Seductive Exacting Realism

Irena Knezevic (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


Seductive Exacting Realism transforms the Renaissance Society’s gallery into a temple, or a theater of waiting, where sirens lounge in the eaves overhead. A discursive data stream fills the room, carrying a song in the form of a debate between two melodic voices.

The centerpiece of this newly commissioned work—a two-part project presented as parallel exhibitions at the Renaissance Society and the 14th Istanbul Biennial—is an interview Irena Haiduk conducted with Srđa Popović, one of the former leaders of a non-violent student movement in Serbia. The artist hired voice actors to recreate her conversation with this revolutionary operative, a man who continues to make history. After success in Serbia, Popović co-founded an influential consulting brand, the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS); he is still in the business of non-violent regime change, only now as a paid advisor for pro-democracy move- ments around the world.

Contemporary art institutions in the Global North often expect artists to be agents of social change: visionary consultants by another name. In this respect, CANVAS is the dark inverse of the art world’s desires. For these institutions to truly accomplish what they claim to want, Popović would be the man to hire. But it’s a tangled, tricky business, as both artist and revolutionary know, and that’s partly what drives their conversation. Many of these resistance movements have succeeded, only to bring about indefinite periods of transition and the intrusion of first world market economies.

Navigating this complicated terrain, Seductive Exacting Realism is neither an exposé nor an indictment. Rather, it is an excursion into the deep waters of revolutionary desire and high stakes event planning on a world stage, where questions regarding political efficacy, complicity, and the limits and potential of art rise up from the depths.

Seductive Exacting Realism is co-commissioned by the Renaissance Society and the 14th Istanbul Biennial, SALTWATER: a Theory of Thought Forms.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2015
EventSeductive Exacting Realism - The Renaissance Society, Cobb Lecture Hall, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Duration: Sep 10 2015Oct 8 2015


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