Towards perma-cultural institutions. Exercises in collective thinking
10. — 18. Juli 2022
A summer seminar organized by Stiftung Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, curated by Aneta Rostkowska and Nada Schroer
In the last few years, we have observed a proliferation of exhibitions on plants and ecology in art institutions accompanied by a fascination with indigenous thinking and various forms of collective work. At the same time, we notice a growing disillusionment with the art system itself, such as its lack of solidarity, exploitative working conditions, short term funding paired with shrinking structural support, superficial understanding of diversity, strong hierarchical structures at art institutions, normative individualism, compulsive self-branding or the cult of mobility and flexibility. The art system perfectly mimics the neoliberal economy that we all live in. However, this disappointment often does not translate into concrete actions. “Neoliberal art realism” (a term inspired by Mark Fisher’s “capitalist realism”) permeates everything, as the sense that the status quo of the art world is the only viable art system, and it is impossible to imagine a coherent alternative.
On the other hand, the experience of climate change makes it clear that the economy and society cannot continue in the same way as it has before. The ecological catastrophe that we are facing now triggers a strong impulse and need for change.
During this seminar we will use ecological thinking to think differently about the workings of the art system and especially different types of art institutions. We will try to bring the teachings of plants and permaculture that until now mostly function as exhibition content into the structures of our work so that they inform our curatorial practices. How the ethics of permaculture (Earthcare, Peoplecare and Fairshare) could inspire a lasting transformation of art institutions going beyond superficial application of ecological guidelines? Can the regenerative aspect of permacultural thinking be transformed into a regenerative philosophy of an art institution? Could this thinking translate to sustainable community-based practices focused on emancipatory forms of working together and collective care for (ecological and social) commons? What can we learn from indigenous practices and the functioning of art in indigenous contexts without appropriating or romanticizing it? Modernism constructed an abstract separation of “nature” and “culture” and brought with itself colonization processes fuelled by racist ideologies and the needs of capitalism. Now we must ask: How can we collectively enter the next step? Can we negate modernism and its constantly reappearing “ghosts” and in a synthetic, all-encompassing move arrive at the next level with new, sustainable concepts and practices?
The goal of the gathering is to create a network – a mycellium – of perma-cultural practitioners and art institutions interested in putting the ecological reflection in the art sector on another, deeper level that leads to new models of instituting.
The first part of the seminar will be dedicated to understanding of the permacultural practices as well as other ecological approaches through theory but also gardening exercises. Together with invited experts, for example Alfred Decker, we will explore the techniques and the ethics of permaculture along its 12 principles: Observe and interact, Catch and store energy, Obtain a yield, Apply self-regulation & accept feedback, Use & value renewable resources & services, Produce no waste, Design from patterns to details, Integrate rather than segregate, Use small and slow solutions, Use and value diversity, Use edges & value the marginal and Creatively use and respond to change.
In the second part we will go deeper into specific topics like curating in small/midscale art institutions, curating residency programs and curating festivals. We will collectively apply permacultural/plant-thinking to these areas trying to figure out how ecological approaches can help us to transform these fields on our path to overcome the neoliberal art realism and to develop methods of ecological instituting.
There will be an event open for external visitors, art practitioners and cultural workers from the region to follow the keynote lectures and join the collective discussion.
Each participant will be asked to provide a short input for the group during the seminar based on their experiences.
During the gathering we will also perform collective gardening at the Künstlerdorf Schöppingen under the guidance of artist Yoeri Guépin. This practical engagement with soil, plants and the planet aim to enhance our theoretical discussions.
A reading list will be prepared for all participants with a request to read the texts before arrival.
The seminar is curated by Aneta Rostkowska and Nada Schroer and hosted by Stiftung Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, directed by Julia Haarmann.
The project is part of the CAP (Curating for Advanced Practices) program of the Stiftung Künstlerdorf Schöppingen. CAP aims to develop new strategies and structures in the arts and for artistic practices and negotiate their implementation and production conditions.
Aneta Rostkowska is a curator, author and gardener, a graduate of the de Appel Curatorial Programme in Amsterdam. She is pursuing experimental curatorial practices in which politically relevant storytelling develops through carefully constructed sensual environments. Rostkowska studied philosophy, economics and art history in Kraków, Poznań, Heidelberg and Frankfurt am Main. She worked as a curator at Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art in Kraków (2011-2016) and at the Academy of the Arts of the World in Cologne (2016-2018). Since January 2019 she is a director of Temporary Gallery, Centre for Contemporary Art in Cologne. Apart from curating, she has also been teaching art theory, art history and philosophy at various universities and art schools.
Nada Schroer studied Arts and Media Presentation in Hildesheim as well as Cultures of Curation in Leipzig. She researches and writes about the topics of digitality, science fiction and games. Her art communication and curating work includes projects at HKW Berlin, Sprengel Museum Hanover, Kunstverein Hildesheim, Kunstverein Braunschweig, GOLD + BETON in Cologne, D21 Leipzig, and NRW-Forum Düsseldorf.
In cooperation with the CCA Temporary Gallery in Cologne.
The project is supported by the Friends of the Künstlerdorf Schöppingen and the Kunststiftung NRW.