Date(s) - 10/07/2021 - 25/09/2021
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location Address Cross Tower 101, Fuzhou Road 318, Shanghai
Antonyms against violence
The questions of how decision-making processes are efficiently developed, how decision-makers are accurately taking into account sources of knowledge and how this knowledge itself is handled and communicated, are crucial to the development of our society.
The exhibition Antonyms ActOnition, curated by Zane Mellupe and organized by WhyWhyArt and the Department of Culture and Education of the German General Consulate in Shanghai, with the support of EASA and ifa gallery — an Action performed in public spaces by individuals and activists to not only acknowledge personal responsibilities but also to Act On, point out and change the unjust aspects of social behaviors — has initiated more conversations elaborating on the phenomenology of violence. The 12 graphics — Antonyms against violence, against sexual assault, against domestic violence, against mental violence, against emotional violence, against cultural and spiritual violence, against the privilege of knowledge, against environmental violence, against power abuse, against economic abuse, and Antonyms against self-directed violence — are the main protagonists of the forums that have been discussed across different disciplines. These 12 antonyms hopefully will become a kind of toolkit of cultural awareness to foster communication – like an emoji of shyness, found in everyone’s mobile phones. Hopefully, instead of dealing with the consequences of violence, we can think how we can prevent new forms of violence.
Within the framework of the Antonyms exhibition four forums have been discussed: Gender Violence; Intellectual Violence and the Power of Knowledge; Violence and the Environment; Mental Violence, Mind Studies and AI. All these forums have been bringing together people from different sectors, artists (Abby Robinson, Alan Flesher, Baiba Ladiga, Caterina Notte, Charles Leblanc, Chris Gill, Dana Popa, Dennis Jere, Daniele Mattioli, Elena Monzo, Flavia Bigi, Francisco Hauss, Fred Farrow, Gökçen Dilek Acay, Han Bing, Hazal Firat, Irina Banari, Julia Scorna, Kate Tipler, Katherin Gutierrez, Kathryn Gohmert, Ke Zhou, Kurihara Tadashi, Leah Bourdin, Leroy Brothers, Maria Das Dores, Monika Lin, Niamh Cunningham, Panos Dimitropoulos, Paulina Otylie Surys, Piers Secunda, Raul Alvaro, Reiji Kobayashi, Samuel Bourdin, Susanne Junker, Vasily Betin, Virginie Lerouge, We Are, Yoky Yu and Zane Mellupe), cultural anthropologists (Zhou Lei), sociologists (Li Limei, Li Jing), law studies (Wang Jie), scientists (Antonino Marciano’), psychiatrist and neuroscientists (Li Ning, Liu Jia), AI engineers (Cui Wei), softwares as embodiment of AI humans (GPT-3) and fieldworkers representing people with special needs (Peng Linqian).
Avoidance of violence, or eventually its enhancement, are inextricably related to the power of knowledge. Knowledge is at the forefront of any challenge involving different groups competing in different societies. These groups distinguish one from one another notably because of gender, age and so forth. Imbalance in the embodiment and empowerment of knowledge is one of the ways gender and other forms of inequalities manifest. Denying equal access to this power thus represents a subtle but extremely efficient form of violence, preventing equality to be socially instantiated.
Limiting access to knowledge traces back to limiting access to power: worldwide, avoiding sharing knowledge corresponds to capitalising on knowledge, for interests of one part upon another. This opens the pathway to a wide phenomenology of violent uses of knowledge, eventually displaying conflicts of interest among agents and main players in the society — worldwide, abuses of knowledge encompass targeting individuals or groups of individuals for economical purposes, processing consumers’ information by means of big data analyses and other powerful tools.
Within this scenario, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often considered as one of the most important inventions of the XX-XXI centuries, with fundamental implications to the fate of humanity. As stated in the three laws of robotics by Isaac Asimov, a singularity, or strong AI phase, must be at any cost avoided, to prevent tremendous consequences affecting its very same creators, humankind. Indeed, bots have already made statements about taking over humanity, prospecting a possible threat.
At the same time, AI and modern technologies can be deployed in order to facilitate life conditions of several individual and people groups, including people with special needs. The ability to listen to different histories, collecting data of different experiences as training samples, effectively implements a scan over all possibilities in life, which incarnates the great success of AI. Conversely, data storage and the use of information that should remain anonymous, provides a matter of concern and naturally leads to the topic of AI Ethic. From a theoretical point of view, this latter one is also connected to the issue of explainability of AI, and the related trustworthiness of the algorithms that are implemented for both social and individual uses.
AI has been developing unprecedented tools for automated data compression, information processing and cryptography. Quantum information and quantum computational models in physics have been providing further knowledge to realise concrete technologically advanced devices. The development of cryptography and non-fungible tokens open the pathway to the possibility of signing crypto-contracts and then instantiate a series of solutions tailored to the development of micro-economy activities. The imbalance generated by a disproportioned and unequal use of AI yet realises a peculiar form of violence, among a large variety of possible other manifestations.
Besides the power of knowledge stands the power of belief. Witchcraft and other non-mainstream forms of belief have been recursively banned and ostracised for challenging institutionalised western religious frameworks, resulting in further actions of violence. A similar fortune was granted to those statements appearing at the onset of western science. Giordano Bruno was burned in Rome in 1600 by the Catholic Church, for affirming the infinity of the Universe and the non-centrality of the solar system. A few decades later, Galileo Galilei was forced by the same Catholic Church to abjure his theses on the heliocentric system. The spread of knowledge is controlled by the power of belief: restricted chances are left to the crowds to access knowledge.
Gender issues are hence connected to the phenomenon of inequalities. Indeed, gender differences represent a main target of violence and a source for lasting inequalities. Sexual abuse is notably a primary form of violence, to which field workers try to react, according to the efficiency of helplines. Divorce policies and new laws have been pondered, and partly instantiated, in order to revert this situation. For this purpose, it is relevant to emphasize the necessity of sex education at school. It is indeed only through cultural representation and education on genders that equal opportunities can be reached one day.
Another relevant dynamic involves at the same time environment, power of knowledge and belief. Protecting the environment is a priority of the contemporary moral landscape. Within this scenario falls the way how environment standardization is affecting peoples outside standards. We define environment not only as a physical but also as a virtual or on-line space, and in relation to people with special needs and to individual experience.
On the other side, knowledge represents one of the main pillars upon which modernity is founded. Developing and retaining knowledge corresponds to holding and exerting power, as knowledge amounts nowadays to the ability to alternate and remodel both the physical and the social environments, in a way that enables to match needs and meet expectations as addressed by the main agents of different societies. Worldwide, imbalance and inequality on the knowledge sharing process naturally contributes to the issue of violence among the agent groups within different societies.
Knowledge naturally encodes not only AI, but also the discipline of mind theory, to which we can relate, theoretically, the phenomenology of mental violence. Mental violence is a complex phenomenon that deserves to be addressed from different perspectives, involving psychoanalysis, neuroscience and mind studies. While originating in specific personal and social contexts, mental violence transcends the experience of individuals and communities, to represent an existential condition of mankind. This form of violence may be even exerted in a hedonistic way, or at most in a gnoseological one, in order to explore the cognitive limits of human mind, and address its secrets places, origin of artistic and scientific creativity.
While preparing this series of events, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and is still with us – this has allowed the whole world to feel the presence of violence even stronger. Mobility was and is restricted. People are separated by distance and security forces. Oftentimes people have been forced to stay together in limited spaces for an extended time period. This has made people more conscious of violence at work and in society: economic violence, environmental violence, and inequality of how knowledge is spread in society.
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