIBILITY
by D.J. Fraser
Desearch Repartment’s Institute for Durational Futures: Brought to you by ESSENTIALHAPPINESSPOSSIBILITY exhibition revealed a commitment to exposing the narcissism of unreflexive privilege and the so-called apolitical detachment of the artist in a post-feminist and post-identity art world. As an anonymous think tank working in between platforms of social performance, DR takes the apathetic to task, and snarkily reminds us that the post-identity artist assumes no responsibility. Claiming identity politics were too restrictive throughout the ’90s, the satirical DR works to undermine an “excess of content” in the contemporary art world, instead focusing on the production and performance of immaterial spaces around content. To this end, Desearch offered up an “interactive convention” in exhibition form at AKADEMYSPACE in Cologne last November; this “convention” encouraged viewers to escape from accountability in favour of personal satisfaction in a hostile climate of surveillance and incarceration. Durational performances of art and life encouraged viewers to tune in to themselves, opt out and, above all, be flexible.
The DR, and their uncomfortably on-the-nose critique of neoliberal consumerism recalls parodic praxis of earlier generations of feminist performance artists engaged in reflexive and living art meant to run parallel and often confront grim political realities. The DR exhibition, along with its online operatives and printed matter, unnerved and displaced cultural complacency, ultimately calling attention to an entrenched practice of performing the self. What does the queer feminist body perform in a climate supposedly beyond identity and enmeshed in surveillance culture, social media and corporate sponsorship?
The exhibition reflected an uneasy coupling of satire and sombre recognition: Guantanamo Art Fair tote bags reminded the spectator of torture practices perpetrated in the prison industrial complex to which corporate America is inextricably linked; flags with the Institute for Durational Futures (IDF) logo were placed in “torture cells” enclosed with barbed wire in the exhibition; attendees were invited to snap selfies beside corporate logos while walking the red carpet in celebrity masks.
The DR made explicit with their video installation Neo-Lived Realism: Compassion Torture that nothing is sacred, or immune to critique in their art practice. The instructional video offered spectators a practice of “selfie-embodiment” through yaga, a mutant yoga practice that reflects an empty, complicit exercise of involution as directly linked to personal de-politicization. The video guided spectators through a bodily performance that required the material