Program / Suffer / Abstain / Deprogram

image: Kirsten Leenaars -Yes and No. (Words Can Eat Things.)

Curated By Bert Stabler
At the President’s Gallery at Harold Washington College
Two public receptions will be held on Thursday, June 7:
11:30 – 1:00 p.m and 5:30 – 730 p.m.

Exhibiting artists include Nick Black, Edra Soto, David Moré, Chris Santiago, Jacob C. Hammes, Matthew Joynt, Kirsten Leenaars, Lee Relvas, Franklin Pollard, John Preus, David Scherer Water, Pilar Tena, Evan Burrows, Liz McCarthy, Paul Mack, and Thad Kellstadt.

A performance and reading event titled “Punish Perception End Desire” will be held on Thursday, June 21, 2012, at 6 p.m. in room 1115. All events are free and open to the public.

The President’s Gallery is in room 1105 at Harold Washington College, 30 E. Lake Street. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. The exhibition opens June 4, 2012 and runs through August 3, 2012. For details, call the art department, (312) 553-5738, or visit

Program / Suffer, Abstain / Deprogram (P-SAD)

Bert Stabler

The Stoic philosopher Epicetus extolled his followers to “suffer and abstain.”  He is reputed to have said,

Practise then from the start to say to every harsh impression, “You are an impression, and not at all the thing you appear to be.” Then examine it and test it by these rules you have, and firstly, and chiefly, by this: whether the impression has to do with the things that are up to us, or those that are not; and if it has to do with the things that are not up to us, be ready to reply, “It is nothing to me.”

But this detachment is not a neutral absence but a positive refusal.  To suffer is an acceptance of lived experience.  To abstain from suffering (or any desire) is to refuse lived experience, and to turn toward something infinite, ineffable, apprehended only in negation.  Inevitably (as it were) this refusal is at the core of every discipline.  The object of the discipline cannot help but become a fetish object for the countless refusals made on its behalf.

And thus, ideology comes to exist.  The sacrifices we make are infintesimal, in the shadow of a future whose heavy responsibility chokes us.  And yet, this can be easily reversed, such that our present self-actualization seems to count more than any outward gesture.  Into this trap comes the programmer, whose private denials forge public possibility, and the deprogrammer, whose general affirmations promise egoistic annihilation.  In all of this, desire and trauma have not been dislodged, but are given obscure power.

A litany of endless obsessive managerial initiatives have come about through the desire to imagine new worlds, to purge pleasure, and to access authenticity.  Through art about erasing and overwriting oneself, negatively and positively, the artists in P-SAD will offer some ways of thinking about what stops our thinking, and forcibly turns it in another direction– with our full permission.