Fatima Hellberg

Curatorial Practice
The Holding Environment

Fr Nov 4th 6 pm
ZHdK Room 5. K10

The Holding Environment
Is there a nonsadistic type of movement?
Would we go toward the world if we were not motivated by destructive impulses?
Leo Bersani, Thoughts and Things, 2015

Psychologist W.J. Winnicott used the term ‘holding environment’ as a key metaphor, and as a way to stubbornly reinsert the sensorial, even libidinal, into institutions. He formulated a form of institutional critique of the body, which drew a line of connection between the first experiences of being held, tightly, too tightly perhaps, or not carefully enough, with the experiences of being held by other structures. How can the term ‘holding environment’ be conceived within exhibition making, that is, as a way to articulate this particular quality and ability to envelope and contain, and the distinctive qualities of this relationship?

In this talk, I will focus on two recent projects, speaking of how they came about and the conceptual concerns that informed them, but also from the perspectives of mood, atmosphere and the aesthetic and political stakes of introducing notions of holding, containment and its contingency into this discussion.

Fatima Hellberg is a curator and artistic director of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart. She has curated exhibitions and projects in institutions including the ICA, London; Tate Modern and CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco. Hellberg was previously curator at London-based arts organisations Cubitt and Electra. Hellberg contributes to Texte Zur Kunst, Frieze, Afterall and other independent journals and is a visiting lecturer at the Critical Studies Programme, Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam.