Hearts and Minds
Opening Thursday 15 April 2021, 4–8pm
L.E.S. Gallery Evening
Bodys Isek Kingelez
Claudia Peña Salinas
Rectangle is thrilled to present Hearts and Minds,
a joint project of carriage trade / Rectangle, Brussels.
Civilization and barbarism are never far apart. As the spoils from subjugating distant countries fill closets, living rooms, and dinner tables, citizens of the empire are encouraged to witness the “improvements” offered by their way of life bestowed upon the many invisible hands responsible for producing it. Employing the tools of public relations to invert standard meanings into their opposites (slavery = freedom, war = peace) the minds of those at home are massaged while villages abroad undergo “pacification”.
"So we must be ready to fight in Vietnam, but the ultimate victory will depend upon the
hearts and the minds of the people who actually live out there."
—Lyndon B. Johnson
Remarks at a Dinner Meeting of the Texas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., May 4, 1965
In the later stages of empire, as exploration paves the way for tourism, far away cultures are promoted as exotic and unpredictable, introducing “otherness” as an affirmation of the ever-expanding necessity to civilize and control. As empires engage in hot and cold wars to extract and defend resources for domestic populations, patriotism and consumerism unite in common pursuits. While new technologies offer increasingly convincing dream worlds that divert the public’s consciousness, the brutal origins of their creation remain mostly behind the scenes.
The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealth, the germs of empires.
—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1899
With consumerism suffering a pandemic-era blow and a diminishing faith in establishment politics haunting industrialized nations, the pursuit of hearts and minds, so critical to the narrative of empire, struggles to contain blowback from centuries of repressive measures. Filtered through social media feedback loops, governmental and corporate messaging engineered to sway popular opinion now feature distortions and fragmentation that sow confusion while veiling their source, fomenting widespread social unease and sporadic violence.
Living within a kind of informational breakdown, many are now questioning how we got here. Linking past to present through artwork and archival material that collectively address links between the diversions of consumerism and techniques of propaganda in the service of empire, Hearts and Minds, a joint project of carriage trade and Rectangle, Brussels, reflects on the inseparable rapport between public relations and social control both abroad and at home.
We’d like to thank all the artists and the following lenders for their loans of artwork for the exhibition:
Icarus Films (Chantal Akerman), Clearing Gallery, Brooklyn (Harold Ancart), Essex Street/Maxwell Graham (Jef Geys), Greene Naftali Gallery (Dan Graham), Ronald Guttman / Christine Martin, Frédéric de Goldschmidt / André Magnin (Bodys Isek Kingelez), Janice Guy (An-My Lê), Cordula Lebeck, Archiv Robert Lebeck (Robert Lebeck), Lumen Travo Gallery, Amsterdam (Otobong Nkanga), C L E A R I N G, Brussels (Marina Pinsky), and AfricaMuseum (Royal Museum for Central Africa).
A special thanks to Lawrence B. Benenson, LMCC, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), Mr. Jacques Louise Vidal, WBI (Wallonie-Bruxelles International) and FWB (Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles) for their generous support. Thanks also to gallery assistants Jervey Inglesby, Laura Li, Molly Miller, Hannah Park, Kristal Uribe, as well as Daylon Orr, for all their efforts on the exhibition.
With the gracious support of