Bold Tendencies, London
Written on the occation of the Bold Tendencies 2019 Visual Arts Programme: Fiction, featuring work from Matt Copson, Liz Glynn, Jenny Holzer, Lawrence Lek, Momtaza Mehri, Konrad Smoleński (30 May — 21 September 2019).
The exhibition text focused on the resurgence of fiction—or ‘fictioning’—as a vehicle for progressive dialgoue in the visual arts and in broader society, stimulated by the rise in post-truth politics and the ability of counter or speculative narratives to enter mainstream discourse.
“Whether we consider past, future or present, fiction has a critical role. It has provided ways of knowing, understanding and interrogating ourselves and our histories; of analysing our cultures and dreaming of future possibilities. Across time and geography, families, creeds, nations and empires have invented and evolved unique forms of fiction particular to their setting, and established its supposed counterparts, fact and truth. With the advance of modernity, the role of fiction in our society began to lose its primacy. In its place came a past chronicled by archeologists and historians, a present analysed by sociologists and psychologists, and a future stewarded by politicians and economists. Fiction was devoured by technocrats, aesthetes, or those preoccupied with social dissolution.
Over the last decade, this ossification has ruptured. Fiction, fact and truth are once again centre stage, tools with which we can reclaim the past, immerse ourselves in the present, and seize our future. A wealth of speculative visions, once resigned to the annals of pulp sci-fi and weird fiction, have re-emerged like the many-headed Hydra, more numerous and potent than ever. No longer the sole copyright of finance or capital, these futures haunt our imagination - phantoms disturbed and awakened; buried relics, unearthed, replenished, and devilishly sharp.
Parallel waves of nostalgia has seen an abundance of suspicion, folklore and myth suffuse the popular imagination. Indeed, if as James Bridle’s eponymous book suggests, we have now entered ‘A New Dark Age’, then where will its renascence lead? Fiction is a form of politics, used to confuse and alienate. It is also a form of hyperstition: a self-fulfilling prophecy, conjuring into existence worlds that began at the tip of a paintbrush or the chime of a harp. Filled as much with utopian promise as they are with apocalyptic sermon, it is our fictions - for better or for worse - that will come to define our future.”