Exhibition: "Are the kids alright?"
The exhibition focuses mainly on the use of the British “Anti-Social Behaviour Order” (ASBO) which serves as an example for the transforming practices of “disciplining and punishing” (Michel Foucault). Embedded within communitarian theories, the Asbo is a manifestation of neo-liberal techniques which intend to transform of individual behaviour by applying techniques as diverse as control, incentives and practices of disciplinary power (Or in the words of Tony Blair: “It’s a bargain. We give opportunity, we demand responsibility. There is no excuse for crime.”).
The exhibition documents positions and practices, effects of power and struggles over the “right” meaning of anti-social behaviour. In doing so, the ASBO is not exclusively conceptualised as an instrument of regulation and punishment but also as a cultural symbol which is appropriated, devalued or reinforced by different groups of people. The Asbo phenomenon has inspired artists, “targeted youths”, entrepreneurs and dedicated people to deal with everyday surveillance, control and the permanent production of fear in a creative, political or profit-oriented way.
The exhibition reconstructs the context for the justification of the Asbo, analyses and problematises both programmes and subsequent practices, which have not only revived public campaigns of naming-and-shaming but have also – supported by a receptive media – resulted in a climate of paedophobia: the pathological anxiety of a society that is afraid of its own offspring.
At the same time the exhibition makes practices of appropriation and resistance visible. Within the “targeted” groups the receipt of an Asbo means an accumulation of social and symbolic capital: it enhances street credibility and social standing within the group.
The Asbo has inspired a wide discussion about “troublesome youth”, “acceptable” and “non-acceptable” behaviour and the “misbehaviour of the poor”. Charities have been founded both in favour and against the legal tool of the Asbo. The level of implementation varies across the English regions.
Asbo’s popularity was also beneficial to its commodification. Several companies offer software for councils to “administer” its “kids from hell”.
Finally, the Asbo as a cultural phenomenon has provoked a critical engagement in the arts. In cartoons, paintings and popular music the omnipresent belief in its healing power is being challenged and its fetish character deconstructed.
More possibilities of intervention:
* series of lecture in summer term 2008 or fall term 2008/2009 incl. publication * colloquium during the exhibition * some separate publications with different main focuses * Merchandising is a must (?)