Michael Mandiberg
The Society of Individuals

MoCA Busan
12.11.2020 - 05.02.2021


The Society of Individuals
Museum of Contemporary Art Busan, Korea
December 11, 2020 – May 2, 2021

Curated by Kang Sunjoo

Artists: Song Sejin, Harun Farocki, Michael Mandiberg, Ryu Sungsil, Lim Bongho, Seo Pyoungjoo, Son Hyekyung, Lee Woosung

The Society of Individuals aims to realize the social relationship between human beings as the bearer of capitalist production relations and the social relationship of the human through the concrete images of the reality of individuals in our time captured by contemporary artists, and examine the substance and implication of “individuals as free agents” requested by our times. In particular, with the neo-liberalistic prospect that emerges without resolving capitalism’s contradictions, it tries to pay attention to “individuals” as the bearer of contradictions in production relations covered by identity change to a de-classified society.

The abstract concept of “individuals” inheriting modern traditions is an independent human being who lives with respect for its uniqueness in liberty, democracy, and equality. The specific aspects of individuals responding to this concept have changed little by little, renewed in the process of collective struggle and conquest, as seen in numerous historical events around the world. The historical process leads us to look into the fact that it is not entirely up to the individual to live while maintaining their uniqueness liberally, but rather to form and transform with the real-life conditions that society has created. Likewise, concepts such as liberty, democracy, and equality used to describe “individuals” must be looked at to see how they are implemented in the society to which they belong. The fact that the abstract concept of “individual” can appear in different forms in different societies suggests that even “individuals” cannot be separated from the material and mental values pursued by the society and are forced to be practiced in historical and social relationships.

The fact that the social condition of capitalist production relationships is closely linked to the formation of abstract and specified concepts of “individuals” as human beings and that individuals are bound to exist as mere components of the system is still a crisis for individuals. As we have to develop ourselves as a commercialized labor force in a distorted way, we live in a society that constitutes individuals who are gradually becoming objectified, isolated, and pathologizing. Here, the individual is dissolved into a liberal agent’s image, and each self-sustaining and self-destructing in a competitive economic system. The genuinely liberal individuals whose society ultimately develops by developing themselves for themselves, this society is not yet complete.

In this exhibition, we will look at how “individuals” change into practical forms when capitalism transforms into various appearances in the artworks produced by contemporary artists. It focuses on images that pass through various realities such as moving image, political speeches, and assembly sites through entries. A record of changes demolishes the image as a laborer in the imaged of individual scattered. It gazes at the individual’s self-rule in today’s free-contract labor environment and the resulting psychological, physical, and class situation. It also looks into the contradictions between surfaces and the depths of the liberal, democratic, and ideologies of equality that constitute our time’s individual concept. Finally, It tries to grasp the reality of our times by counting the contradictions and conditions of production relations that are still bound to be projected on humans in another aspect of capitalism as a neo-liberalistic economic system.

These attempts are a way of understanding our reality, an effort to recognize contemporary art, and critically grasp what the planning and conditions that constitute and lead human life and society today are. Hopefully, these efforts will ultimately serve as a venue to ask about the possibility of a change to a new society through rumination and reflections on reality. In other words, it suggests to look into the contemporary era to think about the theory and practice toward a new society that can reconstruct human relations beyond the retrogression of individuals and society that is distorted in the capitalist human existence and its social relationships.

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