Neutral. Often used in international relations to designate “a country that has officially decided to be neutral towards the belligerents in a war”, the term jumped into Fernanda Brenner’s mind when putting together the first Mendes Wood DM exhibition in Brussels. The country, home of the Brazilian gallery’s newest enterprise, has declared neutrality at least twice throughout history. But to what extent is it possible to remain impartial in the name of stability?
For Brenner, the answer can be found in a seminar on the subject delivered by Roland Barthes in 1978, in Collège de France. According to the French philosopher, “neutral” is neither a consensus, nor indifference, nor taking sides. In truth, writes Brenner, for Barthes the the term means “a way of ‘baffling’ the paradigm before it leads us to one side or the other. If there is meaning, there is paradigm, and Neutral is the desire to stay in the moment just before the crystallisation of any concept, idea or recognizable category.”
It is then this “Barthesian Neutral” that guides “Neither”, on view since Tuesday at Mendes Woods DM Brussels. Featuring over 40 artists, including former PIPA Prize nominees Adriano Costa and Lucas Arruda, every artwork in the exhibition “holds the seed of this floating ‘neutral’ in itself’”. “Some do not subscribe to any specific category, deliberately staying in the margins of language. Others echo the ‘figures’ or ‘twinklings’ quoted by Barthes as possible embodiments of the Neutral, as androgyny, sleep, displacement, drift, weariness or colourlessness,” comments Brenner. All, however, “find a third term to offer a new kind of awareness, removed from binary oppositions.”
Curated by Fernanda Brenner
On view from April 18th to June 17th, 2017