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What is a responsibility?

It is as I have re-read from Donna Haraway the ability to respond[1] with care. Upon setting myself the task of writing to each artwork, I had promised myself not to acknowledge the work or the artists directly in the hopes to allow for the reader to participate or rather appreciate the intention of the text. By intention, I mean underlying desire. If I am totally honest this is not the true intent. I wanted to extend to each artist something in return for their understanding and trust in me and the project Roll on, Roll on, Phenomena (until you are no more). By writing a response to the artworks it is to open up intimacy in a public way. To invite others, the audience and the readers, to enter into this encounter with the artists and artworks has been imperative to me and my time at the Jan van Eyck. This is an intention behind the program as a whole, and I would hope that the texts form an exhibition similar to that of physical manifestation of the program.

Roll on, Roll on, Phenomena (until you are no more) takes the curatorial position that art creates an opening for all us, organic and inorganic, to enter into the call and response of becoming with the world. Like the elements, art can permeate our very being. It also enables us to participate in the call and intervention of not knowing. Roll on, Roll on, Phenomena (until you are no more) looks at not knowing as more than saying ‘I don't know,' rather it is an entwined act of vulnerability and responsibility. Intimacy is proposed as the interconnected relationships that emerge, flicker, and disappear over and over again; that are opened out by not knowing. I am making the connection between intimacy, the fundamental Buddhist teaching ‘dependent origination’ what I am trying to understand as entanglement. Dependent origination or interdependence is ‘[…] according to which phenomena are understood not as discretely existent entities but as the coincidence of interdependent conditions.’[2] Phenomena arise and cease dependent of a myriad of causes and conditions, to pull them apart would be impossible, and relates to the entanglement of a situation and its conditions and effects. Can this be understood as intimacy, not intimacy between two people, but what is left open, vulnerable, and mutable? The term entanglement has been a recurring term that I have been unable to comprehend, but I find Tim Ingold’s explanation of the difference between an object and a thing to be very helpful. He says: ‘[f]inally, I shall show that the pathways or trajectories along which improvisatory practice unfolds are not connections, nor do they describe relations between one thing and another. They are rather lines along which things continually come into being. Thus when I speak of the entanglement of things I mean this literally and precisely: not a network of connections but a meshwork of interwoven lines of growth and movement’.[3] This is how I see my practice as a curator, and how I see the program. It is an exhibition program, where the artworks, readings, talks, and audience become companions, intersecting, breaking apart, and reconfiguring in a continuous becoming with the world. Becoming for me is with every encounter and entry into the exhibition it comes into being, and as such continually changes. Deborah Bird Rose[4] says:

If our work is to keep faith with life, we need Barad’s and Haraway’s concept of world-making, or worlding, the main point being that as the world is always coming into being, our decisions are part of the world’s becoming. Barad famously refers to this agentic quality of life as a performative metaphysics (2003). Her argument is that in this world of emergent life, agency necessarily entails configuring (or reconfiguring) the world (2003: 818)[5]. The world emerges from multi-species decisions. Van Dooren[6] states this position extremely effectively: ‘we are required to make a stand for some possible worlds and not others, we are required to begin to take responsibilities for the ways in which we help to tie and retie our knotted multispecies worlds’.

Here we turn to responsibility and as such the ability to respond with care, and what Miyeon Lee, Jo-ey Tang, Anna Maria Łucazak, Kornkrit Jianpinidnan, Katie West, Arin Rungjang, Martine Batchelor, Peach, Marjolein Schepers, Louwrien Wijers, Lorraine Sweetman, and Charlotte Posenenske, who have formed the program, have taught me. What I have come to understand more through this program is companionship. I have been able to share with people and artworks this space. If I can ever say what success is, is that it is myself, if not the physical infrastructure of the studio, that remains open. I feel myself at times closing off when I am anxious, as a result of not knowing, and the lesson becomes how to maintain openness to others and the possibilities in accepting this vulnerability. Not knowing is uncomfortable, that is certain.

When making a program that tries to embrace not knowing as an appeal for intimacy, I have found that such an intention is quickly misunderstood, since I have been unable to articulate until now, what it is that I mean. I have been accused several times of advocating for ignorance, and this is not at all what I mean by not knowing. What is this not-knowing-beyond-ignorance? What I mean is how is it possible to participate in a community made up of entities and beings that do not speak our language, but communicate in other ways? How is it possible to make room for such communication that can show us other ways of living? Art as Deborah Bird Rose shows us through the work of Val Plumwood can be this space:

[Val] called for a philosophy to: converge with much of poetry and literature” because poetry and literature have better methods for “making room” for understanding the vivid presence of mindful life on earth. The quest for poetic forms of writing articulates her understanding that inside a world of dynamic inter-action, knowledge arises through participation; to “make room” for others, one needs to do more than represent. Somehow, one needs to vivify, to leap across imaginative realms, to connect, to empathise, to be addressed and to be brought into gratitude. [7]

But then what about those who are insensitive, abusive, and are compelled to speak over others? In the essay that I wrote at the beginning of this program, I referred to trust. I hadn’t taken into account that trust can be dangerous. What if we cannot trust those around us to treat us with the respect that we believe that we deserve and what if our humanness is not held as highly as we consider it should be? The phenomenologist Alphonso Lingis[8] says that a gift is one where there is no expectation of recompense. He gives the example of asking for directions in an unknown place. The stranger to this place is provided with instructions or an apology. For a long time, I held onto this as an example of trust and risk that are connected to not knowing. Recently it was brought to my attention that the stranger approached for directions might tell the lost visitor to go away or worse. I think that Lingis means that these two strangers meet face-to-face, aware of all the consequences that come with trust, still reach out to encounter and contact.

Another reason for writing these texts was to work through not knowing, to see how I can enter into not knowing and intimacy with the artworks without forcing it upon them. I have come to realize that I don't know how to structure not knowing as an actual space. In these texts, I am attempting to build a place for not knowing to exist, which I believe can be an exhibition, but as soon as I try to hold onto not knowing is slips away, and space is filled with thoughts about other things that I have neglected. This makes me think of a discussion with my father about how meditation is not about having a Velcro mind but being aware of when the focus has slipped away from the meditation and focused on other thoughts. This I think is what I have experienced with not knowing.

I feel as if I haven't been able to deal with not knowing very well, and I have failed in some way. Suddenly I was unmoored and preoccupying myself with other things such as friendship and dancing. Failed to encapsulate not knowing. I failed not to write about the artists and the artworks directly as I found it impossible to pretend that they were not near me, sharing my studio, and helping me to navigate the Jan van Eyck institutional framework. If anything, what I know now about not knowing is more about intimacy, that the friendships and the companionship that have been built by spending time with the works, and time I have spent with the artists, but also with the other Jan van Eyck residents. I recognize all of this experience has fed into not knowing and intimacy as part of entanglement and dependent origination. Gordon Hall wrote that in his studio he spends more time making friends.

Can attending to objects with care be a labor of self-sustenance for us as well? Can the things of our lives be our companions, our children, our comrades? What can we know or feel about our own bodies through the ways that we relate to objects? I want to propose the possibility that our relations with objects themselves might function as a means of remodeling our own often-fraught bonds with the materiality that is our own lived bodies. I sometimes joke that all I am doing in the studio is making friends. This joke is feeling more real by the day. [10]

This has been my experience of the program and my ethical baseline in curating these shows and programs so far, and it will continue with companionship and care.

[1] Donna J. Haraway, ‘Share and Response,’ in When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 71.
[2] Mattheiu Ricard & Trinh Xuan Thuan, The Quantum and The Lotus. (New York: Three Rivers Press): 304
[3] Tim Ingold, Bringing Things Back to Life: Creative Entanglements in a World of Materials. (14 Oct 2010). NCRM Working Paper. Realities / Morgan Centre, University of Manchester. (Unpublished). Accessed on 20 January 2017: http://eprints.ncrm.ac.uk/1306/
[4] Deborah Bird Rose, ‘Slowly ~ writing into the Anthropocene’ in TEXT Special Issue 20: Writing Creates Ecology and Ecology Creates Writing, vol. 20, 2013: 1-14. Accessed on September 20, 2016: http://www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue20/Rose.pdf
[5] Karen Barad ‘Posthumanist performativity: toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter’ in Signs, vol. 28: issue. 3, 2003 : 801–31 quoted in Deborah Bird Rose, ‘Slowly ~ writing into the Anthropocene’.
[6] Van Dooren, Thom 2011 ‘Vulture and their people in India: equity and entanglement in a time of extinctions’ Australian humanities review 50, 45–61 quoted in Deborah Bird Rose, ‘Slowly ~ writing into the Anthropocene’
[7] Deborah Bird Rose, ‘Val Plumwood’s Philosophical Animism: attentive interactions in the sentient world’ in Environmental Humanities, vol. 3, 2013: 93–109.
[8] Adrian Heathfield, TranTransfigured Night: A conversation with Alphonso Lingis, HD video documentary. Accessed on 12 August 2016: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/transfigurednight/133989254
[9] Robert Aitken, ‘The Mind of Clover,’ in The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics (New York: North Point Press, 1984), 27
[10] Gordon Hall, Reading Things Gordon Hall on Gender, Sculpture, and Relearning How to See (August 8, 2016). Accessed on 12 November 2016: http://www.walkerart.org/magazine/2016/gordon-hall-transgender-hb2-bathroom-bill

Added by Eloise Sweetman
Updated 2 months ago

Delirium & Destiny is a collaboration between Suzanne Wallinga and guest curator Eloise Sweetman.

With work Apichatpong Weerasethakul & Chai Siris, K.r.m. Mooney, Nicoline Timmer, Etel Adnan, Lee Kit, Sofia Caesar, Tamar Guimarães & Kasper Akhøj, Basma Alsharif, Himali Singh Soin & David Soin Tappeser and Mia You, among others.

The efflorescent program explores alternative modes of reason, through a diversity of voices in art, poetry, and philosophy.

Delirium & Destiny is inspired by the work of Maria Zambrano (1904-1991), a Spanish philosopher and political writer. Zambrano employs fictional, autobiographical, and poetic devices in her writing to engage with themes of time, spirituality, nationality, exile, emotion, and difference. Rather than creating an exhibition that uses Zambrano’s thinking as a tool or as an illustration, Delirium & Destiny is influenced by a few of Zambrano’s concepts – in particular, the dream and poetic reason. Dreams are, Maria Zambrano says, ‘not the rehearsal of a past we have already lived, but an opportunity to fashion the future’. Now is a good a time as any to reflect on the dream as an opportunity to ask ourselves how we take account of our own aspirations and recount our actions.

Delirium & Destiny consists of performances, screenings, lectures, a reading group and an exhibition. All the artists, poets, and writers in this program work politically, rather than work to make political art. In other words, their artistic practices reflect their position and care for the world, representing Zambrano’s idea that personal development contributes to public development overall.

Delirium & Destiny is supported by the City of Rotterdam, the Mondriaan Fund, the VSB Fund and the H.M.A. Schadee Fund and includes collaborations with the Rotterdam Library and the Society for Women in Philosophy.

http://a-tub.org/onsite/delirium-destiny/

Added by Eloise Sweetman
Updated 4 months ago

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