Contour Biennale/DAI Roaming Academy #12: ‘Planetary Records: Performing Justice Between Art and Law’

On March 11 & 12 in Mechelen, Belgium, I will be co-curating the public program of this event in collaboration with the biennale’s exhibition curator, Natasha Ginwala. Here is the Intro to the Opening Weekend:

As a system of rules constructed and enforced through institutions to regulate behaviour, negotiating legacy relations between particularity and general application, while being maintained through textual and oral interpretation, law is a space of great—if denied—aesthetic deliberation. Justice, quite differently, might be figured as an intractable entanglement of relations, intentions, affectabilities and adjustments between ever-moving, never-global, densely articulated bodies.

The law’s modernization in the colonial epoch consolidated limits for possible relations between justice and law, in its ontological set-up of male persons with base units and rights of property in contractual relation. Engendered and ethnocidally arranged through this fractal abstraction, juridical modernism foreclosed the order of land-based life and literacies. Its decrees of ‘right’ expansion continue to be built upon and innovated, while it secures and distinguishes only particular subjects, objects, and things, into investment-worthy relations.

When artists engage procedures of witnessing, testimonial production and the performativity of the trial, allegories of justice and modes of theatricality surface to haunt the past and present. These spectral zones must constantly be inspected and contested, just as ghosts must be evoked in order to deal with their unfinished legacy. Film and performance are vehicles among many that carve out alter-civilizational images and conceive legibility for eroding matters of injustice. Working from Mechelen, this co-curated programme invites artists, theorists and filmmakers to explicitly unpack the technicity and asymmetrical power of European legal infrastructure. Over two days the program examines artists’ role in challenging normative legal foundations while transforming our understanding of response-ability to double-meanings of law/lore, and tracing the inevitably formal dimensions of present day struggles.

How do ongoing planetary rebellions determined through existing value forms and categorizations, including the racial categorization of “no body / no thing” aim at legal rupture when placed before the courts, without falling into mimetic disfigurements within this very same insufficient order? What does it mean to take an eye or ear to scenes of struggle that reverberate well beyond as well as inside legal institutional terrains? How can artists’ own literacy in post-media conditions—very much at play inside the contemporary law court—make sense of possible realisms against and beyond juridical modernism’s reproduction of capitalism and its increasingly death-driven function?

The artists of Contour Biennale 8, Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium, are connected through their attention to aesthetic contestations of the juridical beyond its present coding, their productive dealings with a planetary regime of impermissible evidence, and their ritualistic as well as counter-analytical engagements with an expanding, expropriated archive. The “record” here is often not data that can be positively marked up or collected in advance, but instead, what is lived while being judged to be outside of proper adjudication. To cultivate flexible imagination around these juridical-aesthetic impasses is to work through the persistent constraining of just realisms, where survival is constantly at stake. Here, justice itself becomes the medium through which we cannot avoid moving through, within and around.

For the full program, click here: Contour 8 Public Program

[Image of the artist Rana Hamadeh performing  ‘Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls?’]

Speaker AbdouMaliq Simone

DAI Roaming Assembly #10, Infrastructural Rifts: Souls and Soils of Disaster Developmentalism

Co-curated with Farid Rakun of Ruangrupa, Jakarta, for the Dutch Art Academy Roaming Assembly program.

Curatorial Introduction

The Indonesian archipelago is one of many constructed territories to have lived and endured through key contradictions and limits of both exogenous and self-determined developmentalist ideology: from the systemic plantations of the colonial era, to the industrial engineering of postcolonial nationalism, through the violent primitive accumulations of the New Order regime and into an unevenly neoliberalized present. Meanwhile, the archipelago’s deeper history of available forms, its logistically messy, confluent and layered urban and rural fabrics, attest to complex, interwoven, non-common and inter-existent epistemologies of thought, belief, practice and participation that are difficult to capture through singular attachments and reductive modernist analytics.

Globally, as large-scale infrastructure has been increasingly removed from public accountability, private companies absorb and ‘disappear’ political risk, leaving governments to merely campaign on how to fund numericised problems. Infrastructure companies are some of the most dominant forms of contemporary economic life; contract deregulation for a vast array of infrastructure services that were formerly the tasks of the state, whether in Europe, European colonies or early stages of postcolonial polities, enable the penetration of debt-oriented ‘structural adjustment’ logics formerly reserved only for the South.

When struggles around infrastructure developments appear in public against the limits of land, water and social reproduction, the imperialism of structural adjustment by infrastructure appears takes plain view. The sheer scale of present day developments across the planet, combined with the gap left by increasing value uniformity, neutral branding, and singular vocabularies of extinction-oriented ‘best practice’, creates epistemo-political rifts and gaps of symbolic opportunity, where religious, environmental, new labour, indigenous and subaltern communities have been able to differently occupy, and challenge in turn, the ‘fundamentalist’ dimension of late capitalist developmentalism, thus querying the category of the infrastructural itself.

Given the frantic use of resources goes hand in hand with accelerating processes of over-signification, and neither urban or rural thought can be suspended from habituated grounds, this DAI Roaming Academy brings together esteemed emerging and established theorists, activists and artists of the lived infrastructural in Indonesia and Greece, to consider how artists, in particular, might imagine and intervene in the infrastructural in ways that are both signifying and de-signifying on the side of lived eco-social commitment and endurance.

Sidestepping mere arts of ‘exposure’ and overidentification that foreground spectacles and disasters of technology and hardware, “Infrastructure” here comes to be defined through an expanded feminist lens as “an answer to the question of movement and relation” (Angela Mitropolous).


farid rakun – Doublethink-/sink-ing Jakarta
An introduction on how to exercise Orwellian doublethinking towards Jakarta, farid will focus on his own and his family members’ stories and biographies to consider how, contrary to presently popular narrations, Islam-based populism and growth-oriented developmentalism could go hand in hand, be two sides of the same coin, sinking Jakarta further both literally and figuratively.

AbdouMaliq Simone – ‘The Inoperable: On compressing infrastructure and everyday urban life’
How do people residing in districts largely constructed by themselves now deal with dispossession and the disentanglement of long-honed collective operations? How do residents of the residual urban cores of Jakarta, and many other cities of the Southern latitudes deal with the conundrums involved in attempts to update these operations in the midst of multiple forms of urban intervention, some of which are replete with opacities of uncertain potential and effect? Even if the more opaque interventions seem inoperable, never concretely realized, they nevertheless generate unanticipated impacts and frictions. Even the massive volume of projects and infrastructure that is realized sometimes ends up instigating futures far from that which was promised. The presentation considers what might be taking place at the tension-filled, disruptive interfaces between varying logics and forces of spatial transformation and updated operations of autogestion.

Rika Febriyani – ‘Finding ways in a chaotic field’
A study of a classic case: spatial conflict between formal authority and informal organization, taking the examples of Jembatan Lima market and a subsidized housing complex in Kalibata, Jakarta. The presentation aims to explore how conflict becomes a source of energy for daily economic operations outside of largely abandoned city regulations.

Maarten Bakker and Katrin McGauran (SOMO, Centre for Research on Multinational Organizations) – ‘Monitoring  Corporate-State Developments in an Era of Deregulation’
Presenting recent case studies of Dutch company involvement in Indonesia and the South (inc. large scale port developments), SOMO will put into perspective the ideological move ‘From Aid to Trade’ in recent Dutch development policy, and the strategic and organizational challenges of multinationals monitoring within latest regimes of privative, post-regulatory governance.

Saras Dewi – ‘An Examination of Benoa Bay (Case Study), Further Phenomenological Approaches to Social-Ecological Crises in Bali’
How do the Balinese conduct their resistance against non-sustainable hypertourism infrastructure? Through a phenomenological investigation we can pierce into the Balinese concept of Tri Hita Karana, three subtle relationship between human, nature and god. The fight against the reclamation of Benoa Bay utilizes contemporary interpretations of artistic expressions that revive mythologies of the sacred, and transform these into various artistic bodies of works – literature, paintings, music, dance and others. Art for the Balinese is embedded in culture and rituals; in the case of advocating for Benoa Bay, art is instrumental to raise awareness and to organize mass movements.

Cargonauts, Anna Lascari and Ilias,  ‘Gaming Port Infrastructure from Below’
Cargonauts is a unique computer game conceived by a research collaboration of artists and theorists as part of Logistical Worlds. The game captures port struggles from the logisticized labour point of view, in the context of the expansion and privatization of the largest Greek container port of Piraeus (near Athens). Following Brett Neilson’s talk ‘From Warehouse to Data Centre: Poetics and Infrastructures of Political Form’ for DAI Roaming Academy in Jakarta, 2015, Anna and Ilias present Cargonauts as research practice and aesthetic tactics of navigating and worlding infrastructure from below.

Performance Lecture – On Neutrality. Between Non-Aligned Movement(s) and Neoliberal Curatorial Economies

With Jelena Vesić and Vladimir Jerić Vlidi, at Florida, Lothringer13 space, Munich on December 3, 2016.


‘We are small and we have politics’

Re-claiming neutrality as a politics of de-colonisation, independence, peace and non-alignment with the powerful world empires, the lecture performance On Neutrality draws upon the active positioning of non-aligned and ‚third world countries‘ gaining independence during the Cold War era. In contrast to the moral minimalist concept of neutrality as it is mobilized in liberal governmentalities, across art and politics, the project considers the rich variegated recent history of situated, politicised forms of neutrality concepts. This politicised history of neutrality concepts will be juxtaposed with the waves of depoliticising neutrality, including curatorial neutralisations of politics, which, aided and abetted by the humanitarian rhetorics of contemporary art, persist in attenuating institutional anxiety and agonistic possibilities of production in contexts of re-colonisation by multinational corporations.

On Neutrality was initially a part of Travelling Communiqué research and exhibition project (Museum of History of Yugoslavia, Belgrade, 2014) and became a Non Aligned Modernity book edition (Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Serbian/English). The lecture performance was presented at Savvy Contemporary Berlin as part of the exhibition From Bandung to Berlin: If all of the moons aligned.


Die Konsequenz(en) der Kunst, ADBK, Nürnberg

Die Konsequenz(en) der Kunst lectures, Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nürnberg

Die Konsequenz(en) der Kunst, or The Consequence(s) of Art, is a series of four lectures and conversations curated by faculty members Prof. Kerstin Stakemeier and Prof. Lars Blunck and hosted at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nürnberg.

On three thematic panels artists, theoreticians, researchers and producers present their takes on the possible consequence(s) of art, followed by a joint discussion with the panel and audience.

I take part in the Demonstrations of Consequence(s) talk alongside cultural theorist Paul Feigelfeld (Lüneburg/Berlin) and artist Susanne Winterling (Offenbach/Berlin). on October 27th 2016 at 19:00.

See the full program here: The Consequences of Art program

The philosopher Alenka Zupančič recently proposed the concept of consequence as a measure of our actions. Instead of hoping for the social normalization of our acts, those should rather be directed by the consequence(s) they entail. With Zupančič we can also ask for the consequence(s) of art, its having consequences as much as its being consequential. And it is therefore that the notion of consequence seems geeignet, to foster a discussion in which the arts are not primarily understood from their products and distribution but rather as a composition of actions – of consequential actions, of actions with consequences.

Demonstrations of Consequence(s) – 27.10.16, 19:00
The consequence(s) of the political in its institutionalized and nationalized form are very openly perceivable where states are reigning over their citizens, or – today hardly less virulent – over their non-citizens. But how can the consequences of a political form be demonstrated which engages with life beyond or even consciously averted to such official administrations? Demonstrations of Consequence(s) brings together three panelists who, in their respective fields of work, have proposed and tried out moments of political consequence: in writing, in teaching, in theory, in art …they are testing out the specific capacities of their respective media for critical consequence(s).

Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nürnberg
Bingstraße 60
90480 Nürnberg

On Neutrality

Performance Lecture – On Neutrality. Between Non-Aligned Movement(s) and Neoliberal Curatorial Economies

Jelena, Vlidi and I were invited to Savvy Contemporary, by the wonderful curators Brigitta Isabella and Renan Laru-an as part of their exhibition ‘From Bandung to Berlin: If all of the moons aligned’. This was the second adapted performance lecture of On Neutrality: Between Non-Aligned Movement(s) and Neoliberal Curatorial Economies.

As part of ‘From Bandung to Berlin: If all of the moons aligned’
At Savvy Contemporary, Berlin-Wedding on October 22, 2016

The lecture-performance On Neutrality deals with the juxtapolitical concept of ‘neutrality’ or ‘neutralisation’ in terms of its use in political and aesthetical position-taking within different ‘international relations,’ especially as a response to discrepancies of power. In contrast to the moral minimalist concept of neutrality as it is mobilized in liberal governmentalities, historically and today, across art and politics, the project considers the rich variegated recent history of situated, politicised forms of political neutrality concepts, which stemmed from the active positioning of non-aligned and ‘third world countries’ gaining independence during the Cold War era and re-claiming neutrality as a politics of de-colonisation, independence, peace and non-alignment with the powerful world empires of the time… This politicised history of neutrality concepts will be juxtaposed with the waves of depoliticising neutrality, including curatorial neutralisations of politics, which, aided and abetted by the humanitarian rhetorics of contemporary art, persist in attenuating institutional anxiety and agonistic possibilities of production in contexts of re-colonisation by multinational corporations.

The project On Neutrality was first presented by Jelena Vesić and Rachel O ’Reilly at Museum of History of Yugoslavia, Belgrade in 2014 as part of the research and exhibition Travelling Communiqué. The lecture coincides with the launch of the book by Jerić, O’Reilly and Vesić titled: On Neutrality, The letter from Melos, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, 2016 (Edition: Non Aligned Modernity; English and Serbian language)