as above … so below? Brief Note on the Underground

As the counterpart to the commonly accessible zone comprising all that is above ground, the underground has always been a realm of speculation and imagination. Located literally beyond our grasp and out of sight, it sparks fantasies of penetration and excavation. Since the 1960s, if not before, the prefix underground has been used to describe countercultural strategies and practices that operate in opposition to what is “above”, so-called mainstream or high culture and its institutions, rebuffing their attempts at penetration or excavation. Like that between above and below, the dividing line between underground and mainstream, high and low is rarely clear-cut; it can be conceived of, instead, as a perpetual (re-)negotiation of visibility, meaning and value. Without above no below, without below no above. But what takes place between them, what links the one to the other?
This is a brief preview of the text that will appear in the project’s publication as above, so below in early 2022.

MARIE SOPHIE BECKMANN is a research associate at Oldenburg University’s Institute of Art & Visual Culture. In 2021 she completed a PhD on film practices in the 1980s New York Downtown scene. She co-founded the curatorial platform EVBG that has been realizing exhibitions and events in Berlin since 2015, winning the Berlin Senate’s prize for artistic project spaces and initiatives in 2019. In 2021 she was awarded a curatorial grant by the Residence NRW⁺ programme at Kunsthalle Münster.