Globalization does not only mean expanding production, consumption, and communication on a global scale, with profits channeled for the most part to big corporations, creating an increasingly comprehensive network of economic collaborations. It also evokes new forms of cultural identities, distinctions, coalescences, ambiguities, projections, or transformations, as well as new experiences of difference or belonging in a much more porous network. However, a redefinition in the face of globalization means that the cultural coordinates of the present also produce new perspectives on histories, genealogies, or traditions, as well as new perspectives of future visions, which form and articulate themselves not least in contemporary art. We want to understand and explore these processes through “situated knowledges.”
The term “situated knowledges” coined by Donna Haraway is a central topic in her concept of feminist objectivity. In her much-cited 1988 essay "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective" Haraway declares that all scientific knowledge is fundamentally conditional. For this reason, the concept of situated knowledge incorporates the social location and contextual advantages of the researcher into the research process. Against an assumption of the apparently neutral and unmediated knowledge of the (male, white) Western idea of science and its representation through totalizing visualization techniques, Haraway develops her concept of situated (or embodied) knowledges by drawing on a description of the eye and "vision" (in the broad real and metaphorical sense). There is no such thing as unconditional observation, she argues, because every "acquisition of knowledge" takes place in a dynamic "apparatus of bodily production."
Haraway therefore argues for the recognition of an embodied objectivity and thus for knowledge located, i.e., situated, in a certain time, embodied and with partial instruments of vision. Situated knowledge is never universal, but rather contains excerpts and different perspectives that can change in time and context. Only by negotiating the different positions and partial perspectives, by the stuttering and irritations that arise from this does more adequate knowledge become possible. This seems to us to be a particularly valuable approach in collaborative processes that bring together different cultures and different political situations. Haraway retains the concept of the entities in relationships in many areas because she is concerned with understanding the situated and embodied power of actors in networks. This clear understanding of agency also puts her theoretical approach in opposition to some understandings of the Actor-Network Theory and New Materialism.
According to Haraway, situated knowledge forms the basis for political action. The inevitable involvement of scientists in the "apparatuses of bodily production" always requires them to accept and reflect on their own responsibility. Haraway already explains this in the "Cyborg Manifesto": “Taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skillful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts.”
Bonaventura de Sousa Santos comes to a compatible conclusion in “Epistemologies of the South”: he sees the problem of global economic inequality as based on the Western understanding of science and law, and therefore the fight for global social justice must primarily be a fight for global cognitive justice. This is first and foremost a matter of sovereignty of interpretation. These structures arise from “abyssal thinking” deeply rooted in Western modernity, which must be countered with an alternative, rebellious, popular cosmopolitanism based on equality and the recognition of difference.
In her later writings, Haraway establishes a concept of kinship that is not based on biological heritability, but on the inseparability of human-animal-plant-technology in secular networks. In her latest contribution, "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin," she calls for a responsible "kinship" relationship to become the basis of political activist strategies in times of current crises such as climate change, pollution, migration, exploitation, and postcolonial oppression: "Making kin and making kind (as category, care, relatives without ties by birth, lateral relatives, lots of other echoes) stretch the imagination and can change the story."
Conference and workshop:
“Situated Knowledges – Art and Curating on the Move”
With this in mind, Dorothee Richter (ZHdK), Cedric Maridet (HKBU), and Ronald Kolb (ZHdK) organized a conference and workshop program under the title “Situated Knowledges – Art and Curating on the Move” from June 25 to 27, 2021, as a hybrid parallel conference and workshop event at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (on-site) and the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (online). The event was embedded in the format “Curating on the Move” in the Shared Campus cooperation platform, an international education format and research network launched by seven higher arts education institutions. Active partners for this conference were Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), and University of the Arts, London (UAL).
The conference invited artists, curators, educators, and scholars from the Shared Campus partners and beyond to engage in the program of public talks and discussions as well as participatory workshops, all to be attended via Zoom, due to Covid restrictions all over the globe. Over three days, public talks and discussion took place with Lucy Steeds (Afterall, UAL) and John Tain (Head of Research, Asia Art Archive), Michael Asbury (UAL), Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, Paulo Miyada (34th Bienal de São Paulo), Jeanne van Heeswijk, Angela Dimitrakaki, and Yuk Hui. These public talks were followed by five workshops held in parallel on each day, three days in a row. The workshop format varied in structure and was experimental in nature, stretching the format of digital cooperation, and the workshops were held by Bo Choy and Chloe Ting (Afterall, UAL), Gesyada Siregar and Angga Wijaya (ruangrupa/Gudskul), Antonio Cataldo (at that time PhD researcher, ZHdK, and Director of Fotogalleriet Oslo), Karmen Franinovic, Roman Kirschner (ZHdK), Nadim Abbas (curator, HKW, Berlin), Rose Li, Edward Sanderson, Lang Tu (PhD researchers, HKBU), Ron Yakir, Li Xiaoqiao, and Rose Li (PhD researchers, HKBU), Basia Sliwinska and Caroline Stevenson (UAL), Janet Fong (HKBU) with Choi Yan Chi, May Fung, and Lo Yin Shan, Dorothee Richter and Ronald Kolb (MAS Curating, ZHdK), Katalin Erdődi (PhD researcher, ZHdK), Debe Sham (PhD researcher, HKBU) and Georgia Kennedy, Noit Banai and Dani Gal, Maayan Sheleff (PhD researcher, ZHdK) and Ruth Patir (Artist, Tel Aviv), Be van Vark (choreographer, Berlin), and Alison Green and Lee Weinberg (UAL).
The conference was the starting point for this publication.
The conference brought together diverse artistic and curatorial practices from different locations all over the world. It tackled the positionality of the epistemes embodied in participants and opened up—hopefully—a commoning process of exchanging partial vision in a trustful manner. If we are inclined to speak of the global aspects of translocality with this coming together of situated knowledges, we need to be (context- and power-)sensitive not only to the context of the different art practices and its disciplines and media, but also of the educational format and its power structures, their embeddedness in epistemological frameworks, and of world views at large.
The proposed workshop tackled all these issues in one way or the other. In this sense, “situated knowledges” were realized as a method of permeability in unexpected and surprising encounters with other forms of situated knowledges with hopefully interrelated and interconnected effects.
Contributions to this issue
The contributions in this issue exemplify the partiality and situatedness of one’s own position in our respective fields of expertise, within our educational frameworks and contact zones. The compiled texts reflect on Haraway’s concept of situated knowledges, and on each contributor’s own embodied practices and the hands-on experiences in the workshops.
In her contribution, “From Space to Time: ‘Situated Knowledges,’ Critical Curating, and Social Truth,” Angela Dimitrakaki follows the historical context of Haraway’s influential text “Situated Knowledges” from 1988: a globally politically charged situation with the end of the “Cold War,” leaving extractivist capitalist logic as its sole winner on the world map. Rather than an equalizing positionality, Dimitrakaki opts for historical factuality to find forms and actions that work towards a social truth.
Jeanne van Heeswijk and Whitney Stark join forces in their contribution “Training for Together: Extended Bodies,” providing insights into van Heeswijk’s ongoing practice-in-progress project Training for the Not-Yet, an open community-building practice. They develop their artistic practice in response to power-sensitive positionality in line with Haraway’s request in “Situated Knowledges.”
“Situated Knowledges and Interdependence in the Exhibitionary-Educational Complex,” the contribution by Ronald Kolb, borrows closely from Donna Haraway’s text in order to elaborate a set of skills moving toward a feminist objectivity in situated knowledges, and to open up these methods for artistic, curatorial, and educational contexts.
Alison Green and Lee Weinberg conducted the workshop titled “Six Degrees of Separation: Curatorial Practice/Objects of Desire,” aiming to think about the exchange of objects and the function of desire in capitalist logic as an ever violent relation between objects and subjects.
Their contribution, “Cacoethes,” speaks about their situatedness and background thought for the workshop, and reports on the workshop itself, which evolved into an unexpected encounter, with participants sharing stories of objects of desire with one another.
In “Curing the Archive Fever: Filling the Gaps Through Situatedness,” Antonio Cataldo aims to challenges “archive fever”—the formation that grants legitimacy and canonizes patriarchal knowledge to the point of its “naturalization”—by investigating the terminology of archive/arkhé, “while looking for freedom in action through notions of endangerment and implication.”
Janet Fong Man Yee follows, with her contribution, “New Horizons: Ways of Seeing Hong Kong Art in the ‘80s and ‘90s: An Integrated Approach to Curatorial Practices on Exhibition-Making” and the respective exhibition to which the text refers, a precise alternative perspective of Hong Kong’s contemporary art through different “vantage points of micro- and macro-history” by bringing in many voices of artists from that time.
In “Whisper Game: Practicing Attention Through Caring and Pacing,” Basia Sliwinska and Caroline Stevenson experienced embodied knowledge in conversation with Judah Attille, Giovanna Bragaglia, Maria Costantino, Fabiola Fiocco and Alison Green by playing a modified version of the “whisper game,” initiated by a text, asking the participants for other texts in a similar vein and related to it. This game enabled interrelating collectively in methods of knowledge transfer. This resulted in the shared written contribution, “reveal[ing] tensions, hierarchies, and agencies that shape the spaces with/in which we speak, listen, and are heard.”
Debe Sham and Georgia Kennedy conducted the workshop Cloth Knowledge: Sculpting with a Missing Corner with an awareness of contextual knowledge and the varied experiences of the workshop participants. The workshop used cloth as a material and tool to experience situated knowledge in a shared formation.
Bo Choy and Chloe Ting propose “Situated Knowledge, Situated Works” to discuss one’s personally situated context in conjunction with artworks and exhibitions. Choy and Ting start with The Other Story, the infamous exhibition curated by artist Rasheed Araeen at Hayward Gallery in 1989. Respondents are Ashley L. Wong (referring to Wang Hui’s 2011 book, The Politics of Imagining Asia) and Anahita Razmi (proposing a rejected project proposal of hers, recontextualizing imagery and objects of the Islamic Republic of Iran and “a West”).
In “FoMO FREE RADIO,” Nadim Abbas, Rose Li, Edward Sanderson (with Fiona Lee Wing-shan), and Lang Tu (with Anouchka van Driel), greatly influenced by Covid and the respective measures in Hong Kong and China in 2020/21, each follow particular discussions surrounding their artistic practices that revolve around technological instruments, parasitical programs, performative politics, the attention economy, etc., tackling the state of social media in which we live.
“Memory Communities at the Crossroads” by Noit Banai and Dani Gal seeks to bring together situated knowledges and multidirectional memory “as a way of renegotiating monolithic frameworks of contemporary memory cultures and national authority over historical narratives.” They propose situated and embodied readings of memory cultures through photographic and documentary media, starting with an image depicting Paul Celan in front of Mount Meron during a visit to Israel in 1969.
Dorothee Richter and Ronald Kolb present the playful project Small Projects for Coming Communities, for which artists, theoreticians, and the public were invited to deliver event scores. These event scores made it possible to start extensive exchanges on ecological and political issues at the localities of each participant. The embodied realities became apparent in the shared digital space.
Dorothee Richter is Professor in Contemporary Curating at the University of Reading, UK, and head of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating, CAS/MAS Curating at the Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland; She is director of the PhD in Practice in Curating Programme, a cooperation of the Zurich University of the Arts and the University of Reading. Richter has worked extensively as a curator: she was initiator of Curating Degree Zero Archive, Curator of Kuenstlerhaus Bremen, at which she curated different symposia on feminist issues in contemporary arts and an archive on feminist practices, Materialien/Materials; recently she directed, together with Ronald Kolb, a film on Fluxus: Flux Us Now, Fluxus Explored with a Camera. She is executive editor of OnCurating.org.
Ronald Kolb is a researcher, lecturer, curator, designer and filmmaker, based between Stuttgart and Zurich. Co-Head of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating, ZHdK and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal On-Curating.org. PHD candidate in the Practice-Based Doctoral Programme in Curating, University of Reading/ZHdK. The PhD research deals with curatorial practices in global/situated contexts in light of governmentality – its entanglements in representational power and self-organized modes of participatory practices in the arts.
 Sigrid Schmitz, “Cyborgs, situiertes Wissen und das Chthulucene. Donna Haraway und dreißig Jahre politischer (Natur-)wissenschaft,” Soziopolis, July 12, 2016, accessed August 1, 2020, https://www.soziopolis.de/erinnern/klassiker/artikel/cyborgs-situiertes-wissen-und-das-chthulucene/.
 Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (1988): 575–599; 591.
 Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), 149–181.
 Bonaventura de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide (New York: Routledge, 2014).
 Donna Haraway, “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin,” Environmental Humanities 6 (2015): 159–165; 161.
 For a detailed description of all workshops, please see: https://shared-campus.com/themes/cultures-histories-futures/curatorial-workshop/curating-on-the-move-situated-knowledges/.