The publication following the conference ‘Humans of the Institution’, organised by Anne Szefer-Karlssen and Vivian Ziherl is now available for download here.
In November 2017, over 150 curators, artists, thinkers and students gathered in Amsterdam for a symposium and working session that asked ‘who makes the present’ by foregrounding the freelancer in the arts and within globalising dynamics more broadly. Having been a freelancer for over thirty years, a topic close to my heart!
The gathering was grounded in the figure of the freelance curator and the multi-vocal setting produced a series of statements with concrete proposals and in-depth analyses, resulting in the book Towards an Infrastructure of Humans. For videos of the various talks and workshops, see the project website.The ‘journal’ compiles the written record of Humans of the Institution and is co-published by the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, and the Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design, University of Bergen.
A belated post, but Curating after the Global. Roadmaps for the Present, the third in the series of anthologies published by The MIT Press in collaboration with CCS Bard is out. In many ways more complex than the two previous books in the series – The Curatorial Conundrum (2016) and How Institutions Think (2017) – all three combined provide an interesting overview of concerns, histories and positions in the ever-expanding contemporary curatorial field and its discourse.
Coming to the end of the series – and thus to several years of close collaboration with various people involved, including the editors (Paul O’Neill, Simon Sheikh, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson) and the designers (Julia) – I wrote a short text that closes the book (below the start and end of it), in which I (finally!) have the last word…
Things may seem to be quiet on the editorial project front. There is, however, a good reason for that: having immersed myself rather wholeheartedly in several book projects last year – one of which was rather complex, see here and the next post – the plan is to focus more on my PhD, as that was somewhat on the back burner. I am now trying to accelerate and make up for lost time, which is not to say that I am not doing anything else at all: am currently in discussion about working as an editor of an artist’s website. Having immersed myself in recent months in writing about the space of the book in relation to curatorial discourse, this will force me to also engage with the digital space and its potential as an archive and space of display of an artist’s practice. Too early to name names, but watch this space…
The Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts at the University of Gothenburg hosted its third PARSE conference over the last coupe of days (13-15 November 2019) focusing on the theme of ‘Human’.
Politically, culturally and theoretically, it is impossible today to navigate through the dense lattice of emergencies and urgencies without addressing the question of what constitutes the human, and by extension the inhuman, subhuman and non-human, as well as formulating an adequate response to the anthropocenic threat posed by the human against the planet. Organised to be deliberately transdisciplinary, the discussions were divided across six themes or tracks – with keynotes by Barbara Albert, Joan Anim-Addo, Maaike Bleeker, Joanna Bourke and Zakiyyah Iman Jackson – which include:
the inhuman, the subhuman, the body and inscriptions of the human (the contested universality of the human across the divisions of class, race, gender, trans, queer, ableism, neurodiversity);
the imperiled non-human (the Anthropocene, nature, ecological catastrophe) and the technological non-human and objecthood (tools, machine, nature, world of objects, OOO, robotics, algorithms etc);
the posthuman, pedagogy and the institution (anti-humanism, anti-anthropocentrism, critique of the humanities, the human produced by the university, knowledge and distinction, disciplines of the human);
human mobility and nationhood (transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, migration, human rights, personhood);
biopolitics, necropolitics and the governance of the category of the human;
decoloniality, post- and neo-colonialism (slavery, indigeneity, empire, desegregation, white Suprematism, white privilege).
I’ve been told that an upcoming issue of PARSE Journal will be dedicated to the conference, so am looking forward to essays winging their way to me at some stage. In keeping with the transdisciplinary approach PARSE has espoused, there will of course connections to previous issues. Meanwhile the website has had a further revamp (can’t believe I’ve worked on 7 issues already, i.e. from No. 3…)
While New Contemporaries is celebrating its seventieth anniversary this year – having been initiated by the Arts Council in 1949 – as well as the fact that Bloomberg have supported the organisation for two full decades, this year is also the first in which new writing is properly embraced as a form of artistic practice. This is not me having a dig at the organisation, on the contrary: it is a sign that with the adoption of publishing as a whole as artistic practice, and the proliferation of courses dedicated to writing as art, writing by artists as (part of) their practice has indeed gone mainstream and is now fully acknowledged as such.
Once again, I am working on the publication as copy-editor (the sixth year in succession, for those who are counting), which by extension is becoming a more fully integrated part of the ever-expanding range of activities that New Contemporaries as an organisation is undertaking, all to nurture and make visible work by emerging artists. It’s been great to see how activities now comprise a wide range of partnerships for different strands of its programming, including studio bursaries, residencies, a mentoring scheme, engagement with The Syllabus, opening up submissions to artists from non-accredited courses, symposia, and, last but not least, a collaborative PhD that explores the organisation’s own history with Nottingham Trent University. This year the exhibition – with work by 45 artists selected by Rana Begum, Sonya Boyce and Ben Rivers – will open at Leeds Art Gallery in September, before travelling on to the South London Gallery, where it was shown for the first time last year. Like the last two years, Hato are the designers.
It’s been a slightly longer process than with the two previous books in the series, but Curating after the Global: Roadmaps for the Present is now off to the printers. This time the team of editors had expanded to four: in addition to Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson, with whom I worked on How Institutions Think (2017) and The Curatorial Conundrum. What to Study? What to Research? What to Practice? (2016), Simon Sheikh was this time also part of the team of editors. Once again we worked with Valerio di Lucente from Julia, who is as pleasant and responsive a designer to collaborate with as one can wish for.
Although the range of contributions looks similar to the two previous books, quite a few of the essays/text/exchanges this time were significantly longer, some needing work in terms of structure and clarity, or serious expansions and/or reworkings from the presentation during the conference the book follows on from. All of which required more time than originally envisaged. In the end I’ve also managed to squeeze in a small contribution myself, about how anthologies like these are key platforms and mediums in the development of curatorial discourse, and my role in the care for words and the nuanced differences between the spoken utterance and the printed word on the page. Due out in the autumn, available via The MIT Press. Announcements about (a) launch(es) to follow in due course.
The ninth issue of PARSE Journal is now live, on the recently revamped website. Some further texts still to be added (and some texts still to be tweaked), but there is a lot to explore on issues related to artistic work, labour, working conditions, care and self-care through a wide range of texts. On the occasion of the launch, there is a series of events on 7 and 8 May, including a keynote by Martha Rosler. The issue so far includes contributions by Ciarán Finlayso, Dave Beech, Frances Hatherley, Patricia Sequeira Brás, Tero Nauha, Bruno Gulli and Josefine Wikström. Others to follow soon.