CIVIC VIRTUE, Artist Collective

CIVIC VIRTUE was a collective of four artists: Geirthrudur Finnbogadottir Hjorvar, Gijs Wahl, Ruchama Noorda and Brian McKenna. The group was established in 2009 around a shared interest in the ways in which social communities organize themselves around various symbols of power and virtue, and how these symbols continually re-emerge over the course of history. One can think for instance of the classical pillar (now seemingly funding library or bank building), and allegories such as Liberté, égalité, fraternité. By way of the different artistic and idealistic perspectives of it’s members, CIVIC VIRTUE seeks to place these symbols and allegories beyond any specific historical, political or social appropriation. Subsequently, CIVIC VIRTUE positions itself around these symbols as a social community. CIVIC VIRTUE is not only a platform for research, it’s also a performance.

A perfect example of the appropriation of ancient symbols and allegories by a new social order is neoclassicism. Its classical motives and symbols were revived in order to provide a new language for the revolutionaries of 1789, but equally served the reactionaries. Therefore, neoclassicism is a most suitable point of departure for CIVIC VIRTUE’s aesthetic experiments, as it is positioned exactly at the crux of revolt and revival, renewal and conservation. The symbols images and allegories, on which these different concepts lean, can offer an independent point of view on the beginning, end, or perseverance of any social community. With these symbols in hands, CIVIC VIRTUE presents a reenactment of the social community.

Simultaneously a dynamic platform for research as well as itself a social test-case, CIVIC VIRTUE seeks to develop an alternative production and exhibition practice. Instead of the vertical structure of institutions and curatorial practice, in which artists are invited to merely respond to a given context, CIVIC VIRTUE provides a dynamic social platform in which context, work and collective process continually inform and transform each other, so that every exhibit is not the end of a road, but itself the material for new visual and social experiments.

In order to keep a strong focus on the dynamic between the individual artist and the collective process, and to stay idealistically open and challenged, CIVIC VIRTUE has developed various working methods during it’s first two exhibitions (CIVIC VIRTUE I: A Neoclassical Revival, and CIVIC VIRTUE II: Bamberg). Every exhibition a fifth member is invited to participate. This can be someone from the field of visual arts, but just as well from theater or music. This continually ‘updated’ member helps keeping a critical distance of the group towards itself. Likewise, CIVIC VIRTUE likes to insert foreign and ancient work in its projects, and stretch them beyond our own work, ideas and times. We have borrowed from various historical collections and museums, including the Allan Pierson Museum in Amsterdam and the Historical Museum and Ludwig Collection of the city of Bamberg. A final important aspect of CIVIC VIRTUE’s working method is that it not only continually tries to push and stretch it’s objects and ideas beyond current place and time, it intends to do so with it’s members too. Each member develops his or her own character in the group, like those in a pop band or hero comic. In this way each individual stance and contribution is secured, by demarcating for each his own specific conceptual domain. At the same time, this pushes each individual beyond the mere contemporary reality of position and character. Through the development of a fictional character, ‘being a member in a group’ is reformulated as ‘playing a part in a performance’.

Website with documentation of works of the past years:


Het is niet zozeer dat zij blind zijn geworden, maar juist dat ze beter zijn gaan zien. Ze zijn gaan indelen en kiezen en ze hebben hun ogen selectief leren sluiten. Toen ze niet zagen zagen ze… mooier? Ja, zo zouden ze de herinneringen waarschijnlijk zelf omschrijven, deze decorateurs van het blinde zien.

Ontzettend graag zouden zij hun kinderen ditzelfde paradijs terug willen geven vanwaaruit zij zelf denken te zijn ontwaakt. Maar wat een armoede, te willen geven aan wezens die de lelijke dingen nog niet kunnen zien als dingen die niet gezien zouden moeten kunnen worden.


Zal er een dag komen waarop er niet meer verder ontmaskerd hoeft te worden? Niet zolang het mechanisme van de ontmaskering een onderdeel is geworden van het masker. We zullen hoogstens op een nieuwe grenzeloosheid botsen: de ontmaskering van het oneindige.

Omdat we de grenzeloosheid van de mogelijkheden tot nieuwe maskers inzien, kennen we de mogelijkheid tot ontmaskeren al voor we het masker kennen. Omdat er hoe dan ook een wederkerig mechanisme is, tussen ons en de taal. En telkens zal dit spel een gewoonte worden, een scheve macht, en zo weer een oproep tot ontmaskering.

Zou er een laatste masker kunnen zijn, een liefde zonder mechanisme?


“De onwaarheid erkennen als levensvoorwaarde: dat wil zonder twijfel zeggen dat we een riskant verzet bieden tegen de vertrouwde waardegevoelens; en een filosofie die dat waagt, situeert zich alleen daardoor al aan gene zijde van goed en kwaad.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Voorbij Goed en Kwaad, §4

Wanneer Kant de onwaarheid erkent als mogelijkheidsvoorwaarde voor kennis, situeert hij de waarheid in een domein dat ontoegankelijk is voor de kennis. Het domein van de vrijheid. In dit domein is er geen kennis, enkel act. Elk stellen in dit domein is een positief stellen. Stel je nu voor dat Kant zijn vrijheid in dit domein stelt met zijn theorie van de grondslagen van de kennis. Dan máákt Kant iets. In dit domein is geen passieve, en daarom waarachtige contemplatie van het werkelijke mogelijk. Dit domein zou je je als Nietzsches wereldbeeld kunnen voorstellen; strikt gesproken dus geen wereld-beeld.

Continue reading “Nietzsche”

Het Boek

Wat is nog een boek nu we in het boek zijn gaan geloven en er onze intrek in hebben genomen? Nu we alle zinswendingen kennen en we de formule hebben gevonden waardoor we dit boek kunnen blijven schrijven, steeds opnieuw, nooit nieuw, en toch voortdurend die illusie van beleven. Wat in zo’n wereld is dan nog een boek?

Een boek is dan eenvoudigweg een ander boek, en daarin schuilt de kracht van het boek, dat is, van het andere boek. Elk ander boek is een meta-boek want het wijst door enkel te bestaan op het onafwendbare einde van elk boek. Elk boek in ons boek beperkt ons boek en snijd er gaten in; het gevoel het zelf te beleven glijd eruit weg; weg uit de wereld het leven in. Dat leven dat dan rijpt en oud wordt, wereld wordt, kunst wordt, benauwd wordt en ontvlucht.

A Word Is A Broken Sign

A body is a temporal unity.

Any member separated from it, still points towards it.

As part of a whole is a means to refer to that whole. 

A collection of bodies can unite, as members in a society.

If a member cut off from a society still refers to that society, then the society is not just.

One member of a society should never suffice as the articulation of the whole. 

And thus, a just society is not to be regarded as a body, but should be formed from body parts only.

Continue reading “A Word Is A Broken Sign”

In Re Production of Tangible Things

Made for The Internet Archive as part of a digital residency, 2014

An archive as the contents of a speechless mind.

To change an archive into a possible vision, is to change a language defined by grammar and dictionary into a medium in which you can change your mind: by disregarding how the content has originally been tagged and shelved.

Here, the archive has been pictured as a language that is not defined but spoken. Speaking without any idea of definition is like speaking in tongues. The bonds between these images are not meaning, they are like meaning. Taken out of their original positions in files and books, they can now form a new territory from which we can drill back into sources that may otherwise have remained invisible by being known, tagged and shelved.

View the work here: In Re Production of Tangible Things.

The Air Loom

The Air Loom is used to influence minds, by weaving time into space. A spatial form of time makes it possible for an idea to occupy different points in space at one single moment in time. By spinning time into currents of air and various gasses and weaving it into Air Tapestry, the Air Loom is able to change time from progression into movement and depth.

“The Air Loom is operated by a gang of undercover Jacobin revolutionaries, who want to force Britain into a disastrous war with Revolutionary France and are bent on maintaining hostilities between the two nations.”(1)

However, it is one thing to change the design of a state, it is quite another to change one state into something radically different.

“We do not want to move from problem to solution as if they were both present in the same space at once, but instead we seek ways to move from the current space into one we will inhabit at a later point in time.”(2)


“We do not seek for answers within, but envision the problem outside, that is, the problem is structural. There are two structures: The first structure is the one in which the question arose, the second structure is the one in which the question will become irrelevant.” (3)

While the Air Loom is able to exhibit time spatially, this form of time is necessarily always already structured, and can as such never account for the possibility of change. If not progression but just movement and depth, what then makes it ever possible for a state to radically alter into something yet unknown?

A reversal of the actual weaving process of the Air Loom is believed to open a gateway back to the progression of time. In order to leave the fabric of movement and depth which formed reality, a state of chaos is induced. This signifies the return to the Air Loom Cloud, a state, it is believed, in which no specific designs or hierarchies yet exist. The intellectual diaspora thus induced constitutes a recurrent purification ritual, necessary for any state laid out solely in a fabric of movement and depth. Consequently, the Air Loom not only functions as a device for mind control, in reverse it can wash the brain.

(1) source:– thews-and-the-air-loom/
(2) source: a fantasy.
(3) source: a fantasy.