Monday Begins on Saturday

Monday Begins on Saturday is the title of the first edition of Bergen Assembly, and takes the form of an international exhibition, publication, and symposium.

It is a critical meditation on the potentials and pitfalls of the evermore ubiquitous yet at the same time elusive notion of “artistic research.” The project takes its title from a novel by Soviet sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky about a fictitious research institute staffed by a motley assemblage of fairytale beings and mad scientists who are trying to solve the problem of human happiness through magic. The first edition of Bergen’s new triennial is an oblique contemporary re-writing of this text as a multi-venue exhibition and book.

The Strugatsky Brothers published Monday Begins on Saturday in 1964, at the height of the Cold War Soviet research boom. It tells the story of a programmer who gets sidetracked by hitchhikers while vacationing in the Northern region of Karelia, and winds up working at the Research Institute for Wizardry and Sorcery, which is organized into sections such as the Department of Prophecies and Predictions or the Department of Linear Happiness. Its researchers are on a modest quest to solve all of humanity’s problems. The institute’s main philosophy is dialectical: positivism and vulgar materialism must be fought off at all costs and opposed with the weapons of magic and the imagination. Its ethic of incessant research—alluded to in the title of the novel—is similarly dialectical: an ideal life of perpetual inquiry and thinking, opposed to the quick fixes of consumerism and immediate satisfaction. Here even knowledge of the future should not be “consumed”—it must remain an open horizon. But this utopian atmosphere is secured by almost inexhaustible state support, propped up by an ever-growing bureaucracy, and protected from the demands of the market. Although some institute researchers even want to work on New Year’s Eve, others nonetheless become terribly complacent, which leads to a profuse growth of hair on their ears…