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It is time to put your ambitions aside and fight for Rome

October 30, 2018

The Macro museum (Rome’s dedicated contemporary art museum) has since September 30th been run by Giorgio de Finis, after a 5 year period with no appointed director. De Finis’s appointment has been controversial for two principle reasons. Firstly he was appointed by the 5 star movement governed council of Rome without an open call (in keeping with the policy whereby the mayor elects museum directors). Secondly, he is operating a completely open policy: anyone can show there. The art and news media have been openly hostile to him and the museum. Critic and curator Mike Watson responds here to the ‘Macro Asilo’s’ critics, among them Raffaele Gavarro and Massimiliano Tonelli, asking for unity against the far right.


Robert Pettena, Ignazio Giordano, Valeria Rugi, Francesca Sandroni,
Live Performance. Grotesque Games, photo by Robert Pettena, 2018


To the Macro’s critics:

I cannot be quiet longer. Having had experience as a critic and curator at the Macro in 2012, 2013 and 2018, and having written over 100 texts on Italian contemporary art for major publications, as well as having curated at several Italian galleries and foundations and at the Biennale di Venezia and Palermo Manifesta, I feel I need to weigh in on the debate around the Macro Asilo, not least as it is a useless distraction at a crucial time. So here is a response following Raffaele Gavarro’s Artribune text, ‘Il Macro Asilo e la politica italiana e romana’, the latest among many made by a group of critics and curators critical of the Macro.

I will write in English for clarity and as I no longer live in Italy. I am sure you will follow me fine. I of course can see why you (Tonelli, Gavarro, Vedevotto) and many others are criticising the Macro Asilo project, including the way in which Giorgio de Finis was chosen without an open call as director of Rome’s municipal museum. I know some among you have for years fought for an open call appointment of a new director. Though I disagree with you, both in your reasoning and methodological approach to politics within the art world. Let me firstly remind you that while the former director, Pietromarchi, was sympathetic to an open call for a new director which would take place some time during his tenure, he never actually set a date for that call. He also intended to run as a candidate in the open call. That is to say he intended to apply for his own job. And we can assume that a man who has gone from the Maxxi to the Macro and back to the Maxxi, and who has also curated the Italian pavilion of the biennale would have won his own open call, if he had not been ousted by Sindaco Marino’s giunta before it could take place. So the situation prior to De Finis was never really more likely to bring a genuinely open appointment.

Aside from this, let us be realistic about what an open call means in Italy, and perhaps in many countries. Open calls tend to favor people already in the art system, who are know to the panelists who judge the call. In Rome, where people tend to gain work positions through a nepotistic favour system, the idea of an open call is particularly naive. Though if any of you have a way of making a call genuinely open, I would be interested to hear it. Until then, lets be clear that the Maxxi’s open call, which resulted in the appointment of Hanru, has hardly made the Maxxi an open and democratic cultural center. Hanru has to answer to a number of permanent curators who no one appointed, and is now himself working alongside Pietromarchi… not a good situation for Italy’s national modern and contemporary art museum.

So if we really look at Italy and the recent history of appointments in Rome, the appointment of Giorgio de Finis is not in itself unusual, and in no way worse than what has passed before, not least as he is offering a space in which ANYONE CAN DO ANYTHING. As such his museum is really the most ‘open’ one can conceive of. You may have your doubts about this format, though what it effectively achieves is that it goes one step further than the open appointment of a director, by making the entire museum a tabula rasa. You are complaining about the lack of an open call, when the entire museum is now open.

Now hold that idea in mind, while I now consider the irresponsible charge that the Macro Asilo is a reflection of the political situation today, and more particularly (as Massimiliano Tonelli has reflected) of ‘populism’. Firstly, the term populism itself is very hard to define. In essence it means government for the people, or a politics designed to appeal to the masses. However, it has come to mean a form of right wing politics that plays on people’s fear. Whilst I can see how we could define the Macro Asilo as populist in the sense that it ‘is a museum for the people’, it is not in any sense populist in the right wing sense of a popular government that rules by exploiting people’s anxiety, and it is irresponsible to suggest that the Macro Asilo is in any way linked to this pernicious form of government. Similarly, while the Macro Asilo’s management may reflect some of the horizontalizing practices of the 5* movement, it does not reflect the racism of some of its political partners. Given this confusion, I think it is much more useful to see the Macro Asilo as historically inspired by the avant-gardes of the 20th century. It clearly follows in the line of Duchamp and Beuys… i.e. it takes one step further the democratisation of the arts such that anyone can make art from anything AND EXHIBIT IT. Now, I absolutely fail to see how such an approach can be compared to the political populism of Raggi or Di Maio or Salvini, because De Finis is offering a platform for everyone whereas the 5*-Lega coalition is dividing people. I would even go so far as to say that the Macro Asilo is the largest and most open presence opposed to Salvini’s hateful rhetoric that exists in Rome today.

Contrary to what Raffaele Gavarro states in his text Il Macro Asilo e la politica italiana e romana, the Macro precisely is assuming a ‘posizione critica di fronte al potere’ (which Gavarro calls for)… and not only to the current powers that govern Rome and Italy, but to POWER ITSELF, as it rejects hierarchy via its openness.

This brings me to my final point, which is that Rome and Italy now face a severe threat of a continued shift towards a politics of cruelty and exclusion, which has disturbing parallels with the government of Mussolini. You as educated arts professionals don’t need telling that his government, amongst other things, colluded with the Nazis in deporting Jews, gays and political dissidents to death camps. It is that same strand of politics which are confronting in its early form, and it is that which needs a response now from the art world. I would urge anyone of the left – and anyone from the right who opposes the inhumanity of Salvini and of historical fascism – to stop fighting over the directorship of the Macro and to accept the generosity of an open museum for all, so as to use the space to rethink Italy’s future, whatever your political background is.

You all need to focus your anger at the spacciatori, the mafia who profit from heroin, the racist policies of the current government, the corruption of public life, and the degradation of Rome. Instead you are attacking the man most well known for openness to foreigners in the Roman art world. And you are impeding a project that could give a voice to everyone. It is time to put your ambitions aside and fight for Rome.

Mike Watson

This is (Not) a Love Song – A people’s tribunal in four acts on precarious work and life discussing wage, love, freedom & risk (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

September 9, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 6.22.18 PM

As artists, designers, writers, critics and other cultural workers we have to deal with a lot of flexibility in our everyday life. The work we do in the creative industries is based on our capacity as individuals and on an independent status, making professional relations often tied to an emotional context where the boundaries between life and profession are blurred. Our work is based on our ability to invest ourselves personally – to love what you do, to seduce, to adapt – and to rely on yourself.

This Is Not A Love Song is a People’s Tribunal addressing the issues relating to precarious work and life conditions taking place on October 11th, in Amsterdam. It sets out to discuss precarity within the arts and beyond in light of current neoliberal tendencies that inform today’s highly flexible, insecure and meritocratic employment model, the logic of which is particularly present in the Netherlands. We will address precarious labor as the predominant working condition in the creative industries, which often translates into unpaid work, short-term contracts or no-contract work or internships, insecure and unstable work and life conditions, individual competition, deprivation of rights and status, reinforced inequalities (class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality) – while promoting an insecure or flexible way of life as the privilege and freedom of making your own choices.

 The artist is easily understood as a paradigm for the ideal worker: passionate about what they do and willing to forgo material wealth for the love of it.[1] This day aims to collectively diagnose how precarity thrives on this argument, how it exploits recognition and promotes the merits of individualistic behavior and competition over those of collectivity and solidarity – a model that is formulated as the blueprint for the future worker based on the artist’s capacity to rely on him or herself. In this respect, while precarious conditions are particularly poignant in the creative field, the discussion will tie into a more general debate on the changing conditions of work and life in an increasingly flexible, deregulated and privatized landscape that forces many more professional occupations into the liberal perspective of a more open relationship that confuses wage and love, freedom and risk.

This Is Not A Love Song is not a love song. It will play out as a People’s Tribunal where the issue will be discussed drawing on courtroom protocols such as shared testimonials, expert witnesses, a collective deliberation and the formulation of a  verdict. We will put specific focus on neoliberal thinking and how its core values affect this issue: Whereas liberalizing the economy allowed for more open terms and free-market policies in the course globalizing trade, today its ‘laissez-faire’ [2] philosophy characterizes many other types of relationships beyond that of economic ones; between governments, enterprises, institutions and individuals, all of which are under pressure to be more flexible and independent as well. In doing so neoliberal thinking normalizes attitudes towards work and the self, discourages collectivism in favor of individual freedom, and fundamentally challenges “what a relationship is”; by promoting the concept of individual autonomy over that of mutual responsibility. According to a recent article in The Guardian it should become clear how the neoliberal perspective ‘has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression. ‘In short,’ The Guardian continues, ‘ “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practice and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organizing principle for human activity’. [3]

The debate will set out to examine this relational shift with regards to precarity as an institutionalized and systematically applied employment model that normalizes insecurity and instability and extorts unpaid labor and other exploitative forms of work that characterize its open, flexible and independent ways.

This Is Not A Love Song aims to discuss precarity first in order to share immediate working conditions that creative practitioners face on a day-to-day basis concretely and practically. Secondly, its role within larger socio-political developments will be deliberated in order shed light on its ideological underpinnings and its current application via institutional frames (cultural institutions, schools, legal frameworks, …) and open the door to how we could be part of a change.

The Precarious Workers Brigade, Training for Exploitation? Politicizing Employability and Reclaiming Educaction (London, Leipzig, Los Angeles: Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, 2017), 17

Sidney Fine. Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State. (United States: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.)

3 Stephen Metcalf, ‘Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world’, The Guardian, Aug 2017


Guests & Collaborators

We will welcome guest speakers or ‘expert witnesses’ to take the stand; The Precarious Workers Brigade, from the UK, Art Leaks, and Wages For Wages Against, from Switzerland, to share their knowledge on the issue, their experience in calling out in solidarity, in addressing institutions and peers and their tools for doing so. Also joining is artist and activist John Jordan and Isabelle Frémeaux from The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination who’s work merges the imagination of art and the radical engagement of activism. In addition, each of the four acts will include testimonials from different cultural workers, artists, institutions, and audience members. We urge you to contribute as well, in whatever form you find best to express your point of view or your experiences.

You can read more about how to contribute your testimonial here. We’re also excited to partner up with PUB Radio & Journal, and we’ll set up a temporary bookshop during the event with San Serriffe, offering great material on what is work and what is love to continue this debate with after the tribunal. In the meantime, you can have a look at a list that we’ve compiled of groups, books, publications and other platforms that deal with this issue here.



To RSVP we’ve composed a brief anonymous questionnaire with some questions about work. To attend the tribunal we’d like you to fill it out. This process is anonymous and all information will be treated with care; we will use it to share a view of where we stand – and what needs to change. Thank you.If this got you thinking and eager to act, you can also contribute to the tribunal proceedings with your testimonial, more about this up here. Send it to

Learn more at This Is (Not) A Love Song 


This Is Not A love Song is an initiative of Elise van Mourik, Rosa te Velde and Tiphanie Blanc. Graphic design by Miquel Hervás Gómez

Van Gogh Museum ends collaboration with Shell (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

September 7, 2018
Fossil Free Culture NL wants to inform you about a major win for the campaign against Fossil Fuel sponsorship of the Arts and Cultural Sector in the Netherlands. The Van Gogh Museum has confirmed that it has ended its 18-year sponsorship deal with Shell, and two other major Dutch museums have followed suit.


Hot on the heels of the ‘Van Gogh Drops Shell’ announcement, it is our GREAT pleasure to announce that two further major Dutch institutions; Mauritshuis and Museon, have severed their ties with the fossil fuel industry, historically dropping their sponsorship deals in rapid tempo.

That both these institutions are situated in The Hague, home to Shell’s headquarters and the seat of Dutch government, conspicuously reflects the mounting public criticism of Shell’s catastrophic practices, both within the Netherlands and globally. We, and others are working to speed this chain reaction towards critical mass worldwide.

This deal dropping domino effect cannot be a coincidence*. We believe an ethical tipping point in sponsorship norms has been reached in the Dutch cultural sector.

At long last it’s time for the fossil fuel industry to take their well-deserved place alongside tobacco as morally unacceptable sponsors. Sponsors that any self-respecting institution would hurry to wash their hands of. It’s our firm hope that the code of conduct regarding sponsorship of cultural institutions will soon be updated to cement this position into law.

Now that all reference to their former partner Shell has hastily been removed from the Van Gogh Museum’s website, we find ourselves following the current chain of events to their logical conclusion, and arrive at this question; as the last cultural institution on the Museumplein still stained by Shell’s dirty hands, isn’t it time for Concertgebouw to come to their senses and #DropShell?

A Fossil Free Museumplein Amsterdam would certainly be music to many ears.

Maria Rietbergen
For more information visit:



Performance End The Fossil Free Age Now June 9th 2018 – FFCNL

Last chance to see BLIND SPOT at LE CAP – Centre d’arts plastiques de Saint-Fons

July 21, 2018


Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Forensic Architecture


9 June – 21 July 2018
Free entry from Tuesday to Saturday,  2-6 PM 


BLIND SPOT is a group exhibition bringing together three artists and collective groups that are engaged in issues of social justice, and whose activities have a real impact in resolving conflict; using advanced technological tools, developing inquiry and investigation methods that can refer to architecture or the exact sciences, they aspire to a future of fair redistributed social balances.

The BLIND SPOT exhibition is marked by documentary research, modelling sensitivities, and poetic positions in the field of social discourse, and by artists’ civic engagement within civil society in which aesthetics and politics are intimately linked.

The projects shown in the exhibition bear witness to today’s artists and artistic practices ability in enhancing aesthetic research in fields that go far beyond the field of exhibitions and contemporary art.

Moreover, the three artists and collectives presented in BLIND SPOT share a common goal in working for causes, or contributing to investigations (judicial, humanitarian…), which comes as no surprise given the importance that the porosity of these fields of expertise have played in recent art history.

By extension, these artists highlight the importance of aesthetic research as a field of expertise and representation to reveal blind spots that institutions, states or constituted groups seek to keep hidden. Form becomes a field of study and tension. By revealing leaks (ArtLeaks), by formalizing inaudible sounds (Lawrence Abu Hamdan), by modelling conflict zones (Forensic Architecture), these artists demonstrate that not only aesthetics and associated methodology can produce results from a careful examination of sensitive matter, but by penetrating the dimensional complexity of forms can allow us to fully comprehend what we would not understand through simple normative approaches, (application of exact sciences, politics, social sciences…) offering new options in addressing crisis situations.

Reading forms is not just a matter of dilettante pleasure, it can involve the challenge of interpretations and struggles at the heart of which, to paraphrase Jacques Rancière*, our sensory faculties and our inclination to the sensitive bear witness to our own political strength.

Nicolas Audureau, Curator of the exhibition

* Jacques Rancière, Le partage du sensible, esthétique et politique, Paris : La fabrique, 2000.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

BLIND SPOT 09 June – 21 July 2018

Access Entrée libre From Tuesday to Saturday 14.00-18.00 and by appointment

rue de la Rochette 69190 Saint-Fons FRANCE

Public transport Tram T4 Lénine – Corsière Bus 60 Yves Farge Bus 93 La Rochette-Clochettes

With the support of the gallery Mor Charpentier, Paris

BLIND SPOT (LE CAP – Centre d’arts plastiques, Saint-Fons, France)

June 2, 2018

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Saydnaya (ray traces), 2017. Courtesy : galerie mor charpentier et l’artiste


Lawrence Abu Hamdan


Forensic Architecture

09.06 – 21.07.2018

Vendredi 8 JUIN
à 18h     

Please scroll down for the english version

Blind Spot est une exposition collective regroupant trois artistes et collectifs engagés dans des questions de justice sociale, dont les activités ont un réel impact dans la résolution de conflits, utilisant des outils technologiques avancés, développant des méthodes d’enquête et d’investigation pouvant se référer à l’architecture ou aux sciences exactes, tous aspirant à un futur aux équilibres sociaux redistribués.

L’exposition Blind Spot a une esthétique marquée par des recherches documentaires, par des modélisations du sensible, par des positions poétiques dans le champs du discours social, et par l’implication citoyenne des artistes au sein de la société civile ; dans laquelle esthétique et politique sont intimement liés par le prisme de l’implication des artistes dans des situations de crise.
Nicolas Audureau, curateur.

English version

The exhibition Blind Spot is devoted to three artists or groups engaged in questions of social justice, whose work takes the form of a research or an investigation and appropriates advanced technologies as an instrument of counter-power. The aesthetics and politics in their work are closely bound up enriching each other in the Distribution of the Sensible as famously formulated by Jacques Rancière.

The aesthetic of the exhibition Blind Spot is influenced by documentary researches, by modeling sensitivity, by poetical positions in the field of social discourse, and by the involvement of artists as citizens within Civil society. Aesthetics and politics are closely connected through the real implication of artists into situations of crisis.
Nicolas Audureau, curator.

ArtLeaks Gazette #5 Open Call

May 1, 2018

End Our Collective Living Nightmare of the Übermensch — Calls to Fight the Legitimization of White Supremacists, Ableists, Sexists, Transphobes, Homophobes, and Capitalists in the Artworld and Beyond!



While 2017 has been celebrated as the year of women, queer and trans people, 2018 has witnessed the devastating rise and legitimization of a virulent right-wing backlash around the world. Championing the role of collective whistleblowers, movements like #MeToo, Time’s up, #NoDAPL, #TakeAKnee, and #BlackLivesMatter, have shifted debates about gender and racism out of the violently maintained shadows into international visibility, expanding and negotiating questions of civil courage, testimony, and solidarity. Formulating and testing strategies to fight against the culture of harassment, toxic masculinity, and racism ingrained in our societies, empowerment movements increasingly come up against right-wing conservatism and left-wing patriarchal models that perpetuate inequalities and violence pervasive within institutions,  the private sphere, and beyond.

ArtLeaks Gazette #5 calls for contributions that analyze concrete practices and campaigns, and which engage theoretically and intersectionally with relevant issues related to queer, feminist, racial, and economic justice. As the aforementioned issues have been framed differently in various socio-economic and political contexts, we are looking for contributions that are able to put in conversation nationalist realities, colonial violences, orthodox regimes, and the crisis of identity politics, considering not only overall conditions in the artworld but also local specificities.

We welcome contributions in a variety of narrative forms, from articles, commentaries, and glossary entries, to posters and drawings. The deadline for entries is December 1, 2018. Contributions should be delivered in English, or as an exemption in other languages after negotiations with the editorial council. The editorial council of ArtLeaks takes responsibility for communicating with all authors during the editorial process.

Please contact us with any questions, comments, and submit materials to:

The on-line gazette will be published in English under the Creative Commons attribution noncommercial-share alike and its materials will be offered for translation in any languages to any interested parts.

Limited printed copies will be available. We encourage anyone who would like to support us to print smaller print runs of ALG#5. We will make several PDF formats of the ALG to meet various digital needs, as well as an epub edition. We encourage contributors to be an active part of spreading the ALG by hosting it on their site and forwarding it on to their networks.

For further information please check out previous issues of the ALGs

Editors: Corina L. Apostol, Vladan Jeremic, Jasmina Tumbas

A call for intergalactic solidarity actions everywhere to end the destruction of the ZAD

April 11, 2018

Oliver Ressler, Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart, film still, 2017


We are writing with the smell of tear gas rising from our fingers. The springtime symphony of birdsong is punctuated by the explosive echo of concussion grenades. Our eyes are watering, less from the gas than the sadness; because our friends’ homes, barns and organic farms are being destroyed. Bulldozers, supported by 2500 riot police, armored vehicles, helicopters and drones, are rampaging through these forests, pastures and wetlands to crush the future we are building here on the to the zad (The zone à defendre).

We are calling on you to take solidarity actions everywhere, it could be holding demos at your local french embassy or consulate, or taking actions against any suitable symbol (corporate or otherwise) of France ! And if you are not too far away, bring your disobedient bodies to join us on the zone. If the French government evicts the zad, it will be like evicting hope.

For fifty years, this unique chequerboard landscape was the site of a relentless struggle against yet another climate wrecking infrastructure, a new airport for the nearby city of Nantes. Farmers and villagers, activists and naturalists, squatters and trade unionists wove an unbreakable ecology of struggle together and three months ago on the 17th of January, the French government announced that the airport project would be abandoned. But this incredible victory, won through a diversity of creative tactics from petitions to direct action, legal challenges to sabotage, had a dark shadow. In the same breath that declared the abandonment, came the announcement that the people occupying these 4000 acres of liberated territory, the 300 of us living and farming in 80 different collectives, would be evicted because we dared not just to be against the airport, but its WORLD as well.

Since that victorious day, the battle has transformed itself and is now no longer about a destructive infrastructure project, but about sharing the territory we inhabit. We stopped this place from being covered in concrete and so it is up to us to take care of its future. The movement therefore maintains that we should have the right to manage the land as a commons (see its declaration The Six Points for the Zad because there will never be an Airport). Today this is the struggle of the zad (zone to defend) of Notre Dame Des Landes.

The zad was launched in 2009 after a letter (distributed during the first french climate camp here) written by locals inviting people to occupy the zone and squat the abandoned farmhouses. Now the zone has become one of Europe’s largest laboratory of commoning. With its bakeries, pirate radio station, tractor repair workshop, brewery, anarchitectural cabins, banqueting hall, medicinal herb gardens, a rap studio, dairy, vegetable plots, weekly newspaper, flour mill, library and even a surrealist lighthouse. It has become a concrete experiment in taking back control of everyday life.

In 2012 the French state’s attempt to evict the zone to build the airport was fiercely resisted, despite numerous demolitions 40,000 people turned up to rebuild and the government withdrew. The police have not set foot on the zad since, that is, until Monday morning, when at 3am the gendarmes pierced into the zone.

On day one they destroyed some of the most beautiful cabins and barns, but yesterday we stopped the cops from getting to the Vraies Rouge, which happens to be where one of our negotiators with the government lives. Destroying the house of those that agreed to sit at the table with you was a strategic mistake. The fabulous zad press team used this as the media hook and today we are winning the battle of the story. If enough people get to the zone over the next days we could win the battle on the territory as well. We need rebel everything, from cooks to medics, fighters to witnesses. We doubt this rural revolt will be finished before the weekend, when we are also calling people to come and rebuild en mass.

Already solidarity demonstrations have taken place in over 100 cities across France, whilst the town halls of several towns were occupied. Zapatistas demonstrated in Chiapas Mexico, there were actions in Brussels, Spain, Lebanon, London, Poland, Palestine and New York and the underground carpark of the french embassy in Munich was sabotaged. They will never be able to evict our solidarity.

Post your reports on twitter @zad_nddl #zad #nddl and to our solidarity action email for more info in english see and watch this video to see what is being destroyed:


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