The Good Life

Steven Emmanuel


Book, 18.5 x 11 cm, 168 p., language : English, publisher : Self-published, ISBN : N/A.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2027/669).

Literary synopsis

The Good Life is a diary written during a month long performance work where the artist Steven Emmanuel lived alone, surviving from the land on the grounds of the Zeche Zollverein in Essen Germany, abstaining from the use of industrialised energy. The site for the performance was an out of commission coal mining complex in the heart of Germany’s industrial region, which, since its closure, has been appropriated for art and culture by UNESCO-World Heritage and the Zollverein foundation.

The Good Life book is a subjective account of the artist’s experience living wild outside of society without energy in an area that has little to offer in the way of natural resources. The book itself was written in real time during the performance and presented as written; as a bookwork.

The performance coincided with the exhibition, Examples to follow! Expeditions in Aesthetics and Sustainability (2014), curated by Adrienne Goehler and the book was presented a year later as part of the exhibition VISIT (2015) at the Kunst Museum Bochum.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

Outside of the political context of energy and the wider debate of climate change (in which the work was first conceived and proposed through the RWE foundation Visit residency program) the work was intended to be understood more broadly. By going beyond the concept of a survival experiment. The Good Life uses a narrative structure and the novel format as a looking glass and a tool for reflection. Incidentally, the performance was always intended to take on the guise of a story, although, without a clear understanding as to what kind of tale the performance would turn out to tell; or even, for that matter, how long it would last.

The Good Life project was a product of context and circumstance. Like a lot of Emmanuel's past work, process is used subjectively in a way that doesn’t encourage a literal reading of the subject matter. In this sense, The Good Life is connected to a wider art project, but still it remains distinctly detached from his other works, by context and in its content. It was after all a stream of consciousness recorded in an extreme situation over an extended period of time. In terms of the final content – it is what it is.

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