Shared Projects

Symp.: De Colonizing Art Institutions, Kunstmuseum Basel

Sabih Ahmed (Asia Art Archive), Jeebesh Bagchi (Raqs Media Collective), Binna Choi (Casco), Eyal Danon (Holon Digital Art Archive), Sophie Voegele, (research project Art School Differences, ZHdK), Same Sizakele Mdluli (Lecturer, Wits University), Rohit Jain (ISEK, Uni Zürich), Shwetal A. Patel (Kochi-Muziris Biennale), Dorothee Richter (Postgraduate Programme in Curating, ZHdK and University of Reading), Detox Dance (Roma Jam Session Art Kollektiv (RJSaK)
Dorothee Richter and Ronald Kolb in cooperation with Soeren Grammel

The globally active art world nowadays cultivates an exchange that transcends the boundaries between cultures and continents through so-called global museums or globally operating art biennials and festivals, at least for a certain audience able to travel around the globe. Yet, this should not blind us to the fact that in the end a certain perspective of the Western history of art and culture claims primacy over global contemporary art and especially its market. Museums and art institutions all over the world therefore tend to have a uniform appearance. In format and content alike, they cater to and follow “Western” examples.

The question thus arises of how art institutions and museums could work differently by not taking a supposed, globally prevalent “guiding” culture as their orientation but instead continuing to search for new formats. How can an art institution be conceived? What might a de-colonized institution challenge?


Dorothee Richter
De-Colonizing Art Institutions
“De-Colonizing Art Institutions” What we would like to undertake is to share a number of ideas with you, in a few specific contexts, related to how one could think about revealing and changing patterns and power structures. We see this as an ongoing project that will need many different protagonists, colleagues, cultural producers of all sorts, and political activists who act in very specific contexts. De-Colonizing is thought to be a horizon, in the way Derrida spoke about a “democracy to come.”


Sabih Ahmed
What does the revolt of sediments look like?
This presentation is a meditation on what happens when archives and curatorial practice overlap in an era in which we are witnessing massive upheavals on both geological and technological planes. The paper will draw upon the 11th Shanghai Biennale “Why Not Ask Again?” and in how it set out to explore the layered, long-duration interaction of art and its worlds. Some of the curatorial provocations that this paper will address include how we measure densities of time, how we move amidst the unrecognizable, and what the revolt of sediments look like. The question that follows is: how does curation today come to bear upon future archival imaginaries?


Detox Dance
This is a public performance performed in the manner of a square dance. Our easy-to-learn dancing patterns have been inspired by movements of relaxation, martial arts, and fragments of Roma dances. Every participant is part of a liquid social sculpture. By moving together and sharing a common public space, we celebrate a moment of common activities into a joyful becoming “The Future in Roma.”

Roma Jam Session Art Kollektiv (RJSaK) is the first art collective in Switzerland that dedicates its activities to creating fresh images of the Roma minority. Based in Zurich, the group works transdisciplinarily with members from the arts, acting, and design, and collaborates with guests from different fields. Since its first intervention in 2013 at a local art space, RJSaK has performed in Zurich at Manifesta 11 Parallel Events, Kunsthaus Zurich, and Shedhalle, as well as in other cities. Apart from its public art performances, the collective is engaged in political activism with various NGOs and in a working group at the federal office of culture (BAK) currently in the process of shaping the rights of minorities with regards to Roma, Sinti, and Yenish communities in Switzerland.


Eyal Danon
From Guests to Hosts
: Reimagining the Art Institution
The presentation focuses on the process of how the Israeli Centre for Digital Art has shifted from an art institution that can be located almost anywhere into a site-specific institution. Relocating to the Jessy Cohen neighborhood in Holon in 2012, Director Eyal Danon has changed the center’s artistic program from focusing on exhibitions aimed for the Israeli art scene into a program based on various long-term projects and collaborations aimed at making the art institution a place where the community can re-invent itself.


Sophie Voegele
Acknowledging the post_coloniality of Higher Art Education within Switzerland
Before we can ask what it means and takes to decolonize art institutions, it is necessary to acknowledge the colonial and post_colonial dimensions that are predominant in these very institutions. In pursuing this aim, this presentation applies a post_colonial perspective within the domain of Swiss Higher Art Education and discusses research experiences and findings from the project Art.School.Differences. The project, initiated by the Institute for Art Education, Zurich University of the Arts, addresses processes of inclusion and exclusion at the entry of the school, their discriminatory dimensions, the intersectional working of power relations, and its effects on institionalized normativity. To look at the swiss context of higher art education through a post_colonial lens will make the necessity of being rendered accountable clear and form the bedrock for initiating a decolonization of Swiss art institutions.


Kadiatou Diallo
Institutionalizing Independent Practice
SPARCK – Space for Pan-African Research, Creation and Knowledge – is an independent multi-sited program of experimental multi-disciplinary arts collaborations, interrogations, manifestations, conversations, and publications centered on speculative urban creation across the African world.

SPARCK operates within a diverse network of independent art practitioners, many of whom have created art initiatives and infrastructures either as parallel structures to formal institutions or as substitutes for formal structures that are either inaccessible or do not exist at all. In many cases, these projects have become institutions in their own right, guided by a practice that is both political and personal at the same time. The strategies employed to establish these kinds of institutions require deliberate maneuvering between the formal and the informal, cross-pollinating both spaces in the process.


Same Mdluli
Chasing Colonial Ghosts: Decolonizing Art Institutions in “Post-Apartheid” South Africa
The fall-ism movements across South African institutions of higher learning in the past two years have become a catch phrase in the political rhetoric of South Africa’s sociopolitical and cultural landscape, but also created a “new” language for deconstructing and critically examining institutional power. In this presentation, I reflect on the progress made by art institutions in South Africa twenty years after democracy, which I discuss in relation to the recent insurgence of the RhodesMustFall and FeesMustFall movements, led by the so-called “born frees”; both these movements marked a pivotal moment in South Africa’s post-apartheid landscape, one that signaled the end of the “rainbow-ism era” and the beginning of another kind of era led by a conversation around decolonization.


Jeebesh Bagchi, Raqs Media Collective
Sources, Itineraries, and the Making of a Thicket

The contours of contemporary art sites are shifting and expanding. Exhibitions have to engage with increasingly intertwined geographies. The procedures of thematic exhibitions engaging with this expansion and entanglement seem to have reached a saturation point, suggesting that we re-think the mode by which curatorial conversations with artists and audiences are initiated and explored. The talk will delineate possible trajectories that we at Raqs have been exploring in our practice, and that could lead to a way out of the hegemonic pressure of themes. It will call for an alertness to sources and itineraries that underwrite intellectual and cultural production in the contemporary.


Rohit Jain
Art institutions are an organic part of the public space. Moreover, they were established and they communicate, produce, teach, and transform within specific material, affective, social, and imaginary conditions fueled by colonial histories and geographies. In this talk, anthropologist Rohit Jain interrogates the hegemonic mechanisms of postcolonial amnesia in Swiss public spaces. Informed by ethnographic and artistic research as well as by activist interventions, he unravels the conditions of possibilities for aesthetic, political, and theoretical strategies to reflect and affect postcolonial publics—and, therefore, trigger new forms of politics, conviviality, and communities.


Binna Choi & Yolande van der Heide
Which Art of Differences
A Dutch landlady corrects her Indonesian maid’s flower-arranging and scolds her for coming back late from her errand. Isn’t this colonial scene familiar to contemporary art institutions, which in fact might well present the works of post-colonial critique? In order to cultivate new (labor) relations and culture that dis-continue coloniality, we might claim the “right to opacity” from the gaze of established art institutions and practice other kinds of “art”—such as the art of differences, which I define as the core of the commons—and work on the invisible conditions and structures—for example, temporality—to enable or disable such art.


Shwetal A. Patel
Biennale Effects: Issues, Concerns, and Contradictions
The discourses concerning de-colonization have been largely at the mercy of Western forces, including a generation of activists, artists, curators, and academics operating in and arguably for a First-World environment. Looking closely at the site-specific complexities around the creation of India’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the paper explores some of the issues, concerns, and contradictions that can lead to new approaches, conditions, and attitudes emerging over time.