6 January 1982: First hour
Finally, again at the end of a passage I did not read to you, there is the famous comparison of Socrates and the horsefly, the insect that chases and bites animals, making them restless and run about. The care of one-self is a sort of thorn which must be stuck in men’s flesh, driven into their existence, and which is a principle of restlessness and movement, of continuous concern throughout life.
The contemporary relevance of a reflection on the concept of “care” and, specifically, of “self-care”, stands on the socio-political background of the continuous and normalised iper-mediation of our subjectivity: our persona is constantly asked to perform, within and throughout the emotional, political, and private spheres of our existence. This extended performance fosters the daily construction of fictitious selves, main characters of narrations and iconographies that describe authentic, un-mediated, un-filtered moments. In the meanwhile, the corporative machine is more and more deeply appropriating traditional practices of “self-care”, as transcendental meditation or other techniques of preservation of mental balance – a feature strongly needed today to maintain the constant productivity we self-impose to ourselves.
Are there interstices within our restless agendas where one can try to activate practices of autonomy? Which are the blind spots and free zones in which one can practice experiments of unexpected, unproductive, individual reflection? Self-care while smoking proposes an emancipatory cigarette break, trying to use the demonisation of this intimate practice as a platform to share a comunal moment, that may sanction a collective passage of identity and condition. The collective experience staged by the exhibition co-exists and dialogues with the broadcasting of a selection of passages read from the courses held by Michel Foucault in 1981-82 at the Collège de France. These passages, broadcasted through headphones in four different stations in the main space of the exhibition, overlap with the narrations proposed by the artists on show, not to describe or interpret the artists’ artworks, but rather to build a specific space for contemplation, thanks to the suggestion of a different rhythm of fruition.
The courses held by Michel Foucault in 1981-82 at the Collège de France represent a pivotal moment in the research of the French philosopher, in which his interest in power and its repressive nature in society shifts towards a more constructive interpretation of the former. The theme of power, starting from these years, indentifies with Foucault's research about “the subject”, and its relationship with the idea of Truth. These two concepts are linked together in the “techniques of the self”, those processes that exist in every culture and are able to transform, dialogue with, and preserve one’s own identity thanks to the nourishment of self-empowerment and self-awareness. If Foucault previously aimed at unveiling the power structures on which Western modern society is based, in the 80s the philosopher focuses on the study of Greek classic culture, to research an emancipated kind of subject, not constructed and objectified anymore but rather a subject that can shape itself autonomously through the practice of the the aforementioned techniques.
Installation shots: Marco Schiavone