Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 7 - 8pm

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Spatial Occupations

Oliver Ressler will present a new body of work that addresses the starting points and implications of the global financial and economic crisis as well as the underlying flaws in the model of parliamentary democracy revealed by the crisis. Ressler’s films and installations are often based on interview situations in which the artist creates a platform for the concerns of his protagonists. Exemplary is the 8-channel video installation What is Democracy (2009), in which by means of interviews with activists he essentially formulates a global analysis of the deep political crisis facing the western model of democracy. This crisis is manifested in the fact that elections in parliamentary democracies increasingly become rituals devoid of meaning, while the real decisions are made outside of public debates. Ressler's wall text Elections are a Con (2011) alerts us to this danger, while the wall text Too Big to Fail (2011) and the films The Bull Laid Bear (2012, co-directed with Zanny Begg) and Robbery (2012) explore the handling of the financial and economic crisis, the bailout of banks and its social consequences.

The police, soldiers and managers in Ressler's photographic series We Have a Situation Here lie motionless in heaps, stripped of their functions. Questions arise as to whether and how alternative systems are feasible, how they can be structured and how existing orders can be altered. Ressler's latest work, the 3-channel video installation Take The Square (2012), based on conversations he initiated and filmed among activists of the squares and occupy movements in Madrid, Athens and New York, provides some answers on that. This major work focuses on organizing, horizontal decision-making in assemblies and the tactic of occupying public spaces.

Oliver Ressler, born 1970, lives and works as an artist and filmmaker in Vienna, Austria, and produces exhibitions, projects in the public space, and films on issues such as economics, democracy, forms of resistance and social alternatives. His projects have been in solo exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum, USA; Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Kunstraum at the University of Lüneburg; Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid; Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum, Egypt; Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow and The Cube Project Space, Taipei. Ressler has participated in more than 200 group exhibitions, including the MASSMoCA, USA; Itaú Cultural Institute, Sao Paulo; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens; Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven and at the biennials in Prague, Seville, Moscow, Taipei, Lyon and Gyumri. For the Taipei Biennale 2008, Ressler curated an exhibition on the anti- globalization movement, A World Where Many Worlds Fit. A traveling show on the financial crisis, It’s the Political Economy, Stupid, co-curated with Gregory Sholette, is currently on display at Pori Art Museum in Finland (till 26.05.2013). Their book It’s The Political Economy, Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory was published by Pluto Press (UK) in 2013.

Oliver Ressler is a Robert Lehman Visiting Artist at The Cooper Union for Spring 2013.


The Interdisciplinary Seminar was designed twenty years ago to contribute to a regular and sustainable discussion on artistic practice for the students of the Cooper Union School of Art and the creative community that surrounds them. Lectures are free and open to the public.

The Spring 2013 Interdisciplinary Seminar is part of the Robert Lehman Visiting Artist Program at The Cooper Union.  We are grateful for major funding support from the Robert Lehman Foundation.


Located in the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, at 41 Cooper Square (on Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets)

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.