Posts Tagged ‘manifesta8’
Posted on June 13th, 2011 in project news and tagged action mill, art, curating, manifesta8
Friends and collaborators Metahaven (Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk) recently asked me to contribute a short text for their publication project, The Exorcist, a journal that was created for Play Van Abbe, a multi-year exhibition series at Van Abbemuseum in The Netherlands. I was asked to write a reflection on Backbench, which was one of the projects that Bassam El Baroni and I initiated for our part of Manifesta 8. In the end, the project called Backbench that was presented in our exhibition was quite different from how we originally conceived it—and the beautifully designed and captured dramatization (film by Ergin Cavusoglu, set architecture by nOffice) of the actual interactions that comprised Backbench do not convey the full intensity and rawness of the experience. It still stings quite a bit to remember what happened a year ago. My short narrative included in The Exorcist (themed around “Negotiation”) is the only, and thus oblique, response I could manage.
A PDF of the journal is available for download here.
Image courtesy of Metahaven
Posted on October 21st, 2010 in collaboration, project news and tagged art, curating, manifesta8
I’ve recently returned from the opening of Manifesta 8, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, in the region of Murcia, Spain. Working over the last year and a half with my good friend and colleague Bassam El Baroni as Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF), we curated a multi-part project and exhibition in several venues across two cities in the region of Murcia, Spain. We were aided immensely by the Manifesta team, including our curatorial assistant, Yolande Riquelme, a young curator from Murcia.
To be as concise as possible, what we did was raise the question: How can any art project genuinely touch on the sophisticated and haphazard web of life’s complexity? To understand complexity, it is not enough just to possess the ability to be critical, and it can only be part of a more disciplined and strategic act. For the exhibition OVERSCORE, we aim to conceive, build and implement a curatorial interface which firstly outlines those elements hindering the emergence of complexity in art, and then to describe the strategies for projects seeking to embody it. The Theory of Applied Enigmatics is that interface. Here, the term ‘Enigmatics’ refers to ideas and proposals which appear or resonate from a confrontation with complexity.
An overscore is a line drawn through words. It partially erases them but also shows an ongoing process of editing; it reveals and obscures the past, while establishing links with what emerges in the present and future. Similarly, The Theory of Applied Enigmatics both highlights and seeks to revise the accepted institutional blueprints – those idealistic and often subconscious models which are used to simplify bigger issues concerning life, people, places, events, history and culture within artistic practice today. It also acts as the mechanism connecting the intellectual input of a diverse array of artists and contributors. The theory offers itself to the visitor as a key with which s/he can unlock the underlying frameworks of history, culture and politics existing in, and between, the artists’ works.
Former Post Office
Running for a period of 100 days, Manifesta 8 will be taking place in the cities of Murcia and Cartagena in historical buildings, museums, unconventional spaces and several media channels. Manifesta 8 is curated by three independent curatorial collectives, each of them developing a project as an autonomous curatorial contribution. The collectives are ACAF, Chamber of Public Secrets (CPS) and tranzit.org.
Central Hall, Former Post Office
Posted on August 21st, 2010 in musings and tagged action, art, curating, manifesta8, theory
We were confronted by a loss of faith, a lack of meaning in things that we did, that we invested all of this time and energy and resources into. We felt that art was always instrumentalized to further the agendas of others. We felt trapped, centripetally pulled into a cyclical space of crisis, anger, and confusion. We kept spinning around and around…
Behind every corner, in every headline, underlying every panel discussion and infused in every officially important art exhibition, a crisis lurked. Look out! Duck! Stay sharp! You better think fast and deal. Put out that fire, or be consumed by the flames of this or that impending sociopolitical Moloch. The curatorial statement should be approximately 1500 words in length.
It made us angry. Everything’s so fucked up. There’s no way out. After all the posts-this and -that we’re left with the same old totalizing hegemony, the monolith of neoliberalism. Always banging our heads against it, doing the dance, going through the motions of being “critical.” We asked the “right” questions of the “right” people and they gave us the “right” answers. Impeccable performances every time. The opening was a ripping party.
We were confused. It didn’t seem to get us anywhere — the right questions and the right answers. Nothing changed. Same old criticality, different venue. We couldn’t get organized, couldn’t get clear, no time to reflect, to strategize…
Meantime, we had another crisis to deal with. Back at it. Where’s the thing this time? Istanbul? Berlin? Sao Paolo? See you next year at the fair. Did ya hear? The ultra-nationalists won another handful of seats in Parliament. Or was it the Congress? Europe’s fucked, man. These guys just hate immigrants. There’s an Egyptian artist I saw at the last one — made this project where he reimagined some department store chain as an Arab souq. No shit. We should propose a project about that… I know some artists from South Africa that live between New York and Brussels.
Stilled pissed off. That exhibition of political art got panned in the critical journals. The popular press ignored it. The Right continued to dominate the debate with racist diatribes. The Left shouted weak neoliberal platitudes bathed in the worn rhetoric of socialism. The next day another dozen exhibition announcements came through E-FLUX, all variations on the same theme. Same old criticality, different venues. What are we doing? Career’s going great, though. See the news about the earthquake in Haiti? I saw this artist from Haiti in the last biennale…
Posted on December 9th, 2009 in collaboration, project news and tagged action mill, art, curating, design, manifesta8
For the last several months, I have been working intensely with Bassam el Baroni of Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum as one of three curatorial collectives developing Manifesta 8, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, which opens in October 2010. As a nomadic event that changes locations, the 2010 biennial will be hosted by the region of Murcia in southeastern Spain, in the cities of Murcia and Cartagena. Our other colleagues are the curatorial teams of Tranzit.org, a networked contemporary art space based in several cities in central Europe, and Chamber of Public Secrets, a media-focused art collaboration based in Denmark. I first worked with Bassam as an artist-in-residence at ACAF in early 2008—see the Place In Place Of: Alexandria project—and it was based on this first interaction with him and other wonderful people at ACAF that he decided to invite me to collaborate on the Manifesta project. With limited conventional curatorial experience, it’s a most curious thing to find myself in the role of curator (whatever that is) for a major international art event. I stress the “conventional” qualifier here to make the point that I am quite well-equipped to deal with the conceptual and organizational challenges of curating our project, and I am fortunate enough to be working with an experienced colleague who more than compensates for my inexperience and shortcomings.
Increasingly, I’ve been drawn into large-scale, complex organizational projects, whether through my own volition or at the invitation of others; and working on Manifesta is probably one of the most elaborate, complicated, complex, and layered projects I’ve yet encountered. My interest in such organizational conundrums began in earnest with community activism around urban planning issues with NABR and Casino Free Philadelphia. Learning the structure of and how to navigate the bureaucratic minefields of community power dynamics and city/state politics has been invaluable, as has observing and managing the organization of people and groups. As a faculty member at the University of the Arts, I’ve also been drafted into a potentially historic strategic planning process determined to envision new models for arts education stretching well into the 21st century (the jury is still out). Again, the complexity in terms of conceptualizing the strategic plan across a diverse institution with literally hundreds of moving parts is daunting but a welcome challenge and learning opportunity. In all cases, I am thrilled to have worked—and continue to work—with a host of very smart and capable colleagues.
With the Manifesta project well underway, I find some interesting parallels between three areas of practice: design, organizing, curating. It remains for me to more fully flesh out the relationships between these, but the similarities between design and organizing (particularly sytems design or tranformational design a la the RED project by the UK’s Design Council) have been on my mind over the past few months based on conversations started in the university and continued with my partners at The Action Mill. This summer in a collaborative, cross-disciplinary design studio, Professor Jonas Milder (Industrial Design grad program) and I worked with several students to develop the outlines of an experimental, post-disciplinary design studio that ran for 6 weeks this fall semester. What I was introduced to through that experience (again, another exercise in complexity) was recent thinking about design that addresses complex problems through participatory processes and intense collaboration across multiple disciplines. In our work at The Action Mill, we’ve been developing our design processes and tools from this model as we work with organizational partners who are rethinking their strategy and the role that direct or symbolic action can play in bringing about social change.
As I stated above, I’m only just realizing how design thinking and organizing intersect with curating—but this notion is evolving as I attempt to apply the former in how we think about and engage with the curatorial process. I plan to deal with this more directly as the project continues and we feel more comfortable discussing the specific details of our work in a public forum.
For now, I’m off to Spain again for the first official preliminary event of Manifesta 8, the Manifesta Coffee Break, which is a sort of symposium during which each curatorial team invites a few theorists, critics, and/or artists to present work and ideas as we begin to establish the conceptual terrain for Manifesta. For our part:
ACAF will concentrate on the recent borrowing of methodologies and discourses from the field of human geography within contemporary art production and theorization. ACAF curators Bassam El Baroni and Jeremy Beaudry will publicly auction off a number of generic prototypical projects that deal with notions of human geography and cultural dialogue in order to expose what the various concepts embedded in human geography offer to artists and curators. Additionally, ACAF presents two lectures by Sherif El Azma and Nida Ghouse on behalf of the Take to the Sea Research Collective (Lina Attalah, Laura Cugusi, Nida Ghouse). The auction, lectures and discussion (moderated by Yaiza Hernández Velázquez) pave the way for an introduction to ACAF’s evolving ‘Theory of Applied Enigmatics’, the philosophical core of their curatorial approach within Manifesta 8.
For the full program announcement, click here.