What Is Different? Wolfgang Tillmans in Conversation with Sean O’Hagan
March 15, 2018

To mark the launch of the contemporary art journal Jahresring’s sixty-fourth annual edition, Wolfgang Tillmans will be in conversation with critic and writer Sean O’Hagan at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Titled "What Is Different?," this edition of the publication, which is printed in English and German by Sternberg Press, has been guest-edited and designed by the artist.

Taking "backfire effect" as a starting point—a phrase coined to describe how people often maintain or even strengthen their beliefs when given factual evidence against them—Tillmans has interviewed scientists, politicians, journalists, and social workers in an effort to understand the political climate in recent decades, with a particular focus on right-wing populism and fake news.

As the artist writes in an article for The Guardian, "We have known for some time that there are people who feel drawn to esoteric conspiracy theories. What is new, however, is that hard facts are no longer believed by wide segments of the population. During the past two years, I have come to realise that if 30% of the electorate are resistant to rational argument, we are on a slippery slope. In light of all this, I wanted to investigate why the backfire effect is having more impact today than it did 10, 20 or 40 years ago. What has changed? What is different? This latter phrase became the title of the book."

Thursday, March 15, 7 PM
Cinema 1, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

Since the early 1990s, Tillmans’s practice has epitomized a new kind of subjectivity in photography, pairing intimacy and playfulness with social critique and the persistent questioning of existing values and hierarchies. The artist’s major solo exhibition at Tate Modern, London, in 2017 included works that demonstrate his increasingly direct engagement with current affairs, from gay rights to refugee crises and climate change.

In March 2018, David Zwirner will present Tillmans’s first exhibition in Hong Kong at its newly opened gallery in H Queen’s, Central. This presentation will feature a broad selection of works that respond to their surroundings while at the same time embodying a self-contained environment.

Image: installation view, Wolfgang Tillmans: PCR, David Zwirner, New York, 2015