Press : Weltverschwörung


Duration: 21/9/18-18/11/18

Opening: 20/9/18, 19:00

Press date: 20/9/18, 11:00

Im Zweifel für den Zweifel: Die große Weltverschwörung (If in Doubt, Choose Doubt: The Great World Conspiracy)

International group exhibition at the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf

Conspiracy theories, fake news and alternative facts are in great supply in times of upheaval, because times of crisis are times of conspiracy. From September 21 to November 18, 2018, the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf presents “Im Zweifel für den Zweifel: Die große Weltverschwörung”, an international group exhibition that reveals the power of conspiratorial narratives and encourages critical doubt.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York or the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy in 1963 are probably the focus of the most prominent conspiracy theories today. The struggle for the truth(s) did not just begin with the “postfactual age” and Donald Trump's “alternative facts”. In times of increasing digitalization and virtualization, however, uncertainty and the willingness to believe conspiratorial ideas seem greater than ever before. Who can we still believe? Do images and the media lie? Doubt is growing, nourished by the Internet, where conspiracy theorists of all kinds operate in the shadows.

The international group exhibition “Im Zweifel für den Zweifel: Die große Weltverschwörung” examine the power of conspiracy theories and counters them with the visibility of doubt and the possibility of critical doubt. A fake star, surveillance technologies, falsified photographs and forensic research – in the exhibition visitors have to orientate themselves in disturbing situations and ambiguous states. The exhibition includes works among others by Julius von Bismarck, Disnovation, Ólafur Elíasson, Forensic Architecture, Juliane Herrmann, iocose, Felix Kubin, Olaf Metzel, Tony Oursler, Trevor Paglen, Michael Schirner, Andreas Slominski, Suzanne Treister and Holger Wüst.

What is real and what is fake? As the French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote in the 1970s, each society has its own techniques for determining what it considers true and untrue. These techniques are not permanently fixed, but are instead mutable and require critical review. Conspiracy theories, fake news and alternative facts always flourish when uncertainty, fears and doubts about established systems grow and traditional patterns of interpretation no longer apply. Wars, political, economic and ideological upheavals or humanitarian disasters are the soil in which they grow. The retreat to simple explanations of the world that is offered by conspiracy theories is a strategy of resistance against an increasingly confusing reality. Today, digitalization and virtualization demand our discernment and the ability to position ourselves in a previously unknown way. The “old media” compete with social media for sovereignty of interpretation. Where does critical doubt end and paranoia begin? Where does the right to freedom of expression begin and end? One thing is certain: above all, when examining the plausibility of a theory, one must ask who will benefit from it. Doubts are stoked by those who will benefit. Hazy, everyday fear factors, false reports, misinformation, cover-ups and concealments acquire meaning, no matter how blurry they may be. Doubt often operates in secrecy, and where circumstances seem inscrutable is exactly where their analysis is necessary in order to maintain a critical stance, even towards one's own feelings of fear and doubt.

The exhibition reveals largely hidden doubts that are at play in every conspiracy theory and unveils society's subconscious. The artists weave a web of fears, dreams, contradictions, doubts and nonsense, showing how feelings of unease can be created, but also offering ways to see through them. Visitors embark on an associative journey through miniature lifeworlds, installations, photomontages, sculptures, and digital architecture with historical and contemporary references, full of diffuse moods and sophisticated analysis. Doubts and fears are pointed out so they can be addressed. The goal is critical doubt, even about itself.


Julius von Bismarck, Disnovation, Ólafur Elíasson, Forensic Architecture, Juliane Herrmann, iocose, Felix Kubin, Olaf Metzel, Tony Oursler, Trevor Paglen, Michael Schirner, Andreas Slominski, Suzanne Treister and Holger Wüst.

When visitors enter the NRW-Forum, spotlights follow them wherever they go. "Highlighter" is a work by Danish artist Ólafur Elíasson, famous worldwide for his spectacular installations. The work connects the different exhibition areas and creates a vague feeling of paranoia.

The musician, composer and radio dramatist Felix Kubin provides the exhibition with disturbing sound elements that are triggered as soon as a visitor enters certain areas. The work creates a disturbing mood and creates expectations that, as psychology and cognitive science show, play a significant role in what and how we perceive.

The American artist Tony Oursler creates confusing situations and involves the viewer in little psychodramas. His video projections and multimedia installations explore the impact of technology on the human mind and question mass media’s relation to psychological and social disorders. Oursler repeatedly addresses the occult and sorcery in his work and claims that his collection of ghost photographs is one of the best in the world.

Julius von Bismarck, celebrated for his expansive outdoor installations and performances, takes the post-factual as his subject and installs a fake star above the NRW-Forum. The hitherto undiscovered new star, which is actually a kite, raises the question of whether the allegation of a fake star automatically calls into question the truth of all stars that have, until know, been considered real. is a collective of programmers and artists working at the intersection of art, research and hacking, whose mission is to create situations that question the prevailing discourses on technological progress. They have programmed a bot specifically for the exhibition that invents with new fake news and conspiracy theories.

The artist group iocose uses crowdsourcing (the outsourcing of tasks to a group of internet users) to develop conspiracy theories. For the series “A Crowded Apocalypse”, the group has commissioned people around the world to photograph themselves with posters and cardboard signs of conspiracies. Unlike conspiracy theories, within crowdsourcing conspiratorial narration does not arise from just one big picture, but rather from the mass of images.

The art and research institute Forensic Architecture is known for making art with architectural forensic methods. Through its detailed and critical research, Forensic Architecture shows how public truth is produced – technologically, architecturally and aesthetically – and how to deal with it critically and in an investigative way. They researched the NSU murders in Kassel for the work “77Sqm_9:26Min”. The group recreated and examined the entire cyber café where the murder took place and documented the inconsistencies they encountered. The work will be shown in Germany for the first time since documenta last year.

British artist Suzanne Treister has been a pioneer in the field of digital art since the early 1990s. Using various web-based media and interactive technologies, but also drawing, photography and watercolour, she explores the relationship between power, identity and knowledge, between new technologies, society and alternative belief systems. The work project HEXEN 2.0 deals with the emergence of cybernetics, the rise of Web 2.0 and its origin in the Second World War. Drawings, diagrams, a film montage and tarot cards, which, among other things, represent the participants of the Macy conferences, examine the connections between technological progress, the media and the military.

Michael Schirner presents so-called digigraphs. He manipulates images from archives and thus changes moments from world history and collective memory, that conspiracy theories still float around today. He digitally removes key figures from the pictures, such as Uwe Barschel from the bathtub in the hotel in Geneva. In this way he forces the viewer to imagine the absent, and the more imaginary something is, the more intense the imagining.

For the series “Man among Men”, documentary photographer and filmmaker Juliane Herrmann opens the doors to a world that normally remains hidden from the public: freemasonry. For five years she has documented freemasons worldwide, focusing on the question of what draws people to this closed society today. Their answer: the search for a feeling of identity and belonging. In addition to interiors of the lodges, she portrays members, ritual still lifes and scenes from everyday life in the lodges.

Holger Wüst addresses with questions of historical philosophy and utopias of the revolution. The new work “Ideologiekritische Studien” (Critical Ideology Studies) is a photomontage that connects auditorium buildings to various discussion and exchange groups from social networks.

The sculptor and object artist Olaf Metzel and his performative sculptures are regarded as controversial, provocative and always political. A large installation in the form of a sheet-metal-sculpture reflects the media's monopoly of interpretation and its imagery.

Trevor Paglen has photographed practically everywhere where it is forbidden to do so, with the aid of precision telescopes. The work of the American photographer, geographer and activist is mainly concerned with the US military and secret services. At the NRW-Forum he presents a work in the form of a list with the names of military organizations from 2001 until today that are classified as "Top Secret".

The exhibition is curated by Florian Waldvogel in collaboration with Alain Bieber. Florian Waldvogel (*1969) was most recently director of the Kunstverein Hamburg (2009-2013), where he curated exhibitions by John Bock and Tobias Zielony, among others. Previously (2006-2008) he was curator at the Witte de With – Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam under Nicolas Schafhausen. In 2015 he received his doctorate at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg on the topic of exhibition practices by Kasper König. Waldvogel was his master student and assistant at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule at the end of the 1990s.

Kettler Verlag have published an accompanying catalog with interdisciplinary contributions from Florian Waldvogel, Dr. Margarete Jäger, Günther Jacob, Birte Mühlhoff, Karl Hepfer, Tom Kummer, Bernard Williams and excerpts of texts by Michel Foucault, Umberto Eco and Hannah Arendt. The reader accompanies the exhibition with philosophical, artistic, linguistic, psychological and sociological considerations on the topic (approx. 300 pages, 32 Euro, ISBN 978-3-86206-712-1).

Im Zweifel für den Zweifel. Die große Weltverschwörung

Duration: 21/9/18-18/11/18

Opening: 20/9/18, 19:00

Press date: 20/9/18, 11:00


It is permissible to use at no charge the pictorial material listed here for topic-oriented reporting (in print- and online-media as well as via social-media channels) and with inclusion of the indicated photo credit. The exemption from utilization fees expires six weeks after the end of the exhibition.

In the case of an article or reprint, we would be pleased to receive a copy at or NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, Pressestelle, Ehrenhof 2, 40479 Düsseldorf. Thank you.

Partners Stadtsparkasse Düsseldorf Otto Beisheim Stiftung Hoffmann Liebs Max Brown Midtown CCS