From a religious point of view, the evil is the negative part of a tension toward the good and it is strictly connected with death, disease, sin and the negation of god. But after the process of secularisation began, the issue became strongly connected with questions of modernity and democracy as a product of modernity itself.
Secularisation is a process in which the unitary theological power over social life becomes more and more divided into different levels of an organized modern society. It is a process of rationalisation of everyday life submitted to rules that are part of a whole and complex system that regulates the behaviour of people in a democratic society. Paradoxically, social life is divided into different moments determined by different functions, and our entire existence is submitted to a kind of fragmented experience. So, everyday life is divided into different aspects and levels and it is compartmentalised into functions and areas within which all of us have to live.
Indeed, for life in a democratic regime to function it has to be subdivided into different aims and sub-aims that permit the entire system to work by regulating ways people live and relate to each other.
There are precise rules in a democratic regime that we have to follow for perpetuating democracy and these rules have to be clear and quite transparent in being applied. So, a shared opinion is that democracy comes from the transparency of relations between people, and this condition is necessary for living together. In relation to this idea of democratic life, evil becomes everything representing the contrary. It is something that it is not situated within the rationality and transparency of social relationships in a modern society. Evil is all that looks to be outside of an organised social system or an unfair social situation. In term of social relations, it is the unexpected, the confused, the contaminated, or from an anthropological point of view the "Creole". In the contemporary globalised world the problem of evil becomes the problem of a less transparent society, which needs to re-establish order. In other words, the western ideal of a democratic society is the transparency of social relationships and evil represents the negation of all of this.
However, the condition of contemporary society is very complex and multilayered. For example, against the background of globalisation, migration represents a phenomenon of hybridisation and confusion for well-organised and ordered western society, which tends to be read as a loss of transparency in social relationships, and consequently something that has to do with evil.
So, the perception of a multilayered reality has something to do with the evil, but this representation of reality is also something that artists find really dynamic and interesting. And the possibility to work across the different levels of this situation trying to connect them in a totally different way is very stimulating.
So, if reality from this point of view looks like something so complex, it is possible to find unexpected connections inside it, and this could offer material for new artistic inventions.
Trying to reconnect different levels and aspects of reality means to disrupt the rigid structure of modern western society and discover an open and more fluid dimension of new relations.
It is in this area where many artists and architects have been trying to work recently. They can open the recognisable structure of the traditional object of art and architecture, suitable for a rigid society, transforming it into an active process. They try to use new relationships between people within a multilayered social reality as the starting point for producing new and unexpected connections that become art and architectural projects.
For example, in the project by the young architect Alain Foureaux and Rem Koolhaas for the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou, something special happens to the architecture. Here the idea is to build a museum not as a separate building in the middle of a totally newly built area in the outskirts of the town, but to incorporate the museum's spaces into a housing building of eighteen floors. The museum's volumes are mixed with the spaces occupied by apartments and commercial area in the building and distributed in the basement with the parking garage, ground floor, mezzanine and rooftop. In the basement there are workshops for the preservation and handling of art works and these activities can be witnessed while driving and parking your car. In the mezzanine, the ticket office, bookshop and a space for public events are located within the commercial strip on this level. On the 14th floor three apartments and studios for artists in residence can be used also for small shows. This makes possible a new connection by using housing space as exhibition space. Finally, in the rooftop there are computer workshops, an archive reading café, a terrace for sculpture and a long exhibition hall. The roof can be seen from street level as a horizontal billboard on which are projected pictures and information about the museum's activities.
So, in the building the separation between living space, art spaces and commercial areas is fading and a totally new space of unexpected relations between different functions and people is created.
In the conventional view of a town that represents a well-organised society, that is one built to a regulated and rational master plan, this museum has lost most of its typical features, and has taken on a new shape from the new relations established in a multilayered reality. First of all it has no self-contained building, and art, living and commercial activities are interwoven in a new vision of potential reality, rich with chances for unexpected connections.
Another example is the work of the Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno recently realised for the Sao Paulo Biennale (pictured below). He constructed a large structure made up of three balloons in PVC, from the ground level to the roof, inside the Biennale building. In the middle, a rope ladder permits people to go vertically from one balloon to the others. The project came from discussions with some Argentinean people who make balloons in paper as a hobby. They gather together to release them into the sky in flash mobs, in order to avoid the police because this activity is forbidden. So, the work has social implications and it is perceived as evil by the local authority. Here too, the completion of the project derives from an unexpected connection perceived by the artist between a socially forbidden activity created spontaneously by people and an art project produced for the space of a biennale. Indeed, the connection here is between a social activity, illegal and outside of any mechanism of economic production, and a highbrow activity like art. The artist has connected two very different levels of social reality to support his own Utopian idea of realising in the future an entire town suspended in the air. The illegal activity is the evil, but it is interwoven with the good through the art production.
A way of creating unexpected connections focusing on the urban dimension of a Chinese town is that of the artist Cao Fei, who works looking at the new landscape produced by the developing towns in China. She is able to create interesting connections between fiction and reality in the urban landscape that produce a new kind of imaginary. In a country where social organisation is very important for producing a new version of capitalism, she has invented bizarre characters who are useless people in the new industrial town. She calls these imaginary people Cosplayers, and they are a kind of hybrid social product, half real and half imaginary, located inside very real and concrete urban settings. They become a crossing point for many of the different forces in the new Chinese reality, involving different levels of that complex situation.
Within the western vision I cited earlier, all this could be considered as evil: something that isn't rational or plain and where the relationships between different levels of reality are not seen to be fair and completely under control. As I said, the western ideal of a democratic society is the transparency of social relationships and evil is seen in the negation of all of this. It goes outside of any regulated social system as, for example, the art world as part of a more general western model of society, posing some questions to all of us. On the contrary, this notion of evil encourages a vision of reality in which many connections and relationships can be produced in an unpredictable way, and the old, traditional and regulated social vision is broken down. It is an un-codified space where art and architecture can find a strong base and develop opportunities for investigating new fields and opening to a new vision. A different concept of modernity as present time can be brought into play as a consequence of all of this, and maybe also a new era against the background of globalisation can be brought to light. An art and a society without evil would reckon with a too regulated system and a flat reality without any perspectives. For that reason, this field is a very interesting one that deserves to be focused upon and considered carefully in the immediate future.