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05 Oct 2015

The Beast and is the Sovereign: Exhibition

The Beast and is the Sovereign
Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart


October 17, 2015–January 17, 2016 Opening: Friday, October 16, 2015, 7 p.m. Conference: October 17 + 18, 2015


+49 711 22 33 70
+49 711 29 36 17

Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart
Schlossplatz 2
70173 Stuttgart

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Efrén Álvarez, Hicham Benohoud, Ángela Bonadíes / Juan José Olavarría, Peggy Buth, Ines Doujak, Juan Downey, Edgar Endress, Oier Etxeberria, Eiko Grimberg, Masist Gül (presented by Banu Cennetoglu and Philippine Hoegen), Ghasem Hajizadeh, Jan Peter Hammer, Geumhyung Jeong, Julia Montilla, Ocaña, Damir Ocko, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Ulrike Ottinger, Prabhakar Pachpute, Mary Reid Kelley / Patrick Kelley, Jorge Ribalta, Wu Tsang, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Viktor Vorobyev / Yelena Vorobyeva and others

Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, Paul B. Preciado, Valentín Roma

Friday, October 16, 2015, 7 p.m.

October 17 + 18, 2015

The exhibition 'The Beast and is the Sovereign' explores constructions of the political sovereign in Western traditions of thought. The focus here is placed on artistic practices that challenge, reverse, or eliminate sovereignty—as brought to bear in concepts of the sacred, the nation-state, modern institutions, humanism, virility, or the unscathed, (hetero)normative body.

The exhibition takes its name from the last seminar conducted by Jacques Derrida in 2002–03, in which the French philosopher analyzes the limits of political sovereignty in the Western tradition. For Derrida, the beast and the sovereign embody the two allegorical figures in politics that have historically existed outside of the law: the beast that is supposedly ignorant of the law and the sovereign whose power is defined precisely by the capacity to suspend the law.

This ontotheological division gives rise to a series of binary oppositions of gender, class, species, sexuality, race, and disability that structure relations of dominance. On the one hand, the beast is regarded as animality, nature, femininity, the South, the slave, the colonial site, illness, the non-white subject, the abnormal. On the other, the sovereign represents the human or even the superhuman, God, the State, masculinity, the North, health, the white and sexually 'normal' subject. In this order, the figure of the beast is not only the counterpart of the sovereign; the beast also clings to the sovereign as if to a dancing partner. The beast is indeed also the sovereign, as Derrida emphasizes by citing a French play on words: et (and) and est (is).

'The Beast and is the Sovereign' brings together the work of about thirty contemporary artists and is structured around four core aspects: The sacred and the inappropriate use of the sacred; Economies of debt / sacrifice and alternative economies; Dissident bodies: against the orders of species, gender, sexuality, normativity, health, etc.; Modern institutions: crisis, critique, dissolution, and redetermination.

The exhibition has been organized and co-produced by the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart and Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA). It is curated by Hans D. Christ and Iris Dressler, directors of the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Paul B. Preciado, curator of the public program of documenta 14, and Valentín Roma, former chief curator of MACBA.

At the exhibition's premiere this March in Barcelona it came to an éclat when the MACBA director wanted to remove one sculpture shortly before the opening. Neither the curators nor the artists participating in the exhibition were willing to tacitly accept this act of censorship. Our experiences with this conflict finally gave reason to organize a conference asking how far the influence of politics and economics do extend in impacting the program and content of public art institutions in Europe today.


Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart

MACBA – Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona

German Federal Cultural Foundation