Exodus

and the aesthetics and ethics of uncertainty

 Denniston Hill announces our thematic program for 2018-2022, Exodus. When Moses led the Jews of Egypt out of bondage and into the desert, it was a moment of great upheaval in which timeworn patterns of alienation, subjection, and solidarity in the “house of slavery and iniquitous labor” were suddenly interrupted. As the Jews entered no-man’s land, a new sense of self-determination dawning, away from the security of oppression, the mirages of the desert and their murmurings of uncertainty began to overwhelm them. While the narration of the Exodus often calls to mind the utopic moment of fulfillment upon reaching the Promised Land, the real protagonists of the story are the first generation of ex-slaves who made the imaginative leap to reject bondage and then spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness.

 The Exodus story finds new resonance today in a world defined by homelessness, both literal and existential, on an epic scale. Every day we witness scenes of mass dispossession as millions around the globe flee war, natural calamity, ethnic cleansing, and economic hardship. But not even the most privileged can claim to be secure or fully at home in today’s world, for the laws and institutions of civil society have been occupied and rendered ineffective, even meaningless, by the incursions of global capitalism and mass surveillance, the rise of neo-fascism, the disrupting force of severe climate patterns, and game-changing advances in science and technology.

 In the visual field, the blurring of the virtual and the real induced by augmented vision and nonstop live streaming is symptomatic of the cognitive confusion we now take for granted, as we navigate the perverse spaces and temporalities of global capitalism. But while the technologies are new, the state of cognitive confusion or cognitive dissonance is not. The uncanny has been fundamental to the human condition from the very beginning. In the current moment of sensory overload we are reminded that the Exodus was never simply a geographic journey, it was always ontological – a journey to liberate human consciousness – and this has been ongoing for millennia.

 Artists, poets, architects, filmmakers, and other creative visionaries have always been on the leading edge of the ontological Exodus, for they are the inventors of new language, new sensations, and new categories of thought. Just as early cinema audiences ran terrified before the projection of the Lumière film of a train coming down the track, today’s creative visionaries will find the words, images, and forms to bring into focus the radical new moment of confusion and transformation in which we find ourselves.

For the next four years, Denniston Hill dedicates its program to the Exodus and the exit from the fantasy of security into the reality of the mirage. In particular, DH seeks to investigate the legacy of slavery and the politics of race and gender in relation to the current wave of cognitive confusion. At stake is a full appreciation of the agency of the enslaved as an aesthetic and philosophical resource for the journey ahead. 

Exodus calls on artists, writers, architects, intellectuals, and activists to take advantage of this moment to interweave work, action, and intellect to re-imagine an engaged withdrawal through disobedience, intemperance, the right of resistance, and miracle. 

Current Exodus Programs: Annual Residency, Swerve Conversation Series, and Swerve: a journal of arts,ethics and ecology.

Upcoming Projects: Exodus Reading Group and Exodus Performance Series.