“This future does not have yet a name, but we are standing on its brink. If the last forty years have been marked by ‘posts’ (post-war, post-colonialism, postmodernism, post-communism), then today, at least, we seem to be in a period of anticipation—an era that museums of contemporary art can help us collectively to sense and understand." Claire Bishop
“The landscape of your word is the world’s landscape. But its frontier is open.”
“Part of controlling the substance of one’s future would lie in controlling its nomenclature.”
Framing the Research
The present issue of On Curating is the fourth iteration  of the research that has unfolded under the title Spaces of Anticipation, outlined by artist and curator Lorenzo Sandoval and curator Emanuele Guidi (presently writing this introduction and from now onwards presented as “we”); research that has so far involved various contributors in different formats of discussion and presentation around a notion and a constellation of practices—Anticipation—that seem to offer the opportunity to discuss current and future conditions of production within artistic and cultural fields in all their complexities. A notion that we borrowed from a statement by Claire Bishop exactly because, as she frames it, “we seem to be in a period of anticipation.” We felt a certain closeness to this question and a hesitation in terms of the potential it could hold, especially back in 2014 when we started this research and when the echoes of various squares and movements (from Tahrir Square to 15M and Occupy) were still resonating. They were calling for a different kind of responsibility, exactly because of the way those movements were rehearsing different modes of constituting we’s. These events were especially interesting for us in terms of spatial organizations—may the seminal image of the square and its capacity of a distributed voice serve as an example. The notion of anticipation turned out to be even more exemplary, calling as a way to navigate within the current political drift, when the “we” is exploited in identitarian terms by extreme-right discourses. The request for a communal entity that is permanently questioned and dissolved, as for example proposed by Jean-Luc Nancy, became a new urgency.
In this sense, the understanding of anticipation as a constellation of practices, gained a great deal of influence. When Walter Benjamin laid out the notion of “constellation,” he argued this as a discussion of representation: “Ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars.” As Heather Thiessen suggests, Benjamin proposed an understanding of ideas as the underlying essences that govern the meaning of the world of phenomena. “Ideas once apprehended might, thus, prompt revisions of the conceptual organization of phenomena in a given system or ideology.” This said, the unintentional “seeing” and description of a context and a situation might also have great potential, which is the power to change that situation (as we conclude perhaps a bit abruptly).
More broadly, we were interested in exploring the mutual influences and relationships of politics and citizenship and related artistic and curatorial research taking place: a reciprocity often fueled by theories of the commons, feminist/queer practices, and post-colonial studies. Therefore, we engaged with areas of research that work towards the construction and production of spatial and temporal conditions, as the main approach to supporting a culture of assembly—as a movement of assembling and dissolving. An effort that begins by acknowledging the complex cartography and the equal agency of the actors through which a cultural institution acts in a determinate context (artists, curators, audience, artworks, display systems, archives, etc.), favoring a progressive blurring of roles and categories that can allow for a collective desire to emerge.
If the squares had, and have, to be the reference for rethinking modes and relations of productions (and representations) in the political and cultural sphere, we also felt the urgency of the question posed by artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles as a way to stress and enhance a permeability between those two spheres: “The sourball of every revolution: after the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?” This question still resonates today and legitimately calls for forms of extreme care and maintenance to “renovate” the existing cultural—and political—institutions, focusing on the centrality of reproductive labor that needs to become a collective undertaking—a practice that calls for thinking beyond the logic of the “event” (and its spectacle) and to perform a different temporality, which necessarily raises questions about sustainability, fatigue, and the dangers of exhaustion. It also calls for looking for other references as models for institutions. As Helen Hester points out, “If we are seeking to reconsider the possibilities of social reproduction, in the interests of generating a more egalitarian conception of what a contemporary Promethean politics might mean, then we need to move beyond this privileging of the workplace. Indeed, we must turn our attention to the opportunities inherent in the collective reorganization and re-imagination of domestic space.” How to perform this “moving beyond” and “turning” also when thinking about working conditions within the art context? These are questions that, we believe, should inform our practices and that echo many of the texts presented in this publication that explore the processes of institutional work, its precarious structures and complex timings, all of which imply reproductive labor.
Another Take on A New Organization of the Social
On the other hand, this research also takes place in years when the task of anticipating is increasingly handed over to predictive algorithms and anticipatory computing that transform the architectures we move through into responsive systems)—from domestic to public spaces, blurring the traditional distinction between the private and public spheres. “In the belly of data centers, machine intelligence is already emerging as a novel perspective on suprahuman and invisible clusters of social data, not as the quality of imitating human features and feelings. Machine intelligence is not anthropomorphic, but sociomorphic: it imitates and feeds on the condividual structures of society rather than the individual ones. […] Computation is actually an economic process, one that aims at extracting valuable information and discarding useless information. In this sense computation is also a process of capitalization.” As Matteo Pasquinelli suggests, any single part of human existence, and human socialization, are becoming part of a process of commodification; when a “new economy of suggested contents” designs communities of like-minded people and boosts a sense of affiliation with groups that are easily acknowledged as “we”; when, in the words of philosopher Byung-Chul Han, “The harsh logic of capitalism prevails in the so-called sharing economy, where, paradoxically, nobody is actually giving anything away voluntarily”; when notions such as friendship, hospitality, community, domesticity, and care are monetized and commodified; when “Revolution is not possible among exhausted, depressive, and isolated individuals.” Then, perhaps, we can consider the process of institution-making as one of the places where to counteract the digital cover of life, and its process of omnipresent commodification.
A Shared Lexicon and the Problem of Time
The implicit contradiction is precisely that notions such as friendship, hospitality, community, domesticity, and care form a lexicon common to many of the contributors to this issue of OnCurating, because—we could argue—they seem to be the values at stake and the battleground on which to try to resist the isolation and exhaustion imposed by capitalism’s rhythm. They are inflicted by digital social media and their capitalization, but they also seem to be the notions around which we try to re-compose a collective desire, and therefore they have fully entered the grammar of exhibition-making (and institution-making). These notions and contradictions accompany the discourse around many aspects of artistic and curatorial practices, from the production of spatial settings to the politics of display, from forms of mediation and pedagogical formats, to methodologies of audience engagement.
So, if on one hand, all the contributors understand those notions as active tools for rethinking and reshaping structures and infrastructures in order to succeed in establishing a truly situated practice, on the other they don’t hide the fact that they are preoccupied with the temporality that the performing of those values demand; it takes time to host, it takes time to take care, it takes time to share, and it takes time simply to be present, not to mention that this presence is often unpaid: “But presence also means permanent availability without any promise of compensation […] Presence means to be engaged or occupied with an activity without being hired or employed,” as Hito Steyerl has sharply noted. It seems legitimate to ask: how to establish an economy of co-presence that can be sustainable both for workers and audience, in precarious times and when most of the institutions are suffering from a systemic scarcity of resources?
Anticipation as an Operative Term
To frame the discourse around the “future” of institutions, inspired by thinkers such as Glissant, we proposed anticipation as an operative term that offers a different approach to what the most common notion of future might imply historically: a linear conception of time tied to an idea of progress that shapes the developments of modernity around utopian models. If we believe that challenging given histories is central when it comes to cultural practices and historiography, then the nomenclature of the possible projections towards different conditions is crucial. Even though we understand that shifting from one term to another is a humble gesture, it might set the basis for imagining other constellations of practices, meanings, and formations. As Siefried Zielinksi has written in his proposal Towards An Institute for Southern Modernities: “To think in deep time dimensions joins a possible past to a possible future. Just as I do not understand history as a collection of given facts, but as a reality that is perpetually co-produced by historians, I do not believe that the future will automatically be the perpetuation of contemporary conditions and relations.” Following this logic, the term anticipation escapes linear narratives and traces more open trajectories that allow for the establishment of oblique relationships, associations, and alliances across time; it is understood in its many-folded meaning of looking forward, taking care ahead of time, and enthusiasm, and therefore as a proposition to reframe the discourse about the times to come of institutions and their, supposedly inherent, nature of becoming while being grounded in the present. Therefore, in our understanding, it could become a form of “radical hospitality” that makes it possible to draw energy from an encounter with someone, or something, yet to be known and makes of it a driving force of transformation. As feminist theorist Braidotti suggests: “We need to borrow the energy from the future to overturn the conditions of the present […] to anticipate what we want to become. We need to empower people to will, to want, to desire, a different world, to extract to reterritorialize, indeed—from the misery of the present joyful, positive, affirmative relations and practices.” This seems to be the effort around which to build an institutional practice.
Antonia Alampi speaks with Alec Steadman about her past and ongoing projects that research experimental models of institutions and programming while implementing them in geographical context afflicted by political and economical instability. In parallel and complementary ways, Cairo, Egypt and Athens, Greece—where, respectively, the projects Imaginary School Program (ISP) and Future Climates took place—offered the most challenging and appropriate contexts in which to “think about institutional structures”...“from an infrastructural perspective, including economic trajectories, issues of legality, modes of governance and the ideological and cultural frames that existed within them.” A conversation that raises fundamental questions around issues of “economic and ecological sustainability, long-term structural support, low compensation of artistic and intellectual work, precarious labor conditions, problematic legal, political and bureaucratic frameworks” that are intertwined within the act and urgency of building and running small-scale initiatives, but that at the same time are valid considerations that can extend to all art and cultural institutions.
The chapter by artist Alex Martinis Roe is extremely relevant in the context of this publication, since many of the contributors to this issue, and the organizations they represent, worked together to support and give continuity to the artist’s research, which goes under the title of To Become Two. Correspondingly, the organizations benefit from the profound research that Martinis Roe conducts about (hi)stories of self-initiated feminist philosophical circles, bookshops, and university departments, as it offers an important perspective on ways of working and living together. In fact, the exercises that Martinis Roe proposes in her chapter unfold around the practice of affidamento, theorized within the circle of the Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective, as a practice that “facilitates the extension of the radical politics of difference within the group, into its way of working together on the bookstore project, but also further afield into existing institutions and power structures.”
Binna Choi, director at Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht, looks back and through the activities that took place at Casco in recent years under the umbrella of the Composing the Commons inquiry (and more specifically in its latest phase, articulated in the exhibition project We Are the Time Machines: Time and Tools for Commoning). While individuating the need for “making time” as the “fundamental condition for commoning,” Binna Choi reveals how this making of time emerges as the critical, and most difficult to accomplish, challenge through which to rethink and recompose the institution itself. In her account, she describes the thinking behind the methodology chosen to anticipate, “within the parameters of the exhibition,” the production of situations where the “tools for commoning” could be made—as they are not pre-existing: a work that weaves together spatial design and facilities with various formats of programming, with the intention of allowing the co-habitation of different temporalities and communities (from the temporary visitor to the Casco team itself). Binna Choi boldly unveils how this process—driven by the genuine desire of making “reproductive time” to shape the whole exhibition and institution—eventually collides with the organization’s ongoing business-as-usual “busyness”, and she makes clear how this issue will be the central challenge in Casco’s future development.
Céline Condorelli and Manuel Segade converse via Skype about various interlinked ideas that present the format of the “exhibition as a set of relationships” within which audience(s) “come with bodies” for which the institution should be responsible. Describing display as something that “happens during the encounter between bodies and objects,” they talk about the importance of acknowledging personal references and biographical approaches while “positioning oneself from the side, or the site, you're trying to speak with”—forms of embodiment that seem a necessary effort to establish a genuine practice of support. By referencing Notes on the Museum Bench by Diana Fuss, they traverse the history of modern museums, initially designed and furnished as places of/for encounters but that progressively became a more neutral environment, leaving space exclusively for a “visual experience of culture” and excluding forms of social life from its rooms. Letting emerge how the absence of women was a determining point in the construction of those Western-modern places of cultural-symbolic production, the museum is framed as the site where conditions of appearance are produced and where the politics of display govern forms of “relationships and exclusion.” In these terms, throughout the conversation the need to find ways of acknowledging what and who is, or has been made, absent or marginal is a shared concern for Condorelli and Segade. And at the same time, the respective artistic and curatorial practices find in notions such as friendship and desire the modi operandi to think about the “future” of institutions, bringing to its center precisely what/who is missing and making of it “not a place to build a community but a place where a community can be acknowledged as a set of gestures of responsibility.”
Framing the notion of anticipation between its meanings of potential and expectation, Jonathan Habib Engqvist brilliantly guides Christian Nyampeta through his own practice and main propositions formulated under the statement of “how to live together.” Nyampeta’s “hosting structures”—spatial arrangements that the artist has produced in various forms and that include objects such as benches, toys, sandals, and musical instruments—are useful tools for discussing the intertwined relationship existing between the artist’s role, the exhibition as format, and the way they affect the institution. In Nyampeta’s words, what is at stake within these structures is “a reserve of a doing, a reserve of encounters,” where “letting” and “resting” become affirmative and operational, and “passivity” is understood as “the passing of one subject into another, including our previous and future selves.” So what emerges is a productive tension within the act of “resting” that is no longer considered “as leisure, or laziness, or inaction but as an action of being sensitive to what is to come.”
The artistic contribution by Vienna-based artist duo Krüger and Pardeller relates, in a diary-like chronicle, their direct experience in working with experimental practices within small-scale institutions. Framed under the title of A Model of Possible Action. An Experiment to Develop a New Methodology of Institutional Cooperation, which starts from the observation of how “large institutions, parallel to their programmatic critique of neoliberal practices, themselves engage professional coaching firms in order to implement internal organizational development processes,” the artists write about the complexity of their attempt to establish a model of research that could capitalize on and highjack coaching techniques to bring together knowledge and expectations from various stockholders of the institution (from policymakers, to the artistic community and the team): an act that both makes it possible to guide and accompany the institution through a transformative process towards a new model, while at the same time investigating “the overlap between methods of institutional critique and the techniques of organizational development.”
The editors of this issue, Emanuele Guidi and Lorenzo Sandoval, guide the Venezuelan, Berlin-based artist Sol Calero through some of her main works and undertakings to reveal the role that Latin American culture has in her practice in terms of both political and artistic influence. Attributing a sense of hospitality as an essential part of her background, Calero describes her interest in the production of artifacts, interiors, architecture, and situations of sociality as forms with which to engage with people and often through “access to other voices, other artists’ works dealing with issues of identity, racism, or the consequences of colonialism” as “a way for me to make artwork more inclusive and complex, instead of perpetuating a system that I have experienced as classist and exclusive.” In these terms, the sort of curatorial attitude that informs her work goes alongside the effort to understand and mediate the notion of the exotic, and how that can become a tool for making the “cultural appropriation of Latin American art and its reception in Europe” visible—a critical take on an ongoing colonial legacy that Calero tries to unpack by establishing “honest” ways of “working together.”
Teobaldo Lagos Preller introduces the work of Justo Pastor Mellado during his directorship of the institution Parque Cultural de Valparaiso, followed up by a conversation with him. Lagos historicizes the process of how the Parque came to be in Valparaiso in the middle of a shift in Chilean politics. The institution was formerly a jail, and prior to the work of Pastor Mellado, it was occupied by local cultural agents. When assuming the direction, Pastor Mellado became a polemical figure, although his practice towards the local community developed a few interesting findings. He applied the concept of the diagram of work as a form that could fictionalize a possible practice, and in that way anticipate what an institution could become. He used this technique to introduce his project to politicians and to develop the program of the Parque. Another finding was to use the history of the building itself as a dispositif through which to reflect upon history and the relationships with the neighbors. In the introductory text and in the conversation, Lagos Preller and Pastor Mellado analyze the potentialities of such an approach and a few of the polemical points of Mellado’s practice.
Through an artistic contribution, Luis Berríos-Negrón introduces his project “Earthscore Specularium,” developed at Färgfabriken in Stockholm in 2015. The work of Berríos-Negrón departs from a practice that deals with complexity to reflect upon notions that bring together ecology, art, architecture, science, and social practice. In recent years, he has been developing a set of conceptual devices he ultimately refers to as “social pedestals.” The latter consist of a series of architectonical installations that facilitate social encounters by resolving spatial practicalities, and at the same time reflect conceptually upon the dematerialization of sculpture. The “social pedestal” is conceived as a site for networked agency for social transformation, where the roles of the agents involved can permute, and different configurations can be organized depending of the needs of every specific situation. The “greenhouse”—which Luis treats as a social pedestal itself as well—is a long-term research site of the artist on the possibility of emancipating this type of technology in order to obtain a sense of anticipation in spatial, social, and artistic practices. in order to obtain anticipatory spatial, artistic, and social media. In that way, the project seeks to take inspiration from the functions and metaphors of the greenhouse to reflect upon the contemporary ecological crisis, and its social extensions. By taking the many layers that compose the history of the greenhouse (its relations with colonialism, exploitation, division of nature, labor, and knowledge, etc.) Berríos-Negrón proposes to retool the technology and the conceptual sets that shape the greenhouse. In his contribution to this issue, the artist incorporates a series of correspondence and drawings that were the core output of “Earthscore Specularium.” The space of the project, a “model greenhouse superstructure,” was built and inhabited together by Luis, his partner and art historian María Kamilla Larsen, daughter Freia Pilar Negrón Larsen, and the Färgfabriken curatorial and installation staff. They invited a series of guests to also stay overnight with them to contribute to the project through sharing their knowledge and memories, together creating different artistic elements using Paul Ryan’s techniques of “Earthscore” notation and “Threeing.” The project radically challenged the idea of habitation as performance, where the limits of audience lie, and, through them, which kinds of relationships and exchanges can occur. At the same time, it challenged the divisive colonial past of the greenhouse as a proto-technology that may have presupposed the perceptual separations between being and environment, interior and exterior, nature and knowledge.
We are deeply grateful to all the authors who accepted to engage with our proposal: this publication has been possible not just because they shared their knowledge, but also, and first and foremost, because they accepted to dedicate themselves and contribute their labor, passion, and time.
We also would like to thank Michael Birchall for the initial invitation, and the OnCurating team, Dorothee Richter and Ronald Kolb, for the invaluable feedback, comments, and editorial work.
Finally, we would like to thank all the artists, writers, and practitioners who accompanied the numerous phases and episodes of this research
Elena Basteri, Brave New Alps and Paolo Plotegher, Federica Bueti, Santiago Cirugeda, DPR Barcelona, Marina Garcés, Roberto Gigliotti, Janette Leverrière and Nairy Baghramian, Markus Miessen, Mijo Miquel, Roberto Poli, Verena Rastner, Daniel Salomon, Marinella Senatore and Assemble, Rafa Tormo, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Stephen Wright.
4 So far, Spaces of Anticipation has taken the form of a symposium with the same title at EACC (Castellón, Spain, 2014) (Link: http://www.eacc.es/en/espai-didactic/espais-danticipacio-simposi/); the research exhibition Making Room. Spaces of Anticipation (link: http://www.argekunst.it/en/making-room-spaces-of-anticipation/)(2014), and a second symposium and workshop (2015) (http://www.argekunst.it/en/spaces-of-anticipation-un-simposio/) both at ar/ge kunst (Bolzano, Italy). The first two texts are included in this publication.
5 Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community, trans. Peter Connor, Lisa Garbus, Michael Holland, and Simona Sawhney, Theory and History of Literature, Volume 76 (Minneapolis and Oxford: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).
7 Heather Thiessen, On Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, accessed February 18, 2018, https://utopaedia.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/benjamin-trauerspiel-notes.pdf, 2.
10 Helen Hester, “Promethean Labours and Domestic Realism,” accessed February 18, 2018, https://www.academia.edu/11571359/Promethean_Labours_and_Domestic_Realism.
11 “The multiple crises we face, socially, economically, and ecologically (which are impossible to disentangle), are incommensurate with our existing means to justly mitigate them. These crises did not suddenly appear out of nowhere, but are the result of human making; a deeply uneven making, whose acute consequences disproportionately follow well-trodden trajectories of historical domination. Unbridled technological development is partially complicit in amplifying these crises, but this is largely so because it is embedded in particular socio-political diagrams that set far more determinate constraints on what, for example, algorithms do, than what algorithms, as such, could do. The crux here lies in the ‘could,’ which is a question of enablement: in what conditions can, say, the algorithmic serve us, in what conditions will it devour us for spare parts, and in what conditions does it preemptively criminalize the innocent?” Patricia Reed, “Xenophily and Computational Denaturalization,” e-flux Architecture, accessed February 18, 2018, http://www.e-flux.com/architecture/artificial-labor/140674/xenophily-and-computational-denaturalization/.
12 Matteo Pasquinelli, “Abnormal Encephalization in the Age of Machine Learning,” e-flux no. 75 (September 2016), http://www.e-flux.com/journal/75/67133/abnormal-encephalization-in-the-age-of-machine-learning/.
13 Byung-Chul Han, “Why Revolution Is Impossible: On The Seductive Power Of Neoliberalism,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 13, 2014, http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/97371820645/why-revolution-is-impossible-on-the-seductive.
15 Hito Steyerl, “The Terror of Total Dasein: Economies of Presence in the Art Field,” DIS Magazine, http://dismagazine.com/discussion/78352/the-terror-of-total-dasein-hito-steyerl/.
16 Siegfried Zielinski, “Towards An Institute for Southern Modernities,” Siegfried Zielinski and Eckhard Fürlus, Variantology Vol. 5. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (Cologne: Walther König, 2011).
18 Rosi Braidotti and Timotheus Vermeulen, “Borrowed Energy: Timotheus Vermeulen talks to philosopher Rosi Braidotti about the pitfalls of speculative realism,” Frieze, no. 165 (September 2014), http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/borrowed-energy/.
19 In 2014, Alex Martinis Roe participated in the research exhibition Making Room – Spaces of Anticipation curated by Emanuele Guidi and Lorenzo Sandoval; as development of the dialogue generated around Spaces of Anticipation, BAR project invited AMR for a residency in Barcelona where she could research and produce a new chapter of To Become Two. Eventually To Become Two found a final form in the co-commissioned series of exhibitions and public programs by ar/ge kunst (Bolzano), Casco (Utrecht), If I Can’t Dance (Amsterdam), and The Showroom (London).