With an hour to kill in Berlin Mitte I thought I’d drop by at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. A lucky choice. While the exhibitions "Zeroes and Ones" and "BPA" were of little interest, to me at least, the Michael Stevenson retrospective "Disproof Does Not Equal Disbelief" was excellent. I particularly liked the installation "Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183" (2017-19), which occupies the KW Institute’s main hall. It is conceptual, but unlike much conceptual art it is rich in ideas and well executed. It reminded me of the work of Jason Rhoades and the later works that William Forsythe created for The Forsythe Company.
"Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183" consists of two seminar rooms. One references Mission Class 510 or MC510, a course taught by John Wimber at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena in the early 1980s. CS183 was the code for a startup course taught by Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel at Stanford University’s Faculty of Computer Science in 2012. Both Wimber and Thiel believed in radical change, which requires abandoning old ways of thinking and doing. Both courses developed a cult following.
One room consists of a number of tables with what look like strategic war games and two custom made chairs. In the other room are plastic chairs on wheels with arm rest tables, aircraft tyres, airline blankets and various other objects. Each of the objects has been designed and crafted with a lot of attention to detail creating an excess of meaning.
The installation demands to be deciphered. There is a strong sense that everything is there for a reason, yet its meaning remains elusive.
In his work Michael Stevenson explores the juncture of economy, technology, education and religion. The installation "Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare" (2014-21) was also quite interesting, but "Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183" was definitely the highlight of the exhibition. When I was about to leave the KW I decided to go back one more time to the main hall to check whether I hadn’t overlooked anything.
Michael Stevenson: Disproof Does Not Equal Disbelief is at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin until 19 September 2021.
Exhibition walk through with Michael Stevenson and curator Anna Gritz.
Interview with Michael Stevenson about Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183.