The encounter between these two terms imposes itself as the obvious conclusion of the transformations of art in an unstable and fragile world. Subversive tenderness is, in the exhibition[n1] , the contemporary alternative to the modernist avant-garde.
The French dictionary Le Littré teaches us that tenderness is Nature: “no scissors, potter’s wheel, or paintbrush can approach the tenderness with which nature turns and rounds off its subjects.” But it also tells us that it is Culture: “once said of the softness, delicacy, and lightness of the paintbrush or scissors.” So here we have Nature & Culture conjoined in tenderness. On the one hand, the decor of a reality that accommodates our lives: architecture, town planning, industry, leisure time… In short, what we do. On the other hand, Nature, which hosts within its world a foreign world: ours. The meeting of these two worlds provokes a friction, a tension that so far seems to be a flop, if not a disaster.
We will have noticed in the definition some other terms: softness, delicacy, lightness. These are all words that help us to understand tenderness, in that tenderness dissipates its force in order to act. Weak theory, as Maggie Nelson writes, emphasizes heterogeneity, and invites a certain epistemological uncertainty. It is undisturbed by inconclusiveness and mess. It takes its time, as well as the risk of appearing ‘weak’ in an environment that privileges muscle and consensus. (On Freedom: Four Songs
of Care and Constraints, 2021)
But what, then, does it mean to subvert? The term is etymologically derived from the Latin subvertere, from “sub”, beneath, and “vertere”, to turn. To act, from below. To flip the world on its head. Here, we arrive at the convergence of the paths. Infiltrating reality and diverting its meaning, but with tenderness.
The exhibition occasionally makes us pay a visit to some of the beings that we refuse to look at. At other times, it reminds us of our recurring temptations to contain freedoms, or twist bodies to injure them. Especially those of women. And then there
are the birds that the drawing doesn’t imprison.
Dear visitors of all persuasions, take the time to appear weak – be indeterminate, uncertain! This is what it’ll cost you to see the subversive tenderness in the works of each of these artists.