Machines à Penser
Fondazione Prada, Venedig
– 25 November 2018
The exhibition “Machines à Penser” takes as its theme the work of three philosophers, who produced their deepest thoughts whilst in exile or fleeing their homeland. It looks at the relationship between exile, flight, and sanctuary as well as physical and mental places for reflecting, thinking, and intellectual productions.
The exhibition focuses on three philosophers Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) who were driven into exile or needed to flee on account of political circumstances. Their works are arranged on two storeys in the context of contemporary art and architecture, which also use inspiration from the situation of departure or represent spatial notions of it.
Heidegger’s thoughts are presented on the first floor of the exhibition building. He spent a long period in a remote cabin in the Black Forest, which has been reconstructed in the space and shows various contemporary artworks such as photographs and ceramics. Heidegger used the little cabin in Todtnauberg im Schwarzwald to find the peace he needed to write his articles. In the 1930s, he questioned the world view of Western philosophy and described a metaphysical world changed by technology. During the period of National Socialism, he advocated a change of the general world view, the “National Socialist Revolution”, as he called it, and supported the views of the NSDAP. In 1933, he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Freiburg where he supported the Nazi’s political education, and held a week-long “knowledge camp” for selected students in his Black Forest Todtnauberger cabin. For this reason, he was retired in 1945 and banned from teaching.
The theme of flight is also highly topical today on account of for example the civil wars in Syria and Myanmar, and which visitors to the exhibition will be aware of. The presentation of contemporary works could be seen as a reflection of this, yet the three philosophical ambassadors hail from an era that weighed far more heavily on their work than the fact that the works were written in exile. The philosophers’ actual story and statements should not be seen in a romantic light and thus inspire artists to imitate them.
The Fondazione Prada comprises three exhibition houses for present day art and culture in Milan and Venice, which intend to promote a dialogue with contemporary artists.