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Paradox Newsletter February 2024

GIGA at Foam, Amsterdam - Ganslmeier and Zibelnik exposing right-wing strategies online

Detail from the video sculpture Bereitschaft by Jakob Ganslmeier and Ana Zibelnik, 2024

Right-wing extremism has been on the rise worldwide in recent years. Artist duo Jakob Ganslmeier (1990, DE) and Ana Zibelnik (1995, SI) bring together seemingly innocent images from social media platforms to investigate how radicalisation takes shape in the online environment today.

GIGA consists of video works that offer a closer look at the dangerous undertones of cynical humor, the fascination with and ‘justification’ of violence, and the enormous influence of popular internet meme figures such as Wojak and GigaChad. The title of the exhibition is taken from the popular use of the word ‘giga’ on social media and refers to grandeur and commanding respect.

GIGA combines two works that originate from the travelling Paradox exhibition If a Tree Feel in a Forest with a new work: Bereitschaft (readiness). In this video sculpture, the duo analyzes contemporary Tiktok trends that prescribe rigorous physical routines and call for a return to a conservative ideal of masculinity. The work shows how a fitness ideal can lead to misogynistic messages and images that refer to ‘Aryan’ ideas. Although much material cannot initially be identified as far-right, Ganslmeier and Zibelnik map a pattern of how popular imagery is indeed adopted by far-right groups to increase their reach. The artist duo shows parallels with historical Nazi propaganda material, using a glossary of terms to decipher a code language that shows that Nazi history is unfortunately still not a thing of the past.

Join us at the opening at Foam 3h on March 7, 17-19h! The exhibition, curated by Mirjam Kooiman (Foam) runs from March 8 – May 26, 2024

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Russia and state violence - Update on Suppressed by the Saviour

Yuri Dmitriev, detained since 2020 on false grounds, at his home. Dmitriev was chairman of Memorial. Photo: Hester den Boer, 2014

On February 24, 2022, exactly two years ago now, Wladimir Putin started a horrific war in Ukraine. In retrospect, this war seems like the culmination of a decade in which Russia’s domestic politics became increasingly repressive, the propaganda machine worked overtime and history was rewritten. Stalin, the Soviet leader who killed millions of people during his rule (1924-1953), was increasingly revered as a hero instead of despised as a mass murderer.

From 2009 to 2016, independent photographer and journalist Hester den Boer (1981) visited former camp locations in Russia, interviewed victims of Stalinist terror, spoke to researchers who were themselves persecuted and met Russians longing for a strong leader. She shows how under Putin’s regime Stalin was increasingly placed on a pedestal. Above all, he is the victor of the Second World War and the architect of the Soviet Union as a superpower. Even victims of the Stalin regime sometimes believe that Stalin’s suppression was necessary to maintain order in the country.

Onderdrukt door de verlosser (‘Suppressed by the Saviour’, in Dutch only) published in 2019 by Atlas Contact, received rave reviews from NRC and other media. Concurrently, Paradox and Hester den Boer realised Suppressed by the Saviour, a web based narrative as well as an exhibition which premiered at De Melkweg Gallery Amsterdam. The stories, show how unprocessed traumas of the Stalinist terror and the denial of this past provide the breeding ground for new violence. The ongoing war in Ukraine and the ruthless killing of Alexei Navalny painfully illustrate the relevance of the project. How could Russia under Putin, after a period of relative freedom, so easily fall back into the mechanisms of oppression and violence? The web stories (in English, Russian and Dutch) have been updated and the exhibition has been made available again for circulation.

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Counting on Nature - planet repair?

Photographer/filmmaker Hans van der Meer and Paradox are currently developing Counting on Nature - De metende mens portraying environmental monitoring in the Netherlands.

No other country has collected more data per square kilometer on air, water and soil conditions as well as the flora and fauna than the Netherlands. The photographs and short films show the essential work behind understanding our living environment and the way we relate to nature. The accompanying texts reveal the importance of collecting and interpreting data in battling the challenges we are facing today, contributing to making the move from the Anthropocene to the Symbiocene.

De Volkskrant, a prominent Dutch newspaper, pre-published seven stories in 2019, eight more stories were released recently in 2023-2024. With the support of the TAUW Foundation and the Mondriaan Fund, Paradox and Hans van der Meer are in the process of turning this planet repair-oriented project into a book, a web app and exhibition. Stay tuned!

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