The Beast and The Sovereign at MACBA

I visited The Beast and The Sovereign at MACBA with a professor/curator/mentor from my MA Program, Victoria Sacco.

We paused the longest in front of Edgar Endress’ Acts of Knowledge.

Haute Couture 04 Transport | © Leo Eloy / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

Haute Couture 04 Transport | © Leo Eloy / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

This exhibition is arguably one of the most powerful exhibitions of contemporary art I’ve ever seen... and not just because of the sculpture of the Spanish King taking it in the butt…

(you can read about the controversy of this exhibition here and here)

In the words of artist Edgar Endress about his series:

The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge is a Chinese Encyclopedia described by Jose Luis Borges, where an alternative taxonomy is listed:

  1. those that belong to the Emperor,

  2. embalmed ones,

  3. those that are trained,

  4. suckling pigs,

  5. mermaids,

  6. fabulous ones,

  7. stray dogs,

  8. those included in the present classification,

  9. those that tremble as if they were mad,

  10. innumerable ones,

  11. those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,

  12. others,

  13. those that have just broken a flower vase,

  14. those that from a long way off look like flies.

This classification explore the arbitrariness (and cultural specificity) of any attempt to categorize the world and demonstrates an "other" to our system of thought. In Foucault's book the "Order of Things", Foucault explicates an "archaeological" investigation of knowledge acquisition; he also comments on the fragility of our current means of understanding the world. For Foucault reasoning is the ultimate act of control, delivered through the power of representation to confirm an objective order. Acts of Knowledge begins with a text found in an old social studies text used in U.S. classrooms. This educational text delivers a structural form of knowledge and a series of narratives about the similar and the other. Acts of Knowledge uses the primary forms of knowledge -the encyclopedia- to question the structure imposed by the reasoning. In that context, the acts of estrangement and the visual structuring of the dictionary and the encyclopedias through collages questions the categorization, knowledge, and the arbitrariness of otherness. 

View more of Edgar’s work here.

this youtube video provides a nice recap of the exhibition experience:


exhibition verbiage from the MACBA website:



17 OCT. 2015 - 17 JAN. 2016 

Württembergischer Kunstverein (WKV) Stuttgart

The exhibition is an exploration of how contemporary artistic practices question and deconstruct the Western and metaphysical definition of political sovereignty: their new way of understanding freedom and emancipation beyond individual autonomy, as well as the modern form of the nation-state.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from the last seminar conducted by Jacques Derrida in 2002-3, on the limits of political sovereignty in the metaphysical tradition. For the French philosopher, the beast and the sovereign are the two allegorical figures in politics that have traditionally stood above the law: the beast that supposedly ignores the law and the sovereign whose power is defined precisely by his capacity to uphold the law. This ontotheological division produces a series of binary oppositions of genre, class, species, sexuality, race and disability that structure the relations of dominance. On the one hand, the beast regarded as animality, nature, femininity, the South, the slave, the colonial site, the coloured subject, the abnormal. On the other, the sovereign representing the human and even superhuman, God, the State, masculinity, the North, the white and sexually normal subject. Is sovereignty possible beyond power? Can sovereignty occur by questioning these relations of dominance?

With works by Efrén Álvarez, Ángela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría, Peggy Buth, Martin Dammann, Ines Doujak and John Barker, Juan Downey, Edgar Endress, Oier Etxeberria, León Ferrari, Eiko Grimberg, Masist Gül (presented by Banu Cennetoğlu and Philippine Hoegen), Ghasem Hajizadeh, Jan Peter Hammer, Geumhyung Jeong, Glenda León, Julia Montilla, Rabih Mroué, Ocaña, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Prabhakar Pachpute, Mary Reid Kelley, Jorge Ribalta, Hans Scheirl, Wu Tsang, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Yelena Vorobyeva and Victor Vorobyev, Sergio Zevallos.

Curators: Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma.
Exhibition organized and co-produced by the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and the Württembergischer Kunstverein (WKV) Stuttgart.