The exhibition TURNING PAIN INTO POWER focuses on the potential of art to awaken and raise people’s awareness of social, political and societal injustices. This group show presents a selection of artists who confront the respective grievances with strong, self-confident and creative artistic strategies. Themes such as racism, gender-specific violence or the fight against discrimination (for example against the LGBTIQ community) are addressed and dealt with in the exhibition.
“I won’t shut up” is the resolutely statement that, in red letters, marks the starting point of the exhibition. Monica Bonvicini’s work addresses the privilege of freedom of expression, which is enshrined in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and practically obliges to “speak up” and not to just silently accept injustice. The fact that raising one’s voice in criticism is not protected in many places around the world and is accompanied by considerable risk is strikingly shown in the accompanying annual reports of “Reporters without Borders”, “PEN International” and “FREEMUSE – defending artistic freedom”.
Not only the word but also visual forms of expression, such as gestures or symbols, can become signs of collective resistance. With a ball-pen Giuseppe Stampone captures a historic moment that has burned itself into our collective memory: during the victory ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, African-American athlete Tommie Smith raised his fist in a so-called Black Power salute in protest against the discrimination suffered by the African-American population. This strategy of peaceful protest found a continuation, some 50 years later, in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement via the gesture of taking the knee, since performed by many athletes worldwide in an act of solidarity.
Homosexual people were branded with a pink triangle during the Nazi era. Those imprisoned on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity were obliged to wear this symbol in the form of a patch on the clothing they wore as concentration camp prisoners. Philipp Gufler’s “Kostüm Kakaduarchiv” (2022) shows how the pink triangle was used in post-war Germany in conjunction with the slogan “Gays against Oppression and Fascism” as a sign to counter homophobia and against the forgetting of the atrocities of National Socialism. Contextualised by the illustration of further historic documents, such as a photo of the banner reading “Whoever keeps silent about crimes against homosexuals ultimately approves of them” and associated images and texts, the result is a rich interplay of links and references that inspire both reflection and further investigation.
In her work Regina José Galindo deals intensively with gender-specific violence. In the video work “El dolor en un pañuelo” (1999) shown at Merano Arte, her vulnerable – because naked – (female) body literally becomes a projection screen: bound to a vertical bed, the slide projector casts images directly onto her bare skin. The images reproduce newspaper articles reporting on the countless cases of abuse perpetrated against women in Guatemala. The artist’s body becomes a platform that brings the crimes committed against women to the viewers’ attention and encourages them to debate them.
Kunst Meran Merano Arte wishes to use TURNING PAIN INTO POWER as a prelude to a long-term engagement with the intersection of art, activism and education in order to investigate our own blind spots as well as the starting points of various forms of discrimination, to question them and, ultimately, to counteract them.