About Stupidity | Group Exhibition
Petach Tikva Museum of Art
Curators: Diana Dallal and Doreet LeVitte Harten
Albert Einstein once said: “Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” This exhibition might be a testimonial to his insight: stupidity has such an evasive character that to illuminate or define it with visual means equates the heroics of suicidal tendencies, culminating in glorious failure. Furthermore, the line between criticism (namely, an attack on stupidity via art) and a work that draws on the well of stupidity and stems from a void where knowledge is excluded as a precondition for a truly brilliant originality—that line is so thin and fuzzy that it boggles the mind in coming to terms with the very existence of stupidity. That stupidity is enjoying a comeback as a virtue, shedding its negative aura, is evinced by many examples, such as the Diesel campaign, a corporation manufacturing wardrobes for hipsters, launched in 2010 under the title “Be Stupid.” Indeed, 2010 became the year in which “smart” lost its allure, and stupidity began to be regarded as an antidote to the malignancy of intelligence.
Stupidity seems to be a quality that we experience or encounter at every point in our lives. In general, it is a characteristic we ascribe to others, and only rarely, in an afterthought, to ourselves. Some cultural constructs—such as bureaucracy, war, racial or religious prejudice—are stupid by their very nature, but not every stupidity is as stupid as it seems. It can be life saving in many situations, when speaking the truth and following reason may bring upon fall, disgrace, and even loss of one’s own existence.
The most famous remark about stupidity comes from Friedrich Schiller, who asserted in his Maid of Orleans that “against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain,” not that the gods were spared their share of stupidity, bearing in mind the fanatical approach with which they arm their adherents.
Artists have always been fascinated by the notion of stupidity, because they know that the double face of stupidity—as a prerequisite to the making of a good work, but also as a sorry consequence once it fails—requires a special expertise and a state of alertness. They recognized this evasive quality long ago, and have employed it in their service as well as a target to be resisted. In the fine arts, this double nature of stupidity—as a source of inspiration, being the very first sediment of the artwork, and simultaneously, as a negative quality—finds expression in the works of many.
The exhibition thus explores the urgency of stupidity, its hiding places, as well as its public manifestations, and mainly—its Janus-face. The participating artists transpire in the channels of expression which stupidity provides its researchers. Some of their works offer ironical comments, some are full of rage, and yet others accept stupidity as a fact of life with a stoic shrug.