Colonial Presents. Artistic and Curatorial Interrogating
Is it possible to decolonize the museum, a colonial knowledge enterprise per excellence? Can artistic and curatorial practices offer avenues to set such processes in motion?
With this seminar, we enter the monument to German imperial nostalgia, the Humboldt Forum, to engage with colonialism and coloniality, reading, discussing and creating in discomfort.
In the last fifteen years, discussions about decolonization and decoloniality have seeped slowly into the German cultural sphere by way of criticism and artistic and curatorial practice from minority communities. The debates have also entered the museum, with the question of decolonization being taken up through various one-off projects.
More often than not, these debates have been amalgamated with practices responding to critiques about the museum’s lack of representation of a large amount of the population. But although the concerns overlap in certain respects, both questions – the issue of representation and the issue of decolonization – differ fundamentally. A decolonial approach does not look to ameliorate a current state of affairs, rather, it questions the museum's raison d'être; it investigates the museum as instrument of empire in the construction and export of racist knowledge regimes, it analyzes how the museum perpetuates colonial violences, and it responds with ideas for possible futures.
Under this light, this seminar asks: how to (mis)understand an ethnographic museum within a reconstructed imperial palace in the 21st century? How could we, as artists and curators, engage with the evidence of colonial violence in the form of looted property and sequestered beings, while waiting for restitution?
To approach these questions we will read authors including Aníbal Quijano, Walter Mignolo, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, but also delve into the German debates on postcolonial museums, and the very specific case of the Humboldt Forum and its relation to German colonialism.
The course will have both a theoretical and a practical dimension:
In the theory dimension of the course, students will 1. get acquainted with central tenants and concerns of decolonial theory, with an emphasis on the dyad modernity/coloniality as developed principally by Latin American theorists, 2. develop a critical approach to museums, while engaging with methodologies by Indigenous scholars, 3. engage in current debates about curatorial and artistic approaches to colonial heritages, and 4. be introduced to criticism and examples from the German speaking areas. Our sources will be texts, as well as invited speakers including scholars, artists and curators, who will offer perspectives from their practices.
For the practice dimension, we will engage with the exhibitions opened this September 2022 at the Humboldt Forum. We will work in an interdisciplinary colloquium situation engaging with and supporting each other’s aesthetic searches, developing new work that responds to the theoretical input and the spaces visited.
The artistic work will result in an intervention within the exhibition „Leerstellen.Austellen“ at the Humboldt Forum.
Pending internal approval, this course will be offered in tandem with the TFD “Zeichnen Farbe Fläche – Spatial Drawing” class led by Elaine Bonavia.
Students can take the seminars independently or in tandem, although taking both courses is recommended.
Credit points (T/G: 4SWS and TFD: 2SWS) will be given separately for each seminar.
Students taking the TFD class will develop their work using the techniques and approaches of that class. Other students will develop their own approaches.
The interdisciplinary colloquium and the theory dimension apply to both sets of approaches.
-Theory and studio seminar
-Modul: Visuelle Kulturen
-Max. number of students: 14
-Credit points: 4
-Tandem with Digital Drawing (TFD)
-Classes will take place on and off-campus. For exact location of each seminar please see the syllabus.
-Language: Both English and German texts will be read. Input by external presenters will also happen in German or English. Depending on students’ language preferences, an effort will be made to accommodate spe-cific translations when possible. Students’ presentations and discussions can take place in either English, German or a mixture of both, depending on the participants’ preferences. Difficulty with one of the two languages will be taken into consideration and will be accommodated as much as possible.
-Attendance at each session is mandatory. In order to accommodate difficulties arising from our current pandemic situation, we will try out a hybrid setup. Please note this will be an experimental situation, especially when the seminar takes place off campus.
-Accommodations: You may need special arrangements to meet your academic obligations during the term because of disability, pregnancy, care responsibilities or religious obligations. Please review the course outline promptly and write to me with any requests for academic accommodation during the first two weeks of class, or as soon as the need arises.
-Detailed schedule available and registrations open mid October in Incom under https://kh-berlin.incom.org/workspace/2030