Life of the Mind is now on view through March 15.
Life of the mind is an exhibition comprising three parts, each probing what exactly employers are asking of us while we are on the job. Any and all work requires an output, and when we sell our labor, that labor consists of some combination of physical and mental energies. Through the projects in this exhibition, Burak Delier, Vesna Pavlović and Pilvi Takala examine the context and costs of that transaction on our mental lives.
The title of the exhibition is taken from moral philosopher Hannah Arendt’s (1906–1975) final work of the same name. Life of the Mind (posthumously published in two volumes in 1977 and 1978) begins with a quote from Cato the Elder (234–149 BCE) “Never is he more active than when he does nothing, never is he less alone than when he is by himself”. Arendt saw modernity as an age of bureaucratic administration filled with anonymous labor, dominated by elites who manipulate public opinion. Arendt’s perspective was shaped by her experience under totalitarianism, and it is as relevant in the present day as ever. Today, the consequences of neoliberal capitalism and increased authoritarianism here and elsewhere are exponentially amplified by deindustrialization, automation and Artificial Intelligence, which are reshaping not only workplaces, but the mental lives of white collar workers all over the globe.
We all seek to be free, and to think and do what we want, but in order to survive under any economic system, most of us need to go to work. Many of us take pride in our careers, and for those who do, it’s an integral part of our personal identity. Through the work of these three artists, we don’t find satisfying or tidy answers to questions about personal and professional boundaries, but instead are given further avenues of inquiry about the norms, compromises, and control that our workplaces offer in exchange for what we hope amounts to a living wage.
Life of the Mind was curated and organized by MAG Gallery Director Paul M. Nicholson. Catalogs for this show will be available starting Monday, February 10th.