Soft Power Palace – Atlas of Forms


Soft Power Palace is a laboratory and festival about independent art projects in Europe, who will come together for two weeks in a short residency to think about the future of cultural exchange. Five artist run projects from Lyon, Milan, Barcelona, Sofia and Stuttgart will share their experiences of working independently in the field of exhibiting contemporary art, organising exchange, sharing skills, practising curation and co-working. The aim of Soft Power Palace is to imagine the future of cultural exchange and a feeling of transregional connections beyond political and economic forces.


“It is so that a spontaneous question arises:
how does form return?, just as we say of ghosts.
Nietzschean question, Freudian question, but
Warbourghian par-excellence: the question of
the Nachleben, of the survival of forms or of
visual formulas.”
– The Return of Form, from The Accidental
Knowledge, Apparition and Disappearance of
Images Georges Didi-Huberman

Art history, from antiquity until today, has been constellated with culturally charged
forms which seem to appear not only in different cultures, but also seem to disappear and reemerge in different epochs in various geographical locations. Art history appears as a colorful mass of objects and events, states and changes, circulations and rumors. How to trace, in this immense mass, the creation and transformation of forms? We do not only ask ourselves what do these forms change into, but how do they transform through time and space. We do not only ask ourselves how do they distribute themselves in time and space, but in which way this redistribution transforms their anthropological character.*
In order to reflect on the future of cultural exchange and the possibility of transregional
connections beyond political relations we must begin by recognising and acknowledging a
common ground which can be sought within the folds of our visual history. Art has always had the duty of giving voice to the intricacies of the human experience, sublimating it through sacred and profane objects in order to aid the human soul in understanding its own complexity. Therefore, our visual history provides an atlas of formulas which respond to a variety of cross-cultural human experiences; death, sexuality, power, procreation, nature, and so on. Through this journey of appearances and disappearances, images and visual formulas have exited the realm of art history and entered the mundane world. Yet, they have entered the mundane world transfigured; etruscan ex-votos representing guts and intestines return in flea markets under the form of a colorful, plastic figure to be placed on the meat stand of a Nativity scene*, Corinthian columns reappear at the entrance of newly-built american cinemas, becoming increasingly approachable the more they lose their sacred origin.


Taking the above listed considerations as starting point to our project for Soft Power
Palace Festival, we have decided to dedicate our two weeks of residency to the exploration of visual forms, their return, their transfiguration and their categorisation through multiple voices which are both cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary. Our desire is to explore not only the return and transfiguration of forms under a global perspective, but to promote a compenetration of discourses and disciplines in the reading and understanding of such visual material. Therefore, we have decided to divide our permanence in two cycles of production. The first week will be dedicated to the collection of images. Six photographers from six different countries will be asked to submit images that record local cultural symbols (from the most sacred to the most mundane). The submission process will be chain-linked, one photographer having to respond to the previous photographer’s images, in order to activate a search for common cultural symbols. In the meanwhile, we will be responding to the submitted images by collecting relevant archival material and creating new images ourselves. The objective of the first week will be to  accumulate a vast amount of images and visual formulas to work with during the second week.


The second week will focus on the reading, assembling, dismantling and exploring of the
collected visual archive, taking as an example Aby Warburg’s Atlas of Images. Five professionals from five different disciplines will be invited into our studio to curate and assemble the visual material on different panels, whose categorisation will depend on the specific reading of the material provided by the different research backgrounds. Our participation to the curation process aims to be a background aid to the invited professionals, without our curatorial voice taking over; what we are interested in is revealing the decision process of the invited curators, in order to understand how different research fields work with, understand and interpret cultural symbols.

Follow the project here: