This lecture is introduced by Melanie Peters.
If the current “western condition” is by and large defined by fear, what place does artistic and intellectual practice actually have within such troubled circumstances? What possibilities do artists have to respond to the present urgencies? The project Citizens and Subjects, the three-part Dutch contribution to the 52nd Venice Biennale, presents one such possibility. It is comprised of Aernout Mik’s video and architectural installation in the Dutch Pavilion in Venice, a critical reader with contributions by artists and scholars working in the Netherlands and this series of lectures and seminars, all of which reflect in various ways on the enduring anxiety, stemming from myriad real or imagined threats, acutely palpable in the (so-called) West. In dialogue with the protocol that the Venice Biennale imposes—as a forum in which a large number of countries from all around the world contribute (and compete) with “national representations” in their national pavilions—Citizens and Subjects explores the interplays between current notions of the nation-state and the assumed dangers that it finds necessary to deter preemptively through increased “security” measures. Immigration and terrorism are prime sources of the looming danger in this rhetoric of the West to which we are all subjected; it is a rhetoric that has become our new “normal” through its ceaseless repetition in politics and the media. In this introductory lecture to the series Citizens and Subjects: Practices and Debates, Aernout Mik and Maria Hlavajova discuss these concerns as a paradigm of our contemporaneity and offer their views on how we might imagine another possible kind of reality through art.