You Must Change Your Life refers to the book of the same name by the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. In this book, Sloterdijk draws our attention to the ethics of human existence. Man isn’t simply satisfied with life as it is given to him. He is continuously working to change it. Sloterdijk sees man as an acrobatic being capable of superhuman feats due to his anthropotechnical qualities (= the art of being human). He is constantly balanced between falling and standing upright and endeavours to transcend his natural condition through rituals, exercise and training. Through all this Sloterdijk sees a way of strengthening one’s ‘immunity’: external dangers can in fact be averted.
In line with Sloterdijk’s analysis, the neuroscientist Israel Rosenfield emphasises similar, yet more material (physiological/bodily), qualities of human existence. Rosenfield studies the behaviour of the brain and memory. He stresses that both have made evolutionary changes in order to aid the body’s movement in space. The world as we know it is a three-dimensional construction of space ‘invented’ by our brain that we are continuously scanning with our senses. This idea has many similarities with Sloterdijk’s vision of the anthropotechnical capabilities of humans. The urge for immunity, change, and the invention of space also play an important role for Rosenfield in understanding the behaviour of the brain and memory. According to Rosenfield our memory doesn’t store anything, but rather our brain creates a dynamic network of associations that are evoked by external triggers (situations).
Taking Rosenfield and Sloterdijk’s argument for change and adaptation as a point of departure, Artefact poses questions about the human capacity to transcend itself. Where are the boundaries of human plasticity and how do we bring about a genuinely new relationship with the external world? Is this set into motion by a self-initiated change (Sloterdijk) or by external circumstances (Rosenfield)?
The works shown in the Artefact expo are mainly related to Sloterdijk’s notion of self-transcendence. Nevertheless, Rosenfield’s ideas also play a role in various exhibited works. What is a human being? How does his body relate to himself and to those of other people? What kind of impact does the environment have on our consciousness? And how do humans relate to their ever-changing environment? Gaining an awareness of our environment is one of the first necessary steps in order to change our lives. Although many thinkers have tackled this subject before it still remains to be relevant today. Just as Sloterdijk argues, the Expo adopts the position that life is a journey in which internal thrive has a direct influence on its (external) surroundings. Artefact 2015 is a metaphorical quest through the visual arts for possible answers to the questions Sloterdijk poses.
Contrary to what one might expect, You Must Change Your Life is not an imperative for how you should change your life. It is an appeal for the plasticity of humanity. Man’s need to continually change in order to survive, but also man’s desire to change in order to transcend himself. Nothing stands still, everything is in constant flux, and man moves with it.
In the STUK Expozaal and on the STUK Binnenplein there are works about the idea of balance and harmony, and the role that the body and body image play in this. Man is continually moving to literally retain his balance, to remain standing. Nothing happens by its own accord. Finding balance has a direct relationship with both our body image and our brain’s capacity to understand how our body is positioned in a space. This section of the exhibition also addresses the question of what man is and how he relates to himself and to other people through his body.
The STUK Verbeeckzaal and the STUK Studio are organised according to the different work’s specific to dynamic parameters, such as light, space, play and people. Through their work these artists research how one relates to the constant transformation of those specific parameters. A number of these are static (e.g. the space), while others are dynamic (e.g. the instruments). By mediating between the space and the instruments, players and visitors decide what they see or hear.
Finally, in the STUK Ateliers and the STUK Paviljoenzaal, there are works in which man’s struggle with himself and his surroundings are key themes. Man exercises resistance and therefore, at times, has the capacity to excel. Practice and perseverance are necessary in order to move forward. On the one hand he fights to sustain himself, on the other he is capable of advancing even further and making the impossible possible. With this additional step, man turns his environment to his own advantage.