Phillipe Pirotte.

Curator Talk with Philippe Pirotte

August 8, 2015 – 3pm to 4:30pm

Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, in collaboration with La Biennale de Montréal, is honoured to present “An Unpardonable Sin: The Exhibition I Imagine,” a talk by distinguished curator Philippe Pirotte on Saturday, August 8th at 3PM.

Pirotte will speak on his work as a curator of contemporary art and his research as an art historian in a discussion of subject, object and desire. Of his talk, Pirotte notes: “The Marquis de Sade struggled with the paradoxes of the bourgeois principle of formal equality. His project of a “democracy of pleasure” comes up against the fact that democracy can only be a democracy of subjects (the signifier): there is no democracy of the object. The respective realms of fantasy – mostly expressed in the arts – and symbolic law are not comparable. In other words, it is a characteristic of fantasy to resist universalization. Fantasy is the absolutely individual way in which someone gives structure to his/her “impossible” relation to the thing. To classical human rights, Sade adds the right of pleasure, which complicates things in an extreme way. How to take on a critical position in relation to fundamental sentiments such as the interpersonal and the philanthropic, which are more and more often turned into a do-good and feel-good art-moralism (rendering them both condescending and useless)? Could we try to invoke the laughter of resistance in an attempt to squeeze some measure of freedom out of our peremptory and obstructionist universe, against the political, bureaucratic, linguistic and theoretical machines that hold art and language to ransom? Would that be a way out of the vicious circle of the subversive – each critique in the cultural field being not only immediately absorbed but also turned into a cultural good? The exhibition I am imagining becomes a space that doesn’t search for a process of action and reaction but informs us about ourselves – uninvited. In that sense it does not provide solace, because things are not necessarily revealing themselves as truths. It is a space of the mistake, where one can go astray.”

Philippe Pirotte is an art historian, curator, critic, and director of the Städelschule Academy of Fine Arts, a leading center for contemporary art in Germany and beyond. Pirotte was the founding director of the contemporary art center objectif_exhibitions in Antwerp, Belgium. From 2005 to 2011, he was Director of the internationally renowned Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland where he organized solo exhibitions by artists such as Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Owen Land, Oscar Tuazon, Jutta Koether, Allan Kaprow, and Corey McCorkle. Since 2004, Pirotte has held the position of Senior Advisor of the Rijksakademie for Visual Arts in Amsterdam, and in 2012 he became Adjunct Senior Curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Plug In ICA gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council as well as generous donors, dedicated members and hardworking volunteers.

La Biennale de Montréal sincerely thanks the Goethe Institut and the Federal Foreign Office whose support has made Mr. Pirotte’s research possible.

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For media inquiries please contact: Janique Vigier at or by telephone at (204) 942-1043 ext 27.