Das mehrteilige Projekt SHOW ME THE WORLD analysiert und diskutiert erstmals im Theaterbereich grundsätzlich und international das Kuratieren und Veranstalten in einer global vernetzten Welt. Es wirft dabei u.a. Fragen auf zu gängigen Exotismen in der kuratorischen Praxis, zur Etablierung einer globalen Ethik des Veranstaltens, zu hegemonialen oder horizontalen Beziehungen in der Präsentation von Kunst und zum Ethno- oder Eurozentrismus im Festivalbetrieb unserer Zeit.
Nach Vorbegegnungen in vier Kontinenten und einer ersten öffentlichen Diskussionsrunde in Mülheim an der Ruhr im April dieses Jahres fand vom 24. bis 26. Oktober 2015 das abschließende Symposium mit namhaften internationalen Spezialisten und einem intensiven Vortrags-, Diskussions- und Workshop-Programm beim SPIELART Festival in München statt. Mit Rolf Abderhalden (Bogotá), Jelili Atiku (Lagos), Anja Dirks (Fribourg), Ahmed El Attar (Kairo), Judy Hussie-Taylor (New York) sowie Ong Keng Sen (Singapur) konnten bekannte internationale KuratorInnen gewonnen werden, die in sog. »area studies« das Kuratieren und Veranstalten in ihrer jeweiligen Region vorstellten und mit namhaften KollgeInnen wie André Lepecki, Adrian Heathfield, Jay Pather und Suely Rolnik diskutierten. Zwei Workshop-Sessions vertieften Einzelaspekte und widmeten sich gezielt den individuellen Fragen der Münchner Symposiumsbesucher.
SHOW ME THE WORLD ist ein Projekt von SPIELART Festival 2015 mit den Goethe-Instituten in Bogota, Kairo, Lagos, München, New York, São Paulo und Singapur sowie dem NRW KULTURsekretariat, dem Impulse Theater Festival, der Theaterwissenschaft München, dem Ringlokschuppen Ruhr und dem Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München.
Unter den verschiedenen Programmpunkten finden Sie die Aufzeichnungen der Vorträge und Diskussionen.
Die Dokumention von SHOW ME THE WORLD in Mülheim finden Sie am Ende der Seite.
Dort sind auch 4 Kuratorenporträts dokumentiert, die von Studierenden eines Seminars verfasst wurden, das anlässlich SHOW ME THE WORLD an der LMU München stattfand.
Unter den verschiedenen Programmpunkten finden Sie die Aufzeichnungen der Vorträge und Diskussionen.
Anlässlich des Symposiums SHOW ME THE WORLD fand an der Theaterwissenschaft der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München ein Seminar zum transkulturellen Kuratieren statt.
Ergebnisse des Seminars waren u.a. von den Studierenden verfasste Kuratoren-Porträts von Rolf Abderhalden, Jeili Atiku, Ahmed El Attar und Ong Keng Sen, die hier dokumentiert sind.
Gero Tögl | Sigrid Gareis | Tilmann Broszat
SHOW ME THE WORLD - TRANSKULTURELLES KURATIEREN FÜR DIE DARSTELLENDEN KÜNSTE
Seminar zum gleichnamigen Symposium im Rahmen von SPIELART 2015
Wird in der bildenden Kunst bereits seit den 1990er Jahren der intensive Diskurs über kuratorische Konzepte im globalen künstlerischen und kulturellen Dialog geführt, so steht in der darstellenden Kunst diese Diskussion derzeit noch an ihrem Beginn. In den insgesamt sehr vereinzelten Publikationen, die zum Kuratieren in der darstellenden Kunst bislang überhaupt erst erscheinen sind, werden Fragen zur Praxis und Ethik des Veranstaltens und Produzierens in inter- und transkulturellen Kontexten nur peripher oder in Fallstudien abgehandelt. Doch mehr und mehr beginnt dieses Diskussionsdefizit der nationalen wie internationalen Veranstalterschaft im zeitgenössischen Theater und Tanz bewusst zu werden. Zusätzlich zur Bestimmung des Arbeitsfeldes für Kuratoren in Abgrenzung zu Produzenten, Dramaturgen, und Intendanten, hat in den vergangenen Jahren auch eine intensive Diskussion über koloniale Denk- und Verhaltensmuster im internationalen Veranstaltungs- und Förderbetrieb eingesetzt. Anstelle der viel kritisierten Praktiken von „shop windows for nations“ und asymmetrischen Beziehungen zwischen „the West and the Rest“ (Hall 1996), sollen mithilfe ethnologischer Methoden und postkolonialer Theorie neue Ansätze für transkulturelle Praktiken in Kulturpolitik, Kunstproduktion und Festivalgestaltung entwickelt werden.
Das Seminar findet begleitend zum gleichnamigen Symposium im Rahmen von Spielart 2015 statt. Letzteres ist seinerseits Teil eines mehrstufigen Dialoges zwischen international tätigen Kuratoren und Theoretikern, der in mehreren Arbeitstreffen und Gemeinschaftsprojekten geführt wird. Dabei geht es um den Austausch über die Spezifika der jeweiligen Theaterlandschaften, die individuelle kuratorische Arbeit, aber auch Vernetzungsprozesse zwischen erfahrenen Kuratoren und dem Nachwuchs. Schließlich wird im Rahmen des abschließenden Symposiums die global gesammelte Wissensproduktion zusammengeführt und vor Ort gemeinsam mit weiteren Vertretern aus Wissenschaft, Kunst, und Kulturpolitik diskutiert. Am Ende sollen dabei innovative Ansätze zur Praxis und Methodik des Kuratierens stehen. Die teilnehmenden Studenten begleiten diesen Dialog aktiv während des Symposiums, wirken an seiner Dokumentation mit, erhalten eine grundlegende Einführung in die Arbeit des Kurators in den Darstellenden Künsten sowie zu den einschlägigen Fachdiskussionen im Bereich der postkolonialen Theorie. Abschließend werden die Beiträge der eingeladenen Kuratoren und Theoretiker kritisch reflektiert, und eigene kuratorische Projektideen entwickelt.
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The question mark experience
There are people, who simply attract attention, and people, who trigger or create attention. Such a person is Rolf Abderhalden, swiss-colombian performing artist and curator, and – together with his sister – head of the Mapa Teatro in Bogotá. When it comes to his curatorial and artistic practice, his approach is a questioning one. An approach, which requires interest, curiosity and openness, and leads to interdisciplinary working processes. If we look at Abderhalden's educational background, we can see, that “interdisciplinary” is not only a label, but a logical consequence out of diverse trainings: he studied Art-Therapy in Lausanne, Theatre in Paris, Visual Arts in Bogotá. As a Professor at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, where he founded the Master programme Theatre and Live Arts, he also considers his teaching as a form of curatorial practice, as he points out: “I am teaching as an artist, not as a teacher.”
During the three days of the Symposium I had the opportunity not only to listen to his talk with Ong Keng Seng, but also to participate in a workshop and to conduct an interview with him. In the tandem talk with Ong Keng Seng, Abderhalden stressed the curator's ethical-aesthetical and political responsibility. He referred to Baudrillard's terms of “carnivalization“ and “cannibalization“ and painted a picture of nowadays' cultural practice by applying and analyzing these categories. But how to overcome these structures? How could Live Arts nowadays look like? They both had the idea of creating a platform for young artists to meet and experiment, instead of reproducing the common production policy of a festival. It should be about activating an “intensity of thought in the place of creation, privileging, above all, the profusion of questions and concerns that cross our practices”. The focus on the process of questioning turned out to be the red thread concerning the perspective on curatorial practice. During the workshop we delved into this approach. The location, where the small group of six people came together, was a primary school and the room set the highly loaded atmosphere between teaching and learning, the diverse layers of knowledge and reflection. We were sitting on children's chairs, following the circle form of a little carpet in the middle of the room. Rolf Abderhalden was moderating without exercising authority, but by asking questions, bottom-up, and sharing the moderation with his curator colleague and friend Suely Rolnik, who has a similar focus on the question mark. Visualized on sheets of paper, it became a strong symbol and metaphor, the seed of all our discussions – and they were lively. They both explained their working process as a question mark experience: there is something happening in social or political life, which raises questions to the curator, which creates an irritation, and – what they call – “urgency”. This urgency forces them to react. But it starts with a question. Abderhalden was painting. Starting from the question mark he drew wild lines which ended up in total chaos. Around this improvisation he put some clear lines on the paper – a house. For him being a curator means building a house from the inside, being part of the process by protecting what is happening. In the end of the workshop I couldn't say what exactly we were talking about, because there was no result or something even close to it. But I can say that I got a feeling for his approach to being an artist and curator. Rolf Abderhalden seems to encounter arts, human beings and the world by listening carefully, observing and analyzing (without judging), with interest and curiosity, sensitivity and intuition, with sensuality, understatement and modesty, style and attitude.
“Putting yourself in that movement”, that's what it's about. In the Interview I wanted to know more about the inner process of the question mark experience. Abderhalden talked about the “knowing body”, a physical experience that creates irritation but should not be confused with emotion as private feelings. It's about getting affected, making the body vulnerable. “Listen to the uncomfortable”, he says. “The next step is to reflect on what is affecting me – even if it is a negative feeling – and if this feeling is just a private one or a broader cultural issue.” So the thought itself becomes action, not just something before action, and the body is the first witness of this artistic experience. As a curator he understands himself as “mediator, driver, vehicle, transmitter, translator or transducer” of these artistic experiences.
After the three days what remains is a question mark, which is not looking for an answer. It doesn't remain as a question, but as an ability to raise questions – as one possibility to encounter curatorial practice and reality.
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Ahmed El Attar – Curating within and beyond conventions, identities and politics in the Arab world
In the following I summarize the contribution of the Egyptian curator Ahmed El Attar to the Symposium “Show Me The World” in Munich and I try to give an idea about his person and about his approach to the practice of curation. Ahmed El Attar is an Egyptian playwright, theatre director, translator, culture manager and curator. He is responsible for a number of projects. To name only a few: He is the founder and artistic director of Temple Independent Theatre Company and of Orient Productions for film and theatre, he is the founder and director of Studio Emad Eddin Foundation, as well as the artistic director of Falaki Theatre. His projects share the idea of stimulating and encouraging contemporary art in Egypt, or offering an infrastructure for cultural production (e.g. rehearsal spaces). Moreover Ahmed El Attar, who also conceives himself as an artist in the first place, is organizing and curating the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (shortly called D-CAF) established in 2012. It is the only international performing arts festival in Egypt, taking place every year for three weeks. Ahmed El Attar’s vision for the festival D-CAF is to activate the districts of downtown Cairo, to provoke new discourse and to add to the current discourse. It is a kind of an independent manifestation with the art sections theatre, visual arts, film, music, dance and a category called ‘urban visions’.
D-CAF is a unique project in the Egyptian cultural life. As there is nothing that is completely independent in Ahmed El Attar’s opinion, he prefers the denotation ‘alternative’. In his curatorial work he is battling limited funding and poor infrastructure. There is very little state funding and very little private support for his festival. D-CAF’s main partners are a Real Estate Company, as well as a number of international organizations like the British council and the Danish Embassy. Furthermore there is a lack of professionals in cultural work and limited experiences with contemporary art in general in Egypt. In his work for D-CAF, he puts high value on good organization: Punctuality, for example, is not a matter of course in Egypt and Ahmed El Attar tries to implement it by starting the performances during the festival in time.
Ahmed emphasizes that curating a festival is a process. He regards himself as a spin doctor: he is empowering people and he is making people speak, although not politically. This has so much power in Cairo in his opinion: Conveying to the audience a feeling of freedom can already be understood politically in Egypt. Working as a curator means for Ahmed El Attar to regard the Egyptian context all the time. He is trying to contribute new ideas, different ways of thinking and reflection to it.
For Ahmed curatorial practice is a kind of navigating: He is travelling a lot to different festivals around the world. During his journeys he is building – what he calls – imaginary ‘docks’ out of his impressions which then develop the structure of the festival in his mind. It is obvious that curating for him is a very personal process. His experience, his way of thinking, and his emotions are involved all the time. But still it is important for him not to curate according to his personal taste, but to artistic value.
The big challenge for him is to deal with conventions. In this sense ‘conventions’ do not mean traditional ways of performing that are known from the past. They refer to the present and mean comparable ways of performing becoming apparently at various international festivals. There are similar things to see at festivals all over the world, so the risk to produce copy-like performances is high. According to Ahmed El Attar, by copying, the artistic value is getting lost. For him the only parameter that counts in any work is the artistic value: it has to be somehow inventive and original. Nationality doesn’t matter for him, even though he admits that he has to act with caution in order to not present a western showcase to the Arab world with his festival.
In his artistic work, one can highlight topics like questioning reality, mistrust of language, meditations on power relations in families, as well as on questions of space. All of them relate to the identity or the process of identification. Aesthetical and contextual identification also play a great role in his work as a curator.
Identity, politics and economics are factors within the curation and organization of a festival that are all dynamic and that shape the festival. So, what are factors that constantly exist? Ahmed El Attar’s answer is intuition, analysis and vision.
In the workshop during the Symposium “Show Me The World” in Munich, Ahmed El Attar is giving an idea of his work philosophy. He doesn’t seem to pay much attention to pedagogical principles. He is simply taking everybody very seriously, so the Saturday afternoon that was declared as a ‘workshop’ turns out to be a very interesting talk between theatre makers or festival organizers of different countries. Everybody has to tell a lot about the cultural work in his or her country; an exchange of experiences is what Ahmed puts centre-stage. This gives only an impression of his unconventional way of thinking and working.
Handling within and beyond conventions, identities, politics and economics is the challenge for Ahmed El Attar while curating an international festival of contemporary art in the Arab world. He is working in a transcultural context, constantly reflecting about it and being aware about difficulties and chances through this. However he does explicitly not consider himself as part of any theoretical discourse. Ahmed El Attar takes a pragmatic approach and is successfully programming the unique Downtown Contemporary Art Festival in Egypt.
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'Show Me The World' – An encounter with Jelili Atiku
„Show me the world“ is the name for the symposium within the Spielart Festival 2015. It begins on a beautiful bright morning in the munich based museum Haus der Kunst and lets the attendees enter the world of cross-cultural curating with big expectations.
The first time I see Jelili Atiku, is when he channels his way through the rows of chairs in the conference room; his colourful African robe is standing out in between the white walls, he’s smiling and talking to his seatmate. It’s not until later that I get told, that he’s not only a curator, but also a Nigerian multimedia artist and a political activist, who mostly works in the fields of performance art, installations and statuary.
For Jelili Atiku these three fields are highly connected, which comes apparent during the lectures and workshops. He is a curator in order to show his art; but at the same time he is a political activist using the medium of art. Works like „Ewawo - The Nigerian Prisoner, Performance at Visual Arts Section, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria, 2004.“ are criticizing the conditions in Nigeria and are trying to create changes in the consciousness of the people. As a cross-cultural curator he tries to help viewers to understand the world and to expand their understanding experience and to activate and renew their lives and environment.
And that’s exactly what the „Kuratoren-Dialog“ is focusing on, which takes place on the second day of the conference: Jelili Atiku and the New York based curator Judy Hussie-Taylor are sitting next to each other on the stage of Haus der Kunst, each holding a microphone in their hand and are discussing their work as cross-cultural curators. The question that dictates the whole dialog is: „What is cross-cultural curating?”
For Judy Hussie-Taylor the answer is: „Always ask questions and try to approach the artists‘ ideas in what we wants to show and express“ – For Jelili however cross-cultural curating has another meaning; „curating“ means to activate memories and to design something new: It’s about generating productive energy.
His questions are therefore: „What happens around me? How to reconstruct the stereotypes? How can I reactivate the stereotypes? And how can I decolonize myself?
And these are the questions that the workshop, which takes place in a classroom of the Sankt Anna elementary school, are revolving around; It’s about the term decolonization, which is the center of all of Jelili Atiku’s work – his curating and his artistic and political work. According to Jelili we are all victims of colonial powers– not only in the political sense but also on a social level: We all have always been “colonized” through information, through relations and experiences. That’s why his message to the attendees of the workshop is: „Become naive again and liberate yourself from colonialization!” For Jelili a colonial power is a power, that forces us to „stand apart“. Decolonization on the other hand means “progress“, creating new categories and to evolve: “shifting” is the key word of his curating process, which is in the course of the conference.
With Jelilis help we are trying to get to the bottom of the term decolonization – through playing together some games; because for Jelili Atiku curating is practice not a method and for us participants this playful, even naive approach to his work was definitely something new!
On the next day I have the chance to speak with Jelili in private. This private conversation at the Muffathalle in munic offers the participants the opportunity to ask him questions that were left unanswered during the symposium:
With a coffee in my hand I sit down next to him and ask him questions about his hometown Lagos, about his political performances, which he does in the streets of his town and about his work as a curator, which brought him to many different places around the world: I do too have the feeling now that I have seen a bit more of the world.
“Show Me The World” has not only fulfilled my expectations but thanks to Jelili I also learned about the practice of cross-cultural curating in a cross-cultural and global world of art. He is one of the few examples, that you can shift something in this capitalistic world without money but with a strong volition. Even if Jelili’s work as an artist, curator and political activist is more than precarious in his home town, it is just this power of his performances and artworks, which let him create a cross-cultural network with artists and curators and which brought him all around the world. His concept of decolonialisation himself as an artist, curator and simply as a human being let me think a lot about me and myself in a cross-cultural world and it is important for all of us to find the power of shifting ourself and open our body and mind for all the different experiences of the world.
 Few weeks after the symposium „Show me the world“ Jelili Atiku was arrested over performance in Ejigbo, Lagos State by a traditional ruler. To everyone’s great relief Jelili Atiku was remanded on bail on the next day. We stay in contact with him and hope that we can help him when he needs our help – this is only one of the things we need to learn from cross-cultural curating in the world of art.
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Ong Keng Sen – curating potentialities
In getting to know Ong Keng Sen and his approach to curating during SHOW ME THE WORLD in Munich, the thing that stuck to my mind the most were his thoughts on the interferences of art and usefulness. Not only did he challenge putting art to an use that might be commercial or government-friendly, he also called the use of art as an instrument for the production of politically relevant products into question. Doing Ong Keng Sens thoughts justice here is quite complex, as the process he talks about when explaining this concept of curating nothing (in reference to Jean Luc Nancys concept of “Nothing”) is a quite political and subversive one. But – and this is the main point – not political by the means of letting politics colonize the arts. Not by trying to generate products that are to be put to a political use but by the means of the process itself as subversive act.
To expound this while relating to his own working experience, Ong Keng Sen stated a difference between two kinds of curation. Informal curating, represented by his FLYING CIRCUS PROJECT on the one side, formal curating represented by his work as director of the SINGAPORE FESTIVAL OF ARTS (SIFA) on the other. Existing since 1996 the FLYING CIRCUS PROJECT is a multi-disciplinary long term research project that brings artists together without the main goal of producing concrete results. As Ong Keng Sen later on explained in his working group, the context of this project allows subversive practices as wasting money and deconstructing value by for example spending Singaporean funds in Myanmar without generating any products, any use. These practices of curating potentiality rather than products are, according to Ong Keng Sen a lot harder to establish in the context of formal curating, meaning the context of the SIFA that he has been curating for the second time in 2015. In his work for this festival Ong Keng Sen had and has to face the pressure of curating for an audience as well as for the government, of creating use and products. While elaborating on strategies of curatorial resistance against the arts colonization by productivity, Ong Keng Sen pointed out three main goals of curation: Curating nothing, remaining enchanted (in reference to Jane Bennets concept of The Enchantment of Modern Life) and curating potentiality and latent power (rather than products).
Subsequently in his working group at the symposium we had the chance to further discuss the responsibilities of the curator and the question of how to prepare oneself for these responsibilities. Here Ong Keng Sen emphasized the importance of the transparency of curatorial decisions and the difficulty of neither acting as a figure of authority nor creating dependency when you are still the one “coming with the money” and deciding how it is spent. The central question remained: How can the curator escape neoliberal strategies of efficiency and evaluation? In relation to this we dug deeper into a concept that Ong Keng Sen had only mentioned briefly at the end of his talk: The curator as body and the embodiment of curation. In using this term Ong Keng Sen wanted to address that the curator as a body should not remain save and invisible putting others to the “frontline” but rather make her-/himself visible and vulnerable. Rather than denying the individuality of curatorial decisions and referring to a neoliberal framework of seemingly objective evaluation, she/he should be aware of and transparent with the fact that he is inhibited by all the things she/he has seen and experienced. Rather than pushing this fact away one should embrace these embodied references and in relating to them make curation much more than a series of clever ideas. While at the same time constantly questioning oneself, seeing the own curatorial body as problematic and – most important – not colonizing the artist for the sake of the own curatorial vision.
Taken as a whole, Ong Keng Sens talk as much as the discussion in the working group sensitized me for the many ways in which the arts can be – and often are – colonized: By a neoliberal greed for utility and market-value, by a political claim for relevance, by the audiences wishes of being entertained or educated, by curators seeking to fulfill their visions. So, if there is something like postcolonial curation it would be defined by a constant process of avoiding these pitfalls and temptations of colonizing the arts, of perpetually reminding oneself not to generate products – to whatever use they might be – but to instead curate potentialities.