by Lars Bang Larsen, Cristina Ricupero, and Nicolaus Schafhausen

In the 1970s, the “progressive parties” which appeared in Scandinavia -- anti-tax parties formed as a reaction against the Social-Democratic welfare state -- were at the beginning of a return to right-wing populism in the Western Europe. Before that, populist movements were connected to big political ideologies, from socialism to fascism. In recent decades political populism has developed new nationalist discourses, while supporting global markets as well as global Western culture. Today these movements offer relief for a neo-liberal democratic consensus against the left, by delivering antagonistic or over-simplified responses to complex situations that have sapped the foundation of state power.

What do these movements have in common? What is populist ideology and strategy? In what ways is art or the aesthetic part of a populist sentiment?

In the spring of 2005, NIFCA, the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, presents Populism, an exhibition project which will discuss populism as a current social, artistic and political trend. The exhibition will include works and projects by around 40 international artists and artists groups, half of these being new commissions.

The exhibition will take place in four cities: at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius; The National Museum for Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo; Frankfurter Kunstverein, and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In an attempt to communicate broadly -- and as a different way of structuring the way art exhibitions are organised and toured -- the exhibitions are to open concurrently. Seminars will also be held in different venues to elaborate on central issues. Apart from a catalogue that will document the exhibitions, a theoretical book will be published in advance of the exhibition, introducing new research linked to the theme. In this way, the exhibitions and its publications will investigate various representational forms forged by populisms. In addition, collaborations with media partners will present artists’ projects and publish relevant texts in each country before and during the time of the exhibition.

Populism aims at shedding light on the new populist experience by reflecting the shift to new, mass media based politics which embody new ways of aestheticising the political and which go beyond traditional party divisions. A critical departure point for the project is also how mass audiences are increasingly organised around contemporary art and are used for the branding of cities and the forging of new lifestyles. In this way, the Populism project addresses the ambivalences and antagonisms within a populist reality. Populism is a political exhibition because of its involvement in and working through of populist discourses and practices. Through this, it is our hope to participate in the public debate about the fleeting, yet urgently present phenomenon of populism.



POPULISM is a project initiated by Lars Bang Larsen, Cristina Ricupero and Nicolaus Schafhausen, and produced by NIFCA, the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main, the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

POPULISM is developed through a network of artists, curators and theorists who are brought together to debate the themes related to populism and elaborate a discourse together:

Board of institutional advisors:

Ina Blom from the Department of art History IAKK, University of Oslo
Leontine Coelewij from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam
Lolita Jablonskiene from the Contemporary Art Information Centre in Vilnius
Gavin Jantjes from The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo
Maaretta Jaukkuri from the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim
and Vanessa Joan Müller, Frankfurter Kunstverein.

Lars Bang Larsen, Cristina Ricupero and Nicolaus Schafhausen. 
Exhibition Co-ordinator: Nathalie Aubret.

The graphic profile for Populism is designed by M/M Paris.
The graphic profile for populism2005.com is designed by Henri Tani.
The Populism logo is designed by Liam Gillick.