The research-based art project Agents & Provocateurs
surveys certain forms of confrontation: agency and provocation, both understood as dissenting artistic attitudes. Starting out from the counter-cultural scenes of state-socialist East Central Europe, the project asks what sort of critical potential the oppositional artistic positions of the time really had. Was "oppositional" a (self-)chosen stance, or did the narrow confines of a repressive regime constitute dissident thinkers so? Did artists engage with various aspects of social reality under an autocratic political rule, or were they rather concerned over the infringements of their artistic and intellectual freedom?Agents & Provocateurs
goes on asking if within the context of the much-desired democracy, the individual is prepared to take advantage of the situation that democratic power wielding, theoretically, no longer infantilizes, silences, or paralyzes critically-minded individuals but perceives them as potential social actors? In a transformed political climate is the continuing practice of provocation sustainable or dysfunctional in political democracies, or does it reproduce patterns of thinking and acting that were acquired under an oppressive system?
Certainly, any political, economic, social or cultural system has its oppressive features and unjust hierarchies. Agents & Provocateurs
therefore asks how genuinely critical attitudes need to reconfigure again and again in order to capture these? The focus is on instances when artists think of themselves as social agents and are willing to work politically with the "enemy". The predominantly East-Central European cases will be juxtaposed with, and accentuated by, contemporaneous examples from contexts with different political cultures.
The Hungarian title, Illetékesség és provokáció
, borrows the first term, designating one’s concernment, from a writing by Miklós Erdély, Characteristics of post-neoavantgarde behaviour
. According to Erdély, "One must acknowledge one’s involvement with regard to one’s own life and destiny, and adhere to it without compromise." The title's association to Kontroll Csoport’s (Control Group) 1983 song, Informers and Provocateurs
brings into play the other generally known meaning of the English word 'agent'. The lyrics by the underground cult band brings up issues like self-censorship, mocks the fact of surveillance, and flirts with the idea of mutual surveillance.Agents & Provocateurs
originally consisted of an exhibition, film program, lectures and workshops. As an afterlife of the show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Dunaújváros
, a revisited and complemented version of the exhibition was shown at the Hartware MedienKunstVerein in Dortmund in 2010.