Beate Geissler’s and Oliver Sann’s work concentrates on inner alliances of knowledge and power, their deep links in western culture, and the escalation in and transformation of human beings through technology. On the threshold, dividing document from created reality, on the border between factual occurrence and fictional bringing-into-being, their work scrutinizes the inherent idiosyncrasies of media and technology. Within the collaborative space and interdisciplinary research, their work spans anthropology, sociology, political science, and art.
In Department I, the artists will work on their most recent project “Hopium Economy.” The project seeks to narrate a larger context for the currently ongoing opioid crisis now bearing down on Midwestern USA, tracing its origins not simply to addiction and dereliction, but instead drawing out how this cycle of dependency, depression, and despair arises from a nexus of factors playing out over public health systems, rural and urban divides, pharmaceutical industries, racial tensions, colonialized monopoly, and de-industrialization. The project also intends to challenge the way we conceive substance dependencies and their history, by regarding addiction as a substantial mode of our existence, and as the possible core of our relationship to the planet. In an extended sense, substance dependency is not only a metaphor, but the very essence of our incapacity to respond to the demand for changes in the Anthropocene. During their time at the Max Planck Institute, Beate and Oliver intend to conduct interviews with scholars in Germany and will develop a performance from the material collected.
Beate and Oliver’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in museums, galleries, and alternative spaces, including: the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Fotomuseum Antwerp; the NGBK (New Society for Visual Arts) in Berlin; the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts; the Fotomuseum Winthertur in Switzerland; the Museum Ludwig in Cologne; MAST Foundation in Bologna, Italy; and the German Pavillion at the Photography Biennial Dubai, UAE. They have received a number of grants and awards, including: the Videonale Award from the Museum of Art, Bonn, Germany; the Herman-Claasen-Award (Cologne, Germany); a production grant from the Graham Foundation, Chicago; and a Humanities without Walls grant. Beate Geissler is currently an associate professor of art at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Oliver Sann is an associate professor of photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.