Program Type: 
Without Reality There Is No Utopia
February 15, 2013 - June 09, 2013
Downstairs Galleries


Curator's Talk

Without Reality There Is No Utopia
February 15–June 9, 2013
Downstairs Galleries

In the Age of Information, actual reality has been supplanted by virtual reality, computer simulation, and false narratives. Since the concept of utopia is based on the improvement of reality, the disappearance of the real also signals the end of utopia. Without Reality There Is No Utopia illustrates this premise by examining false narratives that masquerade as truth; the collapse of Communism in the 1980s; the current financial crisis, which heralds the demise of Capitalism; the contradictions inherent in geopolitics; and the explosion of democratic uprisings around the world. The exhibition includes work by more than two-dozen international artists, and features works of photography, video, drawing, painting, collage, and more.

The exhibition is organized into two asymmetric sections that consider shifts in global political realities.

Artworks shown on this page:

Federico Guzmán
La bella embalada (The Hurtling Beauty), 2007
Fiberglass, polyester resin, and steel, 425 x 175 x 175 cm
CAAC Collection (Seville, Spain)

Manolo Quejido
Por aquí pasa 3 (El Gran teatro), 2008
Acrylic on canvas
51 3/16 x 76 3/4 in. (130 x
195 cm)
Courtesy of the artist

Carlos Motta
"Me gusta cuando votas xq estas como ausente" from the series Ideological Graffiti, 2005-2008
Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
11 x 14" digital chromogenic print, framed
Courtesy of the artist, Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon and Y Gallery, New York

Dora García
Rooms Conversations. Zimmer Gespräche, 2006
Photographs and video
Courtesy CGAC Permanent Collection, Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Artur Żmijewski
Democracies, 2009
20 video films, 2hr 26min
Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Peter Kilchmann (Zurich, Switzerland) Foksal Gallery Foundation (Warsaw, Poland)

Description of the Lie
In this first section, the artists focus on how truth has been replaced in the media by false narratives created to hide covert operations or secret crimes. Spanish artist Dora García exposes the inner workings of the East German Stasi, which operated as a society within society and Danish artist Lene Berg deconstructs the happy image of a free and educated society whose actions directly respond to plans laid out by the powers that be in order to ensure their supremacy.

The second section, “Collapses,” has four parts:

The Collapse of Communism
This group of artists examines the conditions leading up to, and the aftermath of, the fall of Communism. Included are the works of the Russian collective Chto Delat? (Nikolay Oleynikov), which encourages the viewer to critically engage with the events that took place during the presidency of Mikhail Gorbachev that lead to the demise of the Soviet system.

The Collapse of Capitalism
This section’s focus is on the current world financial crisis, and the premise that the economic collapse was not born out of greed or irresponsibility on the part of individuals or institutions, but rather was the inevitable result of a system based on consumerism, waste and the depletion of the planet's resources. Works in this section include Daniel García Andújar’s Time Line, a chronology of events narrated through media and advertising images; and the Superflex collective’s humorous parody, The Financial Crisis, which suggests the crisis is an illness that can be cured through hypnosis.

The Geopolitical
The artists in this section question the roles of colonialism and the West on recent geopolitical uprisings. Fernando Bryce depicts colonial practices and their "civilising" discourses in his drawings. Through a collection of posters, Lebanese artist Zeina Maastri documents the civil war in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. And Federico Guzmán’s installation illustrates how the consequences of Free Trade Agreements — a new form of global coloniality — affect the everyday practice of citizens.

This section traces the effects of technology on communications, privacy and assembly and how they influence democracy. Among the works are Ed Hall’s banners, which depict the micro-history of recent social struggles in England; Artur Zmijewski’s photographs of demonstrations in Belfast, Berlin, the West Bank, Gaza, Warsaw and Strasbourg, collected both as playful and celebratory events; and Oliver Ressler’s interviews with philosophers, politicians, activists and concerned citizens asking What is Democracy?

Without Reality There Is No Utopia was organized by the Centro Andaluz de Arte Conteporaneo in Seville, Spain; and curated by Alicia Murría, Mariano Navarro and Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes. Artists in the exhibition include: Alfredo Jaar, Artur Zmijewski, Carlos Motta, Chto Delat? (Nikolay Oleynikov), Ciprian Muresan, Daniel García Andujar, Dora García, Ed Hall, El Roto, Federico Guzmán, Fernando Bryce, Ignasi Aballí, Jan Peter Hammer, Judi Werthein, Katya Sander, Lene Berg, Manolo Quejido, Oliver Ressler, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Superflex, Zeina Maasri, and Zhou Xiaohu.

Wall texts are in both English and Spanish.

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  • Exhibition: Without Reality There Is No Utopia
    February 15, 2013 – June 8, 2013
    Downstairs Galleries
  • Exhibition Reception: Without Reality There Is No Utopia
    Feb 15, 2013 5:30pm – 7:00pm
    Grand Lobby

    $10 General Admission
    FREE for YBCA Members and YBCA:You

  • Curator's Talk: Without Reality There Is No Utopia
    Feb 16, 2013 1:00pm – 3:00pm
    Large Conference Room
    FREE with gallery admission

    Join the curators of Without Reality There is No Utopia, Alicia Murría and Mariano Navarro, for a lively discussion on art and politics from a Spanish perspective. We'll begin the conversation with a discussion of the themes and artworks in the exhibition. This talk is in both English and Spanish.

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Related Programs

March 30, 2013

in conjunction with YBCA's newest exhibit Without Reality There Is No Utopia, "A Night of Utopian Gestures" will bring together artists, musicians, and audiences as they explore human agency and question the expected dynamics of public space.

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Curator Statement



Communism »
Capitalism »
The Geopolitical »
Democracy »
About the Curators

Alicia Murría is an art historian and independent curator. She has edited and managed the magazine Artecontexto since 2004. She has also written for Artforum, Art Nexus, and Flash Art. Murría has curated numerous exhibitions, including Collective and associates, Casa de America, Madrid; Terre di nessuno, Fundación Telefónica, Madrid; and Noise of Time, Canal de Isabel II, Madrid.

Mariano Navarro Herranz is an art critic and independent curator. He currently chairs the Board of Visual Arts Critics. He has written for Artecontexto magazine, among others. His exhibitions include Espacios Públicos-Sueños privados, Imágenes de la abstracción: Pintura y escultura españolas 1969-1989, and Andalucía y la modernidad: Del Equipo 57 a la generación de los setenta.

Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes holds a degree in Art History from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He is the director of Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporane. Reyes is a regular contributor to Artecontexto and has written for Le Journal des Arts and Il Giornalle dell'Arte. He was the director of The Art Newspaper from 1998 to 2002. Reyes has curated numerous exhibitions, including Geopolitics of Animation (2007), Phantasmagoria (2007), Animation Sessions (2005), and Single Channel (2003).

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Artist Bio

Ignasi Aballí »
Lene Berg »
Fernando Bryce »
Chto Delat? (Nikolay Oleynikov) »
Dora Garcia »
Daniel Garcia Andújar »
Federico Guzmán »
Ed Hall »
Jan Peter Hammer »
Alfredo Jaar »
Zeina Maasri »
Carlos Motta »
Ciprian Muresan »
Manolo Quejido »
Oliver Ressler »
El Roto »
Katya Sander »
Superflex »
Rirkrit Tiravanija »
Judi Werthein »
Judi Werthein »
Zhou Xiaohu »
Artuz Zmijewski »

YBCA's presentation of Without Reality There Is No Utopia is supported, in part, by the Consulate General of Spain in San Francisco.

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Koret Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Lam Research

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

YBCA Exhibitions 12-13 is made possible in part by:
Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan, Meridee Moore and Kevin King, the Creative Ventures Council, and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Free First Tuesdays
Underwritten by Directors Forum Members

Media Sponsor
The San Francisco Bay Guardian