Murray Guy is very pleased to announce an exhibition comprising works and performances by Leonor Antunes, Gregg Bordowitz, Joachim Koester, Ulrike Müller, Hannah Rickards, John Smith, Sergei Tcherepnin, and Emily Wardill. Please join us for the following events:
The exhibition takes its title from Bruno Latour’s 2005 book Reassembling the Social, in which Latour, an eminent French sociologist, seeks to liquidate the concepts of “the social” and “social relations.” Citing Margaret Thatcher’s famous quip that “there is no such thing as society,” he argues that “the social” is not something that exists or explains or lies behind human relations, but rather, something which, with great difficulty, must be constantly and provisionally assembled out of traces, displacements, translations, enrollments, and movements.
In place of “the social,” Latour’s text is structured around a series of uncertainties: How are groups never formed but always in formation? How is every action always overtaken by multiple agencies? How do objects have agency? What standards or formats circulate from site to site? What counts as an empirical fact? Rather than settling or resolving these controversies, he proposes a new “sociology of associations” that would embrace them, actively deploying uncertainties in order to collect the many traces and connections that are constantly drawn and redrawn around them.
Latour writes of the “sociologist of associations”: “If his descriptions remain always incomplete, open-ended, hesitant, if they begin midway and stop for no special reason, this is not a weakness on his part but the result of his extreme attention to the vagaries of experience.”
The differences between art and sociology go without saying: they employ different techniques, technologies, formats, and modes of circulation. But if sociology is no longer a “science of the social” and is instead more like a “tracing of associations,” can we imagine artworks that might offer accounts like those compiled by Latour’s new sociologist? But perhaps ones characterized by different modes of associating (of tying things together), and different types of risk?
This exhibition is conceived as a prompt for asking how artworks might deploy and multiply uncertainties, compelling viewers to look closely at the forces they collect, the displacements they enact, and the associations they draw. But in contrast to any “deconstructive mood” or an idealized version of “not-knowing,” the uncertainty produced by the assembled artworks and events could be said to correspond directly with a “continuous and obsessive attention,” one that circulates widely, following connections wherever they may lead. Many of the works in the exhibition ask the viewer to consider what types of knowledges—e.g. historical, scientific, technical, aesthetic—might be brought to bear on them, while others—like the “sociologist of associations” who must self-reflexively track his or her own moves while compiling an account—demand that the viewer consider the uncertainties, capacities, and boundaries of human perception.