Against the General Good/ Contra el Bien General

September 17—December 3, 2022

Click here to take a virtual guided tour of Against the General Good/ Contra el Bien General, available in English and Spanish.

In Against the General Good/ Contra el Bien General, artistic duo Bergman & Salinas present a new series of conceptual works including sculptures, wall-mounted mixed-media, photography, painting on canvas, sound, and text works. This body of work critiques how systems of capitalism corral the commons, against the general good for humans and non-humans alike. The title is borrowed from a print from “The Disasters of War” series (produced between 1810–1820) by painter and printmaker Francisco Goya (1746–1828). 

Bergman & Salinas propose viewpoints on landforms through a series of works examining the commons and the public domain, offering circumventions to taken-for-granted living in capitalism. Their works critique social norms, inviting viewers to consider the psychic and environmental implications of business-as-usual. Drawing attention to patented seeds and resulting land use, the artists use symbolic materials to draw attention to the planned failure of capitalist efforts to allocate resources responsibly, which ripple into problems ranging from false scarcity to mass species extinction. Works included in the exhibition include an eponymous artist’s book (2022) composed of a chapter from Das Kapital by Karl Marx alternating with public domain photos from the United States Department of Agriculture and arranged on the floor will be given away, paired with packets of public domain, open-source, and non-patented seeds, splattered with sumi ink. The work will be joined by Bergman & Salinas’s large-scale series of 84 sumi ink paintings on appropriated prints of Goya’s classic etching series, “The Disasters of War” (2020–2022), which impresses the physical and mental impact of war—equating conventional war waged among nation-states with extractive practices upon human bodies and the environment. The artists also include an essay “Ink as Material” (2022), a sound piece Consuming Nature (2021), and a series of monumentalized seed patents that were revoked or canceled in Monument to the Public Domain (2022), as part of the exhibition, suggesting alternative strategies, in a gesture toward collective possibilities beyond capitalism. As a conceptual thread throughout the works, sustainably-produced Sumi offers a subversive alternative as a shared cultural material, made from the soot of burnt organic material, usually trees—hinting at the ongoing threat of wildfires—and offers a way to think with the current state of the planet in drastic climate change. 

The exhibition will run in parallel with a free series of public workshops and lectures entitled, The Commons: towards reclaiming collective power, hosted by Bergman & Salinas during two short-term residencies in September and November 2022 at Artspace New Haven. The series will feature scholars, poets, knowledge keepers, and local partners whose work expand affinities and perspectives of seed sovereignty and ecologies. Participants include: Doreen Abubakar, Urban Environmentalist and Founder and Executive Director of the Community Place-making Engagement Network; Jack Kloppenberg, Professor Emeritus of Community & Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Gerald Torres, Professor of Environmental Justice at the Yale School of the Environment; Vishwas Satgar, Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa; alongside Ronny Lec, Mayan Ancestral Knowledge keeper from the Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura (IMAP); and poets Rae Armantrout, Adjua Gargi Nzinga Greaves, Sky Hopinka, and Joan Naviyuk Kane; Chef Steve Roberts; and Common Ground for a family planting workshop.

Exhibition and Graphic Design: Studio Remco Van Bladel
Dedication: Agnes Bergman-Salinas

Against the General Good/ Contra el Bien General is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation, CT Humanities, Mellon Foundation, and VIA Art Fund. The exhibition is organized by Artspace Director Curatorial Affairs, Laurel V. McLaughlin in dialogue with the artists.