National Panties is an exhibition, presented by Museum of Contemporary Cuts at Contemporary Istanbul, of Lanfranco Aceti’s recent artworks that focus on issues related to contemporary economic disparities and social crisis. Curated by Gulsen Bal, the exhibition is composed of a site specific installation and three new video works titled Present which follow the Financial Triptych exhibited at Milkshake Agency (Geneva) and curated by Artemis Potamianou and Giorgos Papadatos. National Panties is based on a series of public space interventions that took place across the world and that were initially exhibited at the Abandon Normal Devices (AND) Festival in Manchester in 2012. Since then the artist has traveled to a range of locations and documented the installation of these panties in front of major world sites or obscure but nevertheless significant places that have shaped the current socio-political/economic conflicts and divides. Like flags, the underwear fly in the face of political and social constructs, economic regimes and cultural servitudes.

These conflicts and divides embody a return to nationalistic policies and national pride as a response to globalized corporate failures and supra-governmental bureaucratic constructions which have prioritized economics over social welfare and human rights. Cyprus, Athens, London, Rome and New York are some of the cities which have shaped both the news and the imaginary of a crisis that has affected millions of people and reverberated around the globe.

The viewer, in Aceti’s installation, is caught between a range of polemical debates that reveal the entrenched divisions within contemporary globalized political discourses on society and economics. The artworks are rooted in the prejudices towards and lack of understanding of contemporary labor conditions within which exist the miserably poor as well as increasingly larger strata of population excluded from any benefits and economic advantages. It becomes impossible, therefore, to distinguish between ‘savage and civilized nations,’ as Adam Smith did, in a post-postmodern society where the ultimate globalized goal is that of the exploitation of the weakest by the richest. The contemporary post-state and its post-democratic structures, in the words of Smith, are validated by the ruthlessness with which entire strata of the population have been condemned to misery.

“Such nations [savage nations], however, are so miserably poor, that, from mere want, they are frequently reduced, or, at least, think themselves reduced, to the necessity sometimes of directly destroying, and sometimes of abandoning their infants, their old people, and those afflicted with lingering diseases, to perish with hunger, or to be devoured by wild beasts.” [1]

In Aceti’s work the savagery of contemporary capitalisms and contemporary nationalisms becomes a fluttering ‘operetta’; an already seen mediated fanatic confrontation of which all is known and that leaves the viewer mired in a constant presence: that of a present, intended as time and gift, that is both ever different and ever the same and that never ends.

[1] Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1976), 2.

Thanks to Plugin director Ceren Arkman.

Exhibition Dates: November 13, 14, 15, 16, 2014. Preview November 12, 2014.
Curator: Gulsen Bal
@ Contemporary Istanbul.