‘Killing the Dominant Narrative: Geopolitics and Training for the Future’, MARCH

Arrivati (La Toya Manly-Spain and Asuquo Udo) & Schwabinggrad Ballett (Liz Rech and Nikola Duric), 2019.

Training for the Future was an initiative developed by Studio Jonas Staal in conjunction with the 2019 Ruhr Triennale curated by Florian Malzacher and presented last fall (September 20-22). The “utopian training camp” was held in the impressive Jahrhunderthalle, a former gas powerstation cum Kraftwerk für Kultur set on the edge of Bochum, Germany’s sprawling Westpark. The site of a former steel works, it was revived for recreational and cultural purposes with circular pathways, spiralling bridges and staircases winding around landmark industrial ruins. 

 Read at MARCH Journal for Art & Strategy.

‘Another Genealogy’ un Magazine 14.2

‘Another Genealogy’ (2020) (detail), Sumugan Sivanesan.


 Art and text piece featured in un Magazine 14.2: ANTI/ANTE.

‘Seeding a Revolution in Art: Luiza Prado de O. Martins and Amazoner Arawak at the Transmediale 2020’, Springerin

Installation view of ‘For Those Who Stand At Shorelines’ (2020)Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt for Transmediale.
‘For Those Who Stand At Shorelines’ (2020), Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt for Transmediale.

 For this year’s Transmediale “End to End” (28.01–01.02.2020), Berlin’s premier festival for media arts and digital culture drew on pre-internet ideas of the network to uncover potentials for sustainable social change.1 In 2019, the Berlin-based artist, scholar and designer Dr. Luiza Prado de O. Martins was awarded Transmediale’s Vilém Flusser Residency for Artistic Research. From Brazil, Prado de O. Martins draws on feminist and ‘folk’ knowledge to discuss reproduction and the control of bodies, coloniality and radical forms of care. During her residency she met with activists, artists and elders representing marginalized groups in Berlin and Brazil to develop her research to encompass “entanglements between the ongoing climate crisis, fertility, land and belonging.” 

Read at Springerin

‘Reconsidered: Dhaka Art Summit 2020’, Arts of the Working Class

Pangrok Sulap unveil the collectively produced print.
Originally titled ‘Collective entanglements’, my review of the 2020 Dhaka Art Summit: Seismic Movements published in Arts of the Working Class

Friends often joke that when bankers get together they talk about art, but when artists get together they talk about money. Given how the interests of private collectors, philanthropic funds and state initiatives align to bankroll contemporary art spectacles, it is impossible to have a critical discussion about biennales and major periodic art events without raising their entanglements with corporate interests. 

The globalising system of contemporary art brings economic interests, political power and institutions for the production of culture and knowledge together with organisations and individuals dedicated to the novel production of the new. The term ‘culture washing’ describes how corporations and philanthropic organisations financed by those who profit from exploitative practices, fund art events to manoeuvre their name brands, align themselves with prestige culture and improve their social capital. Alternatively, such arrangements also make contemporary art available as a form of activism for the rich, as it is a means by which the wealthy can flex their financial and political muscle to promote issues such as climate change, gender justice and decolonisation. 

Healing Berlin: ‘Rituals of Care’ at Gropius Bau, Berlin Art Link

Marcelo Evelin and Demolition Incorporado, ‘‘A Invenção da Maldade’ (The Invention of Evil)’, 2019.
Photo: Sumugan Sivanesan
 If art is an indicator of social wellbeing, Gropius Bau is an example of how major institutions act as intermediaries between state sponsors, corporate interests and their publics, suggesting the curatorial power to shape ethics. ‘CONNECT, BTS: Rituals of Care’ was part of an initiative to bring together contemporary art and pop music audiences, set up by South Korean boy band BTS. Curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, director of Gropius Bau, and Noémie Solomon and in collaboration with CONNECT, BTS art director Daehyung Lee, the series sought to explore the relationship between performance and healing; from somatic states to spiritual practices. The building was proposed to be a “conversation partner” with works that resonate with its history and physicality. 

Opened in 1881 as a Museum of Applied Arts, Gropius Bau was left as a ruin after World War II. Re-opened in 1981, it stood on the border between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. The museum’s Lichthof atrium is a grand light-filled space distinguished by its patterned tiles, gilded columns and arched ceilings. I expect it was an intimidating interlocutor.

Read at Berlin Art Link.

Defying Sex Laws: ‘Around the World: An Evening of Lavani’ at Sophiensaele Berlin Art Link

Photo: Gerhard F. Ludwig/Sophiensale, 2019.
Savitri Medhatul from Kali Billi Productions appears on stage before the full house of Sophiensaele’s Hochzeitssaal. “Namaste!”, she beams and the not-exclusively-white audience responds in kind. Introducing the program’s premier in Berlin, Savitri informs the crowd that they are expected to interact; clapping, cheering and especially wolf-whistling will greatly enhance their experience of Lavani.

Read at Berlin Art Link.

‘A diaspora problem?’ Christopher Kulendran Thomas and Annika Kuhlmann’s Ground Zero and New Eelam, 4A Papers.

Installation view of Being Human (2019), Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, digital projection on acrylic. Presented in Ground Zero, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, 11 September – 15 December 2019.
Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti. Commissioned by V–A–C Foundation. Courtesy Schinkel Pavillon.
Ground Zero (2019) is a slick and arresting spectacle by the young British-Tamil artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Berlin-based curator Annika Kuhlmann. Opening during Berlin Art Week (11–15 September 2019), the installation has prompted much talk. The centrepiece of the exhibition is Being Human (2019), a twenty-minute thesis-video/scripted docu-fiction told through three figures: ‘a young Tamil artist’, ‘a famous popstar’ and ‘a well-known painter’. It plays on tropes of the artist interview, with its implications of the artist-as-genius in canonical Western art histories and as neoliberalism’s ideal subject, the creative entrepreneur.  

Being Human puts forward a complex argument that draws on Thomas’ family’s involvement in the Tamil struggle for independence and the self-governed state of Eelam, in the north of Sri Lanka. Provoking a thirty-year civil war, the dream of Eelam was brutally quashed in May 2009 when Sri Lankan armed forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), killing between 40,000 and 100,000 Tamils. A decade on, Being Human addresses the failure of International Human Rights Law to bring justice for Tamils. Returning to concepts in European philosophy and Western art that gave rise to the idea of the universal human subject from which Human Rights Law is derived, the video questions the very category of the human in an era of algorithmic decision-making and networked governance.

Read at 4A Papers