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A Letter from Artists in the Whitney Biennial (New York, US)

July 19, 2019

Dear Ru and Jane,

We respectfully ask you to withdraw our work from the Whitney Biennial for the remainder of the show. This request is intended as condemnation of Warren Kanders’ continued presence as Vice Chair of the Board. We would appreciate if you presented this letter to the Board to let them know the seriousness of the situation.

We care deeply about the Whitney. Over the years, many shows at the Museum have inspired and informed our art. We were angry when we learned of Kanders’ role as CEO of Safariland, a company that manufactures tear gas and other weapons of repression. At the time, we had already accepted your invitation to participate in the Whitney Biennial and some of us were well into fabrication of major pieces for this show. We found ourselves in a difficult position: withdraw in protest or stay and abide a conflicted conscience. We decided to participate.

But the Museum’s continued failure to respond in any meaningful way to growing pressure from artists and activists has made our participation untenable. The Museum’s inertia has turned the screw, and we refuse further complicity with Kanders and his technologies of violence.

We have enormous respect for you as curators and it has been a pleasure working with you.

Yours sincerely,

Korakrit Arunanondchai

Meriem Bennani

Nicole Eisenman

Nicholas Galanin

The open letter was addressed to Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta, curators of the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Read more here.

UPDATE

On Saturday morning, three additional artists said they were withdrawing work in solidarity. Eddie Arroyo and Agustina Woodgate announced through their gallery, Spinello Projects, of Miami, Fla., that “the request is intended as a condemnation of Warren Kanders’ continued presence as Vice-Chair of the Board and the Museum’s continued failure to respond in any meaningful way to growing pressure from artists and activists.”

A seventh artist, Christine Sun Kim, said in an email to The New York Times on Saturday that she, too, had asked for her work to be withdrawn from the Biennial.

“As a mother to a 2-year-old daughter, it terrifies me that my work is currently part of a platform that is now strongly associated with Kanders’ teargas-producing company Safariland,” she wrote to curators. “I do not want her to grow up in a world where free and peaceful expression is countered with means that have left people injured and dead.”

The eighth to ask that work be withdrawn was Forensic Architecture, a London-based research group, which produced a 10-minute video that directly addressed the controversy over Mr. Kanders, called “Triple-Chaser.”

Eyal Weizman, the founder and director of Forensic Architecture, said in an interview that the group had written to the curators on Saturday to remove “Triple-Chaser” and accompanying films. He added that Forensic Architecture asked that those films be replaced by a statement from the group about its new investigation suggesting that bullets made by a company, Sierra Bullets — which it alleges has ties to Mr. Kanders — were used by the Israeli forces against civilian protesters in Gaza in 2018.

In a written statement on Friday, Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s director, acknowledged the four artists’ letter to the curators.

“The Whitney respects the opinions of all the artists it exhibits and stands by their right to express themselves freely. While the Whitney is saddened by this decision, we will of course comply with the artists’ request.”

Warren Kanders’s Whitney Resignation Letter

On July 25th, Warren Kanders, a vice-chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art, sent this letter to the rest of the Whitney board announcing he was stepping down following protests over his company’s sale of tear gas.

 

Academics Pen Open Letter to President Iván Duque Over Repression and Violence (Colombia)

June 12, 2019

21May 2019
Sir
Iván Duque Márquez
President of the Republic of Colombia,
Bogotá, Colombia

Open Letter

We are academics from Colombia and from all over the world and we wish to voice our concern over recent events in Colombia that include death threats, legal persecution and the assassination of social leaders, former guerrilla combatants and human and environmental rights defenders. According to the Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular, CINEP/Programa por la paz (Centre of Research and Popular Education, CINEP/Peace Program), of the cases categorized as political violence in 2018, there were 648 assassinations, 1,151 death threats, 304 people were injured, 48 people were victims of attacks, 22 forced disappearances, 3 sexual attacks, and 243 arbitrary detentions. In 2019, at least 62 social leaders have been killed so far.

Given these facts, we are outraged at the Colombian government’s failure to acknowledge the situation and we ask the government to take steps to avoid this continuous and systematic bloodshed and to prevent a repetition of deplorable events, such as the attempt on the life of Francia Márquez and other leaders from the North of Cauca that occurred on the 4th May this year. We have observed that hate and violence are encouraged from within places of power and the media and that this disrupts not only the little peace that has been achieved but as noted by Daniel Pécaut (2001), is a declaration of war against society.

As academics that conduct research on local, regional and international dynamics, we have seen how territories of geopolitical interest have been put in the spotlight and as a result have seen an escalation of conflicts linked to the expansion of the extractive industry. At the same time, we have noted that nefarious links have developed between legal and illegal forces in order to expel the local population from their territories. These types of relations have also been evidenced by Sassen (2015), Harvey (2004), Escobar (2014), and the analyst of defense, Herold (2007), among others, who have written on expulsion and dispossession as a means to make way for the large-scale accumulation of extractive projects.

In Colombia, a similar situation has been noted in relation to the country’s economic policy, a policy that promotes extractivism as a core strategy for development. This favorable policy climate is used by different sectors holding power, and which represent diverse interests, to take control of territories. As a result, there has been an escalation of assassinations against leaders who are defending the rights of local communities and peoples. Although this has been a reality for a long time, there has been an increase in cases since the signing of the agreements with the FARC – EP in 2016, in clear opposition to the hoped-for ‘territorial peace’.

We can conclude that these threats and assassinations are linked to various sectors who have a specific interest in regions in the country where there is a proposal to develop large-scale extractive projects. This also coincides with accounts given in ‘free version hearings’ at transitional justice processes and in decisions made by the Colombian Constitutional Court.

Recurring phrases in death threats like ‘finish off anyone who interferes with the development of the country’ identifies the local population as a military target, as this population, as voiced by their leaders, opposes extractive projects and wishes to avoid the negative impacts they have on ecosystems and populations. We have also noted that State bodies and the press have failed to take measures to prevent the threats, legal persecution and assassinations taking place and yet at the same time do not hesitate to signal and stigmatize social protest, the activities of social leaders and opposition to government policies.

It is also worrying that it was only when an attempt was made on the life of Francia
Márquez, a leader known internationally as the winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, who was with other well-known leaders at the time, that you chose to make a public pronouncement. Your government has failed to communicate what efforts are being taken to respond to this crisis. We are concerned that the measures taken to date have been insufficient and appear to be limited to weak security plans for social leaders at risk and a hunt for the material authors of these crimes. However, in order to identify the intellectual authors and the sectors behind this strategy of dispossession and extermination, it is imperative to understand the wider context.

As academics, we ask that as head of state you order an investigation in order to uncover what is really behind the despicable acts of violence taking place on a daily basis. At the same time, given the lack of action by your government and the size of the problem, we feel it is urgent and necessary to invite international organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to establish a Commission of Verification to investigate the causes of these violent acts so that we can have reliable information, prevent new cases occurring and ensure justice for the victims of the previous cases.

We hope that you recognize that this is a historic moment for Colombia and that it is possible to change the course of the national economy and of social policy to ensure that life and the environment are protected, resulting in a better life, a ‘buen vivir’, for future generations.

We invite you to share with us the measures taken and decisions made to date, to avoid more bloodshed in Colombia and ask what new actions will be taken to resolve this painful and intolerable humanitarian situation. We the undersigned continue to work towards world peace, towards territorial peace, towards a peace that is longed for in every corner of the earth and here, in Colombia, that has suffered so much.

cc: Most Holy Father Papa Francisco, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International

Académicos Nacionales

Alberto Múnera Duque, S.J.
Profesor – Investigador
Facultad de Teología
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá D.C

Arturo Escobar
Profesor de Antropología, Emérito
U. de Carolina del Norte, Chapel Hill, USA

Adelaida María Gaviria Rivera
Escuela de Biociencias
Facultad de Ciencias

Adira Amaya Urquijo
Docente investigadora
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Adriana del Pilar García Galán
Artista catedrática universitaria, Bogotá, D.C

Alonso Correa Toro,
Profesor veterinaria y ZOOTECNIA,
Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Alix Ginneth Camacho Vargas
Profesora cátedra
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, D.C

Ángela María Vásquez Correa
Profesora titular DSc.
Laboratorio de Productos Forestales LPF
Departamento de Ciencias Forestales

Andrés Villaveces
Departamento de Matemáticas
Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Aida Cecilia Gálvez Abadía (Dra.)
Profesora Titular Jubilada.
Universidad de Antioquia
Medellín (Colombia)

For full list of signatures go here.

Join us at iCI (Independent Curators International) in NYC for the launch of the ArtLeaks Gazette #5!

May 23, 2019
Event_Image_1

Image Caption: ArtLeaks, Banners, 2011-2015, “A Real Work of Art” (RAM Gallery, Oslo), 2015

Patriarchy Over & Out: Discourse Made Manifest: Corina Apostol and Jasmina Tumbas
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
6:30-8pm

ICI 401 Broadway Suite 1620
New York, NY 10013
FREE and open to the public

On June 4th join ICI for the launch of ArtLeaks Gazette #5: Patriarchy Over & Out: Discourse Made Manifest with co-editors Corina Apostol and Jasmina Tumbas will consider queer, trans, feminist, racial, and economic justice through discussion and visual exchange of related materials. Several contributors of the gazette will also be present. One of over twenty-five periodicals included in ICI’s Publishing Against the Grain, ArtLeaks is exemplary this touring exhibition that provides a space for reading, thinking, and conversing, where slowing down can become a form of intellectual resistance.

This event is free and open to the public. To attend, please RSVP to rsvp@curatorsintl.org with PATRIARCHY in the subject line.

61532937_10102552756552597_7058433375475859456_o

Poster by Jasmina Tumbas

 


Independent Curators International (ICI) is a unique arts organization that focuses on the role of the curator in contemporary art. We believe that curators create more than exhibitions — they are arts community leaders and organizers who champion artistic practice; build essential infrastructures, such as art spaces and institutions; and generate public engagement with art. Curators are, therefore, uniquely positioned to have an important impact on the artistic field, and on the communities they serve.

By connecting curators from different regions, backgrounds, and generations, and across social, political, and cultural borders, ICI provides an international framework for knowledge-sharing within which curators’ and artists’ practices can further develop.

ICI works with curators, artists, and art spaces from around the world to produce and present exhibitions, public programs, and educational initiatives for professionals. These collaborative programs promote our core values of cultural exchange, broad access to contemporary art, and building public awareness for the role of the curator. ICI engages with cultural producers who are the independent voices of the next generation of professionals in the field, and at the forefront of shaping curatorial trends and discourse.

This event is accessible to people with mobility disabilities. Please contact ICI for additional accessibility needs.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

 

ArtLeaks Gazette #5 Launch Event at S.a.L.E. Docks (Venice, Italy)

May 7, 2019

We are very happy and proud to announce the release of our latest issue of the ArtLeaks Gazette, entitled ‘Patriarchy Over & Out. Discourse Made Manifest’. 

Editors (Corina L. Apostol, Vladan Jeremic and Rena Raedle) and contributors will present the Gazette during a public discussion at S.a.L.E. Docks (Dorsoduro 265, 30123 Venice, Italy) from 3-5 PM on Friday, May 10th, 2019. 

S.a.L.E. Docks is located: Near Punta della Dogana, in Dorsoduro.

How to get there : Actv line 1 (stop: Salute), Actv lines 2, 5.1, 5,2, 6.1, 6.2, (stop: Zattere), Actv lines 5.1, 5,2 (stop: Spirito Santo). Private dock nearby.

The Gazette brings together contributions that analyze concrete practices and campaigns, and which engage theoretically and intersectionally with relevant issues related to queer, trans, feminist, first nations, racial, and economic justice. The diverse contributions in this issue – including poetry, petitions, lyrics, visual art, activism, manifestoes, and critical essays – confront nationalist discourses, colonial violences, orthodox regimes, misogynist cultural and political programs, crises of identity politics, and the remaining legacies of white supremacy, considering not only overall conditions in the artworld but also local specificities. While the contributions are diverse in their political and cultural scope, their common target remains toxic patriarchy in all its nefarious manifestations. The writers, musicians, artists, activists, filmmakers, and poets featured in this issue envision and demand a different reality and future. To summon Planningtorock’s words from All Love’s Legal (2014): ‘I don’t want to wait, patriarchal life, you’re out of date.’

The gazette includes contributions by: Planningtorock, Judith Goldman, Susanne Sachsee, Ashon Crawley, Kim Bode, Magdalena Zurawski, Nitasha Dhillon, Ana Grujić, Bridget Daria O’ Neill, Mickey Harmon, Joshua Lam, Jasmina Tumbas, Divya Victor, Scene & Heard, Nosotras Proponemos, Erika Balsom & Elena Gorfinkel, Shanté Paradigm Smalls, We are sick of it, Imani Henry, Betty Yu, Mimi Thi Nguyen, Paris Henderson, Boineelo Cassandra Mouse, Amanda Fayant, Van Tran Nguyen, Selma Banich, Nina Gojić, Ena Jurov & Tajana Josimović, Fred Moten & Corina L. Apostol, LaKisha Simmons, Matt Applegate & Andrew Culp, Shannon Woodcock, Chiara Bonfiglioli, Danai Anagnostou, Katja Kobolt & Anna Ehrenstein, Alyssa Schwendener, Tanya Loughead, Mima Simić

Editorial and layout: Corina L. Apostol, Rena&Vladan, with guest editor Jasmina Tumbas

More discussions and workshops will be announced in the near future.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More information about the exhibition Oceans of People at S.a.L.E Docs:

“OCEANS OF PEOPLE, The project analyzes the impact that the tourist industry has on Barcelona and Venice, pointing out common issues and facing under various points of view the different effects. The narrator’s voice belongs to the collectives, committees, and associations that are struggling to defend their environment and common goods, criticizing the prevalent model of touristic development which is threatening the survival of these two cities of heritage. Through photos, posters, videos and interactive installations, tourists and citizens are invited to think about how their behaviors and daily actions can influence these processes of cultural and urban decay. There are also other consequent alarming phenomena to deal with, such as gentrification, the impact of cruise ships and its masses of tourists, the transformation of commercial activities and the consequent loss of local traditions. The aim is to face the values of these endangered heritages, trying to empower the collective denunciation reaction and to push for the administration’s intervention.”

Connect with us:  art-leaks.org/ | Instagram @artsleaks | Facebook: @ArtLeaks | Twitter: @Art_Leaks

 

ArtLeaks Gazette #5: Patriarchy Over & Out. Discourse Made Manifest now online!

April 29, 2019

Cover_Page_ALG#5

We are very happy and proud to announce the release of our latest issue of the ArtLeaks Gazette, entitled “Patriarchy Over & Out. Discourse Made Manifest”

ArtLeaks Gazette #5: “Patriarchy Over & Out. Discourse Made Manifest” brings together contributions that analyze concrete practices and campaigns, and which engage theoretically and intersectionally with relevant issues related to queer, trans, feminist, first nations, racial, and economic justice. The diverse contributions in this issue – including poetry, petitions, lyrics, visual art, activism, manifestoes, and critical essays – confront nationalist discourses, colonial violences, orthodox regimes, misogynist cultural and political programs, crises of identity politics, and the remaining legacies of white supremacy, considering not only overall conditions in the artworld but also local specificities. While the contributions are diverse in their political and cultural scope, their common target remains toxic patriarchy in all its nefarious manifestations. The writers, musicians, artists, activists, filmmakers, and poets featured in this issue envision and demand a different reality and future. To summon Planningtorock’s words from All Love’s Legal (2014): “I don’t want to wait, patriarchal life, you’re out of date.”

The gazette is freely available to read here:

We want to thank Planningtorock for granting us permission to use the title of their 2014 song, “Patriarchy Over & Out,” as the main theme of ALG#5, and Paris Henderson, for granting us permission to use one of his artworks on the cover

The online gazette is published under the Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial-share alike if not marked differently in the specific contributions, and the materials are offered for translation in any languages to any interested party. Limited printed copies are available. ALG#5 editorial encourages anyone who would like to support us to print smaller print runs of ALG#5. ArtLeaks encourages contributors to be an active part of spreading the ALG by hosting it on their site and forwarding it on to their networks.

The gazette includes contributions by: Planningtorock, Judith Goldman, Susanne Sachsee, Ashon Crawley, Kim Bode, Magdalena Zurawski, Nitasha Dhillon, Ana Grujić, Bridget Daria O’ Neill, Mickey Harmon, Joshua Lam, Jasmina Tumbas, Divya Victor, Scene & Heard, Nosotras Proponemos, Erika Balsom & Elena Gorfinkel, Shanté Paradigm Smalls, We are sick of it, Imani Henry, Betty Yu, Mimi Thi Nguyen, Paris Henderson, Boineelo Cassandra Mouse, Amanda Fayant, Van Tran Nguyen, Selma Banich, Nina Gojić, Ena Jurov & Tajana Josimović, Fred Moten & Corina L. Apostol, LaKisha Simmons, Matt Applegate & Andrew Culp, Shannon Woodcock, Chiara Bonfiglioli, Danai Anagnostou, Katja Kobolt & Anna Ehrenstein, Alyssa Schwendener, Tanya Loughead, Mima Simić

Editorial and layout: Corina L. Apostol, Rena&Vladan, with guest editor Jasmina Tumbas

Title page illustration: Paris Henderson

More discussions and workshops will be announced in the near future. If you would like to host one please send us an email at artsleaks@gmail.com. 

ART WORKERS WON’T KISS ASS AND EAT FLOWERS: A documentation on the art workers’ mobilizations (Galerie La Box, Bourges, France)

March 28, 2019

//EN

A documentation on the actions of ArtLeaks , Art Workers’ Coalition, Economie solidaire de l’art, Front des artistes plasticiens, Global Ultra Luxury Faction, Guerrilla Girls, Haben und Brauchen, Precarious Workers Brigade, KURS, Temporary Services, Working Artists and the Greater Economy

Exhibition curated by Frédéric Herbin

In 1969, the creation of the Art Workers Coalition was based on the criticism of an art world which concentrated the powers in the hands of the few to the detriment of workers who formed its base. Fifty years later, this criticism remains more relevant than ever before, while the list of collectives that have taken it continues to grow. As this story unfolds, multiple images of the activism appear reversing the worn-out figures of the individual creator, detached from material conditions or committed heroes. The contents and forms of these mobilizations are the focus this exhibition.

The economic issue is obviously central and that of remuneration regularly asked. During the last two decades, several analyses of the evolution of capitalism have nevertheless made the portrait of the artist as champion of flexibility and intermittent work (1). While workers are struggling to improve the material conditions imposed on them, the artist critique would demand creative autonomy and freedom that would be widespread in all sectors of society (2). This strict sharing of political demands between, on the one hand, the demands for emancipation, the extension of individual liberties and, on the other hand, those which relate to the improvement of the material conditions of life and work, has helped to keep the struggles we chose to exhibit in the dark. In these struggles the question of work in the artistic field seems more like a platform where the different demands come together. In addition to the directly targeted material conditions, this question opens broadly on both feminist and postcolonial issues, raising, from the beginning, the problems of access and wage discrimination or, more recently, that of the international division of labor. Thus by calling into question all the links in the art chain, the activism of many collectives is fully part of a history of institutional critique that continues to be written.

Between the end of the 1960s and today, the documented modes of action make it possible to emphasize constants, such as the use of protest occupations, the production of images with instantaneous impact or the edition of various textual supports to call attention and inform.

They also show the renewal of means at the time of video projections and e-blasts spread on the web. This corpus of visual forms, whose status is sometimes difficult to determine, questions the link between art and activism. The choice of direct action corresponds poorly to an authoritative conception and history of artistic activity as the production of aesthetic forms legitimized by the actors of the art world. This choice often involves the use of inexpensive materials, easily transportable and quickly spread. We observe thenceforth how the repertoires of collective actions are easily shared from one field of contestation to another, upsetting the idea that the artistic domain could be separated.
The bias to include a historical perspective in the exhibition supports these facts by inscribing the art workers’ mobilizations in the contexts that develop around the 1968 uprisings, then in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. The imagined device is also an operational space from which information can be disseminated. The logic of the DIY Do it for yourself that feeds the forms created for the mobilizations is found here fully in the scenography and in the will to offer visitors a space to assemble its own fanzine from those collected.

We thank all the collectives for the documents they sent us and Setare Arashloo and The Illuminator.


(1) Pierre-Michel Menger, Portrait de l’artiste en travailleur. Métamorphoses du capitalisme, Paris, Editions du Seuil, La République des Idées, 2002. In English see also Artists as workers: Theoretical and methodological challenges, Poetics, Volume 28, Issue 4, February 2001, p. 241-254.
(2) Luc Boltanski, Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, London, New York, Verso, 2005.

For more information please follow this link.

 

//FR

Une documentation sur les actions de ArtLeaks ; Art Workers’ Coalition ; Économie solidaire de l’art ; Front des artistes plasticiens ; Global Ultra Luxury Faction ; Guerrilla Girls ; Haben und Brauchen ; Precarious Workers Brigade ; KURS ; Temporary Services ; Working Artists and a Greater Economy

Exposition proposée par Frédéric Herbin

En 1969, la création de l’Art Workers’ Coalition reposait sur la critique du fonctionnement d’un monde de l’art qui concentrait les pouvoirs dans les mains de quelques-uns au détriment des travailleur·euse·s qui en étaient à la base. Cinquante ans plus tard, cette critique reste plus que jamais d‘actualité alors que la liste des collectifs qui l’ont portée ne cesse de s’allonger. Au fil de cette histoire se dessinent des images plurielles de l’activisme à rebours des figures éculées du créateur individuel, détaché des conditions matérielles ou héros engagé. C’est aux contenus et aux formes de ces mobilisations que cette exposition s’intéresse.

La question économique y est évidemment centrale et celle de la rémunération  régulièrement posée. Pendant les deux dernières décennies, plusieurs analyses des évolutions du capitalisme ont pourtant fait le « portrait de l’artiste » en champion de la flexibilité et du travail intermittent 1. Tandis que les ouvrier·ère·s luttent pour l’amélioration des conditions matérielles qui leurs sont imposées, la « critique artiste » réclamerait une autonomie et une liberté créatrices appelées à être généralisées dans tous les secteurs de la société 2. Ce partage strict des revendications politiques entre, d’une part, les demandes d’émancipation, d’extension des libertés individuelles et, d’autre part, celles qui touchent à l’amélioration des conditions matérielles collectives de vie et de travail, a contribué à maintenir dans l’ombre les luttes que nous avons choisi d’exposer. La question du travail dans le domaine artistique y apparaît davantage comme une plateforme où les différentes revendications se rejoignent. Outre les conditions matérielles directement ciblées, cette question ouvre largement sur les problématiques autant féministes que postcoloniales, en soulevant, depuis le début les problèmes des discriminations d’accès et de salaires ou, plus récemment, celui de la division internationale du travail. En mettant ainsi en cause l’ensemble des maillons de la chaîne de l’art, le militantisme de nombreux collectifs participe pleinement d’une histoire de la critique institutionnelle qui continue de s’écrire.

Entre la fin des années 1960 et aujourd’hui, les modes d’action documentés permettent de souligner des constantes, telles que le recours à la manifestation, la production d’images à portée immédiate ou l’édition de divers supports textuels pour interpeller et informer. Ils montrent également le renouvellement des moyens à l’heure des projections vidéo et des « e-blasts » diffusés sur la toile. Ce corpus de formes visuelles, dont le statut est parfois difficile à déterminer, interroge l’articulation entre art et militantisme. Le choix de l’action directe correspond mal à une conception et une histoire autorisées de l’activité artistique comme production de formes esthétiques légitimées par les acteurs du monde l’art. Ce choix implique souvent l’utilisation de matériaux peu coûteux, facilement transportables et rapidement diffusables. On observe dès lors comment les répertoires d’actions collectives se partagent aisément d’un champ de la contestation à un autre, bousculant l’idée que le domaine artistique pourrait être séparé.

Nous remercions l’ensemble des collectifs pour les documents qu’ils nous ont transmis ainsi que Setare Arashloo et The Illuminator.

1 Pierre-Michel Menger, Portrait de l’artiste en travailleur. Métamorphoses du capitalisme, Paris, Editions du Seuil, La République des Idées, 2002.
2 Luc Boltanski, Eve Chiapello, Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris, Editions Gallimard, 1999.

Alina Popa // Disease As an Aesthetic Project

February 10, 2019
Alina_Popa_ArtLeaks-Belgrade-2012

Alina Popa (right) speaking at the ArtLeaks Assembly in Belgrade, 2012

We are deeply saddened because our dear colleague Alina Popa, an artist from Romania who moved between choreography, theory, and contemporary art, and was a co-founder of ArtLeaks, passed away on February 1. In her memory, we are re-publishing her last text and drawings. 

________________________________________________________________________

Spirula and the Thing

When something intimately changes your body, your possibilities to move, your dynamic with the outer world, your identity for many people, your limits as to what you can bear, that thing forces you into inner transformation. I hate the thing, I love the thing. The thing forces me over my edges, I cannot squeeze it out of me, I cannot directly influence it, I can only take it as a challenge to my rational mind, to what I have been, to my own limitations. It has grown more than I have ever thought it could. It became big and ugly and part of me. I have to live and love myself with my monster. It is a visual enormity. I am to myself a visual enormity. I prefer to close my eyes.

This is not anymore a social game, it’s within me. It forces me to be real, to be like an unwanted Star Trek character. To walk like an animal. To walk slowly, like an animal. To transform my showers into psychological thresholds. To be deformed, asymmetrical, slow and clumsy, to eat in bed. To stay in bed. To not move, to stay only on one side, in bed, to struggle to turn. It pulls me to the ground, my leg heavy with it in it. My left leg doubled, tripled and more. I am a monster. I am a visual enormity. I breathe, I live, and I sometimes go through space.

It often feels that the struggle is not with a disease but between the huge thing on my left thigh and my mind. It plays with the limits of what I can bear myself to be. What have I become? How did I transform? It keeps me from moving freely. It numbs my hopes, it freezes my imagination. I can just be freer inside to allow myself to dare the impossible. Every time I am embodying a virtual walk through a forest I am calling the impossible. To toy with the possible so that without you noticing you are doing the impossible. It makes me find ways to keep myself from judging myself the moment I step over the border. I need to distract myself exactly the moment I step into the fantastical. If I succeed the fantastical is normal and real. And I can maybe walk a little bit faster.

I cry, I shout, I refuse to live in fear. I collapse with fever, fear has overtaken me, the thing laughs at my weakness. I am still here. I wake up in the night, I get up and sit on the side of the bed. It’s hard to sit. I am too asymmetrical. I despair. I refuse to live in fear. I want the thing to disappear, to stop harassing me. I have no break from it. I have no break from me. Who am I? I dreamed I was wearing the nicest, most pleasant and comfortable outfit and when I looked into the mirror, a monster head showed itself under my beautiful hoodie. I prayed to be delivered from this deformity but while praying my face kept changing, monstrous. Form didn’t want to settle on my face. I was surface, without stability. It’s past midnight. I want to put an end to my nightmare. I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to be obsessed with the thing in my leg. I want to get it over with myself. Terminate. I don’t know how. I only have natural supplements on my table. I despair. In one moment I realize I may not be able to escape, but I choose to live without fear, under any circumstances. My dear thing, I am looking at you from above.

I don’t know if you learn more by exploring the outside but I am confined to the inside. I re-make the world in my bed. I draw what I see, what I am more tempted to look at, my leg. The world is my leg. The world is sheer deformity. It grows scarier than I thought it could. Looking into this world, with which I identify, I am appalled. I fear. And I keep looking, it’s my world. I start to explore it. I am representing it, drawing my fear, my obsession, my world. I am drawing the bandages on the holes on the thing on my leg. For every point I make a cell dies. I become obsessive about points. The tumor replies with needles. It wants more, more attention. You cannot make me fear, not now, you are my world. The needles I feel are like rain, every drop brings a sensation. I like this rain, it’s warm. This is a good day.

It’s like a moon of a distant planet. It has craters and a surface between skin and stone, a stone on a windy shore changing shape in a circular manner. It spurts thoughts, it spits ideas, it exhausts me. It tells me to be wild. Find snow, undress, throw yourself, put the thing in snow, breath, enjoy, this is better than a hospital bed. There is no snow but I remember the shiny white surface where you can look and look, lose your mind to beauty. You have to do what it says, otherwise, it grows bigger and soon you will be only its satellite. I want to gravitate around it, what if it is really alien, planet, biology, me, you, carbon compounds or none. Doctor, I would like you to perform a planectomy on my leg. I promise I am a satellite. I will revolve. We will shape the space.

Spirula and Medicine

They tell me to go home and wait for my end. I fear going back home, jumping into the image they created for me. I am on the bed barely breathing. I deform it, the image, it’s the struggle between realities, they want to impose theirs because otherwise, their ground becomes cracked. It’s easier to sacrifice a human than to shift a bit your paradigm. We know, human doctors think they know, they go to bed assured that I am a piece of meat. They made a script, imposed it on people like me, we have proof, we know better. Reality follows the script if it is believed and they spent centuries to impose it on us. My reality just performed a triangle choke on theirs. I am home, at Sana’s, on the bed, red cheeks and all, playing with my cats. I am alive.

I have a secret. Whatever horrible thought comes to me, from the planet within, or who knows from where I embrace it. Come little dark thought, expand, I want to know why you are here. I will manipulate you and you will manipulate me and in the end, you will be no more. Many thoughts or states sublimated within me during these months.

When I am agitated during the night, I am pretending this uncontrollable state is my will. I perform my states, I get out of bed and I let the restlessness take over. I am punching the air, I am raging like a wild animal.

Realization: I have never trusted my body and its responses. We are taught so by education. Fever needs to be kept at bay, symptoms have to be read by specialists, you don’t own your body, it is like a foreign coat you have to take care of and beware of it, look for signs, gather evidence. You are outside of your body, you analyze it scientifically but what does this mean. It means that you are placing it in the scripts written by strangers who are afraid of the wonder of reality and want to restrict its vastness to a few predictable scenarios.

The body is real but what we think about it is fiction. Medical views are the fiction imposed on us by modernity and capitalism. This is a consensus fiction. How you regard the body, how you name, determines how you act upon it and also how it acts back. We are free, and the body actually calls for individual fictions, or for fictions that give it trust and freedom. Perspective creates reality. To change the standard perspective is almost impossible. It cannot be done mentally, it needs different practices – to practice ways to interact with the world that give back reality its multiplicity. We actually don’t truly interact with the world anymore. That is because we know too well the practices that are possible, and so they will give back the same outcomes. The body is as alien as the world. And we have to embrace its strangeness. Especially when we need reality to be crazy when we are ill with no chance at survival from the standard perspective. I don’t want my reality normal. I need it off the hook.

Spirula and its Symptoms

What is a symptom?

Healing is a poem written with the language of symptoms.

Sometimes the symptoms require amplification, spatially, inside or outside the body, ignoring, fighting, acceptance by subjective study, transformation by imagination – metaphorization, deepening of their perception until they become something else, so abstract that they lose any conventional signification, and there are many other possible operations that one can perform upon symptoms. They can be danced, drawn, etc., or even just imagined in a physically passive way. There is also a rhythm of these operations upon the symptoms that is very individual for every person and even every period in someone’s life. Healing is both the operation and the rhythm of the change of these operations. The rhythm is energy, life, it is what cannot yet be understood, that is why there cannot be any previous schedule, meaning or explanation. The poem.

The body calls for a different language. You have to enter the unknown. It cries out loud through symptoms that it needs to become poetry not theory. This is a sign of intelligence of the soul.

Sensations – we feel them in one place but we can move them, expand them, shrink them, keep them in movement project them outside the body make them circulate part of a bigger language. This elasticity of sensations, discomfort or pain sets the poetry in motion – it messes up with the consensus language of the body.
I hate that the doctors nullify my poem with their order words.

Healing is an alchemical process.

Moving, reinterpreting, re-symbolizing.

The body is abstract. It occupies more space than where it finds itself. That is why it can transform its anatomy into the jungle.

I grew a jungle on my body to handle my symptoms. I am delegating the care for my body to an imaginary world.

I have a volcano in my leg, a raging wild animal rising from the void in my lung, a rainforest amplifying my short breath, a wolf in my consciousness, a wild pig scuffing out the root node in my chest, a sloth calming the restlessness of my heart, a jaguar spirit coming to get me, to make me a free spirit, and I am flying over reality, jungled up, towards life or maybe towards death.

Spirula and Experience

The first who claims to be actually able to simulate crossing of edges is the mind. Ideas tell you that you have done it or are about, if you just dare to circle a bit more in the loop of thinking. Just that the spiral never ends and one day you find yourself burned out in bed, being called by the body to the reality of the ideas you perhaps liked to fancy. I mean the alien, the radically unknown, the limits of experience, the performance as life, life as art… The mind already replies aggressively that maybe you are in a loop with this as well but I reply that now my actions can take me from death back into life, that the edge is now fully lived.

If you are lucky to have escaped a disease conventionally you can go back to the radicality of thought as if nothing happened. Some may experience a new surge of life. Almost everyone wants to change, especially if the threat is big enough. When my existence has been put at risk thought felt deeply humiliated, it stopped. For days I have been just feeling that I exist and that is my protection like a lucid breath inhaled and exhaled by heart.

The diagnosis triggered two opposite forces: great fear and great courage – one that would overcome the greatness of the fear. In the great fear is a constellation of white coat talk, alarmed best friends, and all Western conventionality regarding to how you treat something for which medicine has no promise. Already in doing the list a friend shouts in my head that I was jumping to conclusions that there was no promise. I shout back, shut up because I’ve been through the vicious circle of guilt too many times. And I know it’s not a real friend, it’s not even the friend, it’s me performing my own enemy as my well-meaning friend. I like enemies if they are like the Amazonian figures of enemies – the aliens whose perspectives I can eat to become what I could never alone become. In the great courage are my dreams, my energy, a deep inner feeling of abandoning myself to the unknown, my lover, my cats, my new friends and therapists in Vienna and Portland, Brazilian shamans, other crazy sick people, aunt Sana, the smell of the forest, the speed of skiing, all my enhanced experiences of nature, a butterfly on my hand for more than one hour, deers, jungle sounds, the feeling of the ocean, warmth in general, and I cannot but artificially close the enumeration.

Drawings, with eyes closed, notebook on the chest:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/eQqnHHdDer94vB2k6

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