Second order observation- Carl Andre as a Site

This umbrella project, constitutes autonomous works and an active research platform. While the research and its activity are on the level of institutions and policy making the artworks materialise the conceptual propositions to other collectively experienced formation. As a whole, it is intending to deal with complexity on different facades of production. The research and its actions are ongoing, and different public moments continue to evolve in the form of actions, lectures and public discussions. First public event was held in May 2017 at the Van Abbemuseum,with the participation of Emily Pethick, the museum director Charles Esche, head curator Annie Fletcher and Steven ten Thije curator and project leader of L’Internationale. 

A transcript of this event can be found at: onlineopen.org/blog.php

The research focuses on different aspects of an ethical feminist politics to be implemented in art institutions. it inquires its  application in policy and how it reflects back on artistic production. with an aim of rethinking the dynamics and conventions imposed by the prescribed roles of the ‘artist-artwork-curator-insti- tution’ work o within the current glo- balized state of contemporary art. These conditionings – together with a widespread pressure on art to be more real, more au- thentic, more political and so on – brought us to revisit ideas such as the autonomy of art(works), its presumed neutrality as well as its ability to exist in and of itself.

The project started as a provocative initiative lead by a small working group that questioned the accountability of the Van Abbemuseum,  in its claim to become more “awake, equal, resistant, feminist, loving […], political, conscious, caring, together, active, de-colonial, deviant […], queer, intersectional, de-modern, inclusive,” as part of its Becoming More caucus.

From the Van Abbemuseum website, caucus promotion ‘Becoming more’ May 2017

Initially, the working group asked the Museum to reconsider its inclusion of works by Carl Andre in the collection and in its exhibitions (next to a Guerilla Girls new acquired work and an exhibition by Lee Lozano), as Andre is generally believed, despite being found innocent in court, to have murdered his wife, Cuban- American artist Ana Mendieta, in1985.

Copyright © Guerrilla Girls, courtesy guerrillagirls.com

To begin with, the provocation was made as an attempt to leverage existing resources for the sake of shading light on di erent aspects of an ethical feminist politics within art institutions, its application in policy and how it reflects back on the participation and production of artists. 

The urgency, being situated within an upcoming generation of practitioners, we have found ourselves rethinking the dynamics and conventions imposed by the prescribed roles of the ‘artist- artwork-curator-institution’ work within the current globalised state of contemporary art. ese conditionings — together with a widespread pressure on art to be more real, more authentic, more political and so on — brought us to revisit ideas such as the autonomy of art(works), its presumed neutrality as well as its ability to exist in and of itself.

In revisiting the place and value of autonomy within the international centrist art-world, this project stems from the experienced necessity to reconsider artists and curators relationship to institutional politics as a crucial element towards political traction. We have attempted to to lead negotiation regarding the conditions under which we, as practitioners of different disciplines, want to work with, rather than under or for. Within this framework, this project calls for rethinking individuality in favour of a common goal that empowers collective practices within an individualised and privatised art-world.

A public conversation followed with the staff of Van Abbemuseum – but also with fellow artists, teachers, curators and cultural workers of all backgrounds and political horizons, and aimed into questioning the responsibility and the role of the museum as a social and political location. From our initiative emerged a surpri- singly pressing need to discuss the inclusion of feminist practices within cultural institutions, to ensure a better coherence between politics, policies, actions and representations. With feminist sensitivities earning more and more space within much of the visible work doneby institutions (in the curatorial choices, the educational programs, communication tools, etc.) in the Netherlands and abroad, it appears essential to foster and deepen these institutions ability for self reflectivity when translating their newly gained or transformed political capital into symbolic and concrete actions.

At the moment this project is in the process of development, with the support of the Showroom, London and the Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem. 

Forms, reproductions and subversion; locating the expanded field in parking Lot #4

Published in Parking Lot magazine, Issue #4, December 2018

Citations from: 

1 “Introduction” from Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels & Stories, Volume One, retrieved 9/8/2017

2 Boyers, Jennifer Sue, “Sexual Politics and Subversion: Feminist Utopia as Praxis” (1998).

Dissertations. 1544. h p://scholarworks.wmich.edu/dissertations/1544 

3 Boyers, Jennifer Sue, “Sexual Politics and Subversion: Feminist Utopia as Praxis” (1998).

Dissertations. 1544. h p://scholarworks.wmich.edu/dissertations/1544 

4 Piepmeier, Alison, and Andi Zeisler. Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. NYU Press, 2009. jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfmvh

5 Massumi, B. (2017). The Principle of Unrest : Activist Philosophy in the Expanded Field. London: Open Humanities Press. DOI: 10.26530/oapen_630732

City as a Laboratory

Sonia Kazovsky in conversation with Etienne Turpin, published on spikeartmagazine.com/en/articles/spike-x-ycw, January 2017

Jakarta, Indonesia, November 2015. 38 degrees Celsius. 90% humidity. The gojak driver hands me a helmet and mask and we speed off, we swerve through the metropolis, past huge skyscrapers for the urban elite, Dutch colonial architecture, and endless slums. Temporalities collide. The future careens into the present and the past in a heady, smoggy haze.

Given that the city has such a chaotic sense of reality, it’s surprising to learn that Jakarta has more active Twitter users than any other city in the world. Perhaps its label as a “mega-city” has been granted from this over-proliferation of both the real and the virtual, on the verge of being subsumed by its own infrastructure that might collapse at any given moment.

It is here that the architect and writer Etienne Turpin founded anexact office, a post-interdisciplinary design research agency operating on the edges of software, exhibition design, and infrastructure. Avoiding easy categorisation, anexact office is one vehicle for Turpin’s wide research interests – studying, curating, designing and writing on complex urban systems, political economies of data and infrastructure, visual culture, and the colonial-scientific history of Southeast Asia. With anexact office and other collaborators, he has worked on projects as diverse as a real-time flood map for Jakarta and a cycle of exhibitions in Germany.

– Sonia Kazovsksy

Sonia Kazovsky: I understand anexact office as a platform to host multidisciplinarity in a strategic way, including the flood map peta.jakarta, curatorial work, and applied philosophical practice.

Etienne Turpin: Anexact is a vehicle for inquiry, a platform for assembling different kinds of knowledge infrastructure – exhibitions, software platforms, activism. One of the most important drivers of the anexact office is multidisciplinarity or even post-multidisciplinarity. We avoid the academy as much as possible because it is toxic. But this does not mean giving up on rigour. We aim to deliver all of the things that higher education institutions pretend they do but deliver very little of. We include such concerns and research into the overall objective of the office, where we do not believe in exclusivity or in a hierarchy of knowledge and theory.

SK: What are you working on currently at anexact?

ET: Anexact is developing a large, multi-institution exhibition cycle with curator Anna-Sophie Springer titled “Disappearing Legacies: The World as Forest”, which tries to connect a number of contemporary political aporias with the forest in Southeast Asia and the forest in South America. Concurrently, as an extension of our flood-mapping platform petajakarta, we have been developing a national platform for multiple hazards, using instant messaging and social media to democratise the response to climate change. This is all part of an effort to recreate a different context for visual and social media within urban environments.

We are also working on labnet.asia, a new platform intended to amplify knowledge transmission across Asia without its having to travel through Europe or be translated into English. At the moment someone in Cambodia will most likely learn about a project in Vietnam by reading about it in an English blog, and so we are trying to find ways to software design, platform design, to use a wiki structure to increase the inter-Asian connections among the megacities. Trying to both use it as an ethnographic probe as well as a new design pattern.

SK: In one of your lectures you have mention that the term Anthropocene is misused in the humanities and the arts –

ET: We have to get away from the idea that everything can be included in the discourse of the Anthropocene, that everything is just a discursive fashion. The Anthropocene is a real thing, and we are trying to work on specific problems that we are interested in, concerning infrastructure, equity, climate change and knowledge infrastructure. That means that we need to deal with specific instantiations of capitalism, of patriarchy, of inequality, of racism, so we have to be precise.

SK: More generally, do you believe that discourse is too detached from praxis?

ET: People have asked me: aren’t you frustrated when you go to conferences in Europe and people just talk out of their asses? They have no context or struggle that they are part of; they only have those vague imperatives: we should do this or that. But there is no “we”, no place where this is coming from. There are so many people writing about politics, but how many of them are engaged in real politics in their own environment? Where they are working? How do they get paid? There is a corporate takeover of the university but nobody even noticed because they were too busy writing about Foucault.

SK: So was relocating to Jakarta a means to challenge the fashion of discourse taking precedence over action?

ET: We use Jakarta as a way of working on ourselves to find new strategies. We have fewer resources here, a lot of challenges that have to be overcome and a lot of things that need to be repatterned. Here we have the opportunity to gain real-world experience of the effects of the Anthropocene as concerns politics and philosophy. Whereas that seems to be always going around and around in theoretical circles in Europe and North America, here we are in contact with the ground. This allows us to develop and test concepts to try to understand new ways of thinking through questions.

SK: How do you feel contemporary art engages with issues in the region?

ET: We can see the bankruptcy of the art scene and of much of the NGO community; it doesn’t have much to say because it has just been acting as a brokerage of suffering. This is true even for social-practice art: maybe you feel ok selling people’s suffering on to another audience and making some profit or cultural capital out of it. But this is not particularly satisfying to anyone. This sort of virtuoso scenario prioritises an individualistic practice that is ultimately just trading in the aesthetics of violence and suffering.

SK: Yet somehow you maintain a connection to the art world. What is your relationship to it?

ET: One of the fundamental limitations that artists face is their identity as an artist. That title often gets in the way of the real practice that is being enacted. So, instead I employ the label to take resources from the art system. Critical Art Ensemble is an influential group for us, especially in terms of what [CAE member] Ricardo Dominguez said about them: that they were all artists who hated their own mediums. Poets who hated poetry, musicians who hated music and performance artists who hated performance. The point isn’t how you define yourself – whether as a philosopher or an artist or whatever – but rather that this process allows you to fulfil the desire that you have to believe in the world. Identity is a strategic relationship.

For example, while I still believe in and have an affinity with certain questions that are philosophical, I assume a relation to liberty and social emancipation that isn’t bound up in my identity as a philosopher. I’m rather utilising this identity as leverage. And art often doesn’t have a strategic relationship to itself; it takes itself way too seriously, especially in Europe. I think you should always have a strategic relationship to normativity.

ETIENNE TURPIN is the founding director of anexact office in Jakarta, Indonesia, as well as a Research Scientist for the Urban Risk Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Images are courtesy of anexact office

4x3 Curated by Roman Zheleznyak

Presented in Kulturamt Landeshauptstadt Düsseldorf, October 2017 , as part of an annual 4×3 series Roman Zheleznyak commissioned an exhibition text, that eventually became part of the exhibition as a work in itself.

Gedankenreisen

Collectively curated by Florencia Almirón, Dai Xiyun, Sonia Kazovsky, Ruth Noack, Lucie Rosenfeldova, Isabelle Sully, Bara Svehl and Jiří Zak.

As part of Schule in der Schule at Camping Marianne, Nürtingenschule, Berlin, Germany,​September 2016

Gedankenreisen, which translates from German to English as simply ‘thought travels’, was an exhibition outcome from a week in residence at Nürtingenschule, Berlin, where the group workshopped what a museum in a primary school could be. The week included discussions, film screenings, workshops within the primary school students and a movement workshop within the exhibition itself. 

As a preparation for the project, Sonia had conducted an infrastructural research- preparing a proposition that can accommodate an initiative of a museum within the primary school. A research into the pedagogical ethics of the school and its relation to aesthetics, as well as financial infrastructure that can allow the two platforms to co-exist and benefit each other- on a level of aesthetic education but also as pedagogical non-profit organizations.

Photos by Monnier Ostermair