cura: 1. spiritual charge: care. 2. to restore to health and soundness, to bring about recovery: cure. 3. Root of the word “curator” in Latin; one who is responsible for the care of souls, later, one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit. 4. instrument with two or three strings that is used in folk music. 5. small sparrow. 6. the name of a short story written by Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli, also known as the Fisherman of Halicarnassus (A Flower Thrown to the Sea from the Aegean, 1972). 7. “The double sense of cura refers to care for something as concern, absorption in the world, but also care in the sense of devotion” Martin Heidegger

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Turn off the Stockholm Program

Projects and Networks Working on Migration from the Art World

Communiqué from Mytilini/Lesvos, August 2009

“From Lesvos to an unknown land”: this was the response given by Mr X. at the NoBorder Camp in Mytilini, when asked where he planned to go after his arrival in Athens. Mr X. was acting as a spokesperson for a Somalian group, who, along with migrants from Afghanistan and Eritrea, were released from the “Pagani Welcome Centre” shortly before the official start of the NoBorder Camp. Pagani, the “reception centre” of Lesvos; the detention centre with a capacity of 250 people was filled with around 1,000 occupants – men, women and children – in August, when the Camp took place. Needless to say, Pagani was totally over-booked. A video made with a camera smuggled into the centre by one of the transit migrants clearly documents the unbearable conditions in which they were being detained.

In Mytilini a farewell party was thrown for migrants released from the centre. NoBorder activists, other transit migrants and locals from Mytilini accompanied those leaving on their way to the ferry for Athens. A moment in which hope and uncertainty, confidence and lack of prospects, comfort and anxiety was compressed and condensed. A moment in which the strategy of European border politics to render transit migrants invisible was broken through by the migrants themselves, with solidarity from activists.

Along with the border control agency Frontex, Pagani attracted much anger and frustration. Around 500 migrants were released from the centre with papers following considerable pressure from NoBorder activists. These papers, however, only grant recipients 30 days habitation in Greece. In this time migrants are expected to organize their return to their native country. It goes without saying that many use this time to recover, to contact relatives and friends, maybe to earn some money, and to further plot out the route to their goal destinations in Europe or elsewhere. This time is used to figure out what opportunities can be found in the coming journey – or to figure out if it is better to stay put. It is used to realize the potentiality of “life plans”. Each step is a step into an “unknown land”.

Tarifa, a small town previously known only to fans of kite surfing and tuna fishing. Ceuta and Melilla, footnotes to the Spanish history of colonisation. The Canaries, Europe’s biggest tanning salon. Lampedusa: an unknown. Lesvos, a small tourist island, an exemplary observation point for the playing out of European population policies; one of the many archipelagos of migration and the hope for a better life.
“The right to hope. To many, the borders seem like the gateways to paradise. Before the borders, lies a flaming moat, which needs to be conquered; Europe is the castle surrounded by the castle moat. The first contact with those that have managed to get there always reveals the same story: they tell us that this is paradise. We all want to see this paradise. We insist on our right to be allowed to see this, on our right to have a chance” (Tarek, transit migrant).

Today each of these places produces breaking news in the European media. The hotspots for the detention of Europe’s arriving migrants. Places where the bodies of those who have died crossing the seas wash up on the shore. Places of detention and places of transit. Small towns with 10 – 20,000 residents, towns that are militarized by camps and border police. Small towns onto which the social problems and implications of European migration politics get pushed. The externalisation of the camp, of deportation, finds its continuation here. On the negotiation tables of Europe’s metropolitan cities agreements such as the Dublin II are consolidated, which legalise these barbarities. The abjection of Pagani is the displacement of these politics onto the edges of Europe.

Shut down Pagani. No ifs, no buts. Disarm the ships and helicopters of Frontex. No ifs, no buts. Issue the release papers; release the children, the women and the men. No ifs, no buts.

“Our whole continent is searching for hope. The hope to escape from misery through migration, this hope is the air that we breathe, a music that is always there, a whole culture. The idea of migration was born in us while we were still young. All over the world children dream. When you ask a child here ‘what would you like to be when you grow up – doctor, professor or pilot’, then the child answers: ‘I will become a migrant’. Someone who has left the country is worth more than everyone else” (Tarek, transit migrant).

We belong to the first generation to witness the disappearence of boomgates in the European Union. The first generation for whom it has become everyday – everything but normal or self evident – to grow up in multinational, postcolonial, ghettoised, multilinguistic milieus. We have seen that the desire for free movement can tear down iron curtains. We have grown up with globalisation, with the internet and computers, with mobile phones, with interrail, with journeys home over the Autoput and human compassion that spans across borders. We have come of age with the wars in the Balkans, with the wars in Somalia, Rwanda and in the Sudan, in Afgahnistan and in Iraq. We have also grown up with those wars that we repress in our everyday lives. We have come up against new borders that run through our cities and countries. The presence of terror as justification for control, for the retraction of civil rights, for detention, internment and intervention is the mantra of our times. Our life is the change and the transformation: the death of the old social order, the uprising of Precarity, and the enormous question mark hanging over the future.

“We are all victim to the lies and promises of television. We believe in these success stories. When thousands of people fail to migrate successfully, but one person does – we don’t look at the stories of the thousands, we look at the story of one. The question is never raised of what s/he does over there, if s/he collects garbage or sells drugs. You only see what s/he has, when s/he returns: a car, branded clothing, a real life. The people smugglers profit from this, they promise you what you want to hear. We call them the sellers of dreams” (Tarek, transit migrant).

Many of us see the desiring gazes focused on the red passports of the European Union. We are aware of Schengen’s blessing of us and its curse on others. Do you believe that we are not enraged by these conditions, that we position ourselves as the profiteers of this system? Do you think that we don’t see how these insidious border regimes make the travels of transit migrants more and more dangerous with every passing day? Does anyone really believe that the coming citizens of Europe, in the most truthful sense of the word, do not use their hands to work, do not use their understanding to think, do not use their masses to assemble, just because migration is made illegal? Everybody knows that this work, this exploitation and this mobility, is the basis that allows the European constitution to function.

“The cat hunts the mouse and the mouse is always faster. And so are we, always. Migration existed since ever, since the beginning of human existence and why should that end now? In Africa nothing is changing actually. So our families sent us on the journey, which changed us so much that we are not able to go back. I came here by accident. And it is the best journey ever. The track has been the best experience of my life” (Jean-Marie, transit migrant).

What we want is simple. We want the right to travel in safety. The legal codification of these pathways. The normal state of arrival and travel instead of a constant state of exception. So that everyone can arrive, unpack their suitcase in peace and become a citizen of Europe, if they so desire.

Citizens of Europa 2009:
Frank John (Communist book-keeper and freelancer, Hamburg), Efthimia Panagiotidis (Sociologist, lecturer “Lehrkraft für besondere Aufgaben”, Uni- Hamburg, transit e.V.), Arndt Neumann (Historian, Hamburg), Irene Hatzidimou (Organiser ver.di, Hamburg/Hannover), Gerda Heck (Research centre for intercultural studies, Uni Köln), Lena Oswald (Political scientist, Hamburg), Meike Bergmann (Manager dock europe GmbH), Vassilis Tsianos (Sociologist, Associate Professor Uni Hamburg), Miriam Edding (Member of the Board of ‘Foundation DO’, Hamburg), Jan-Ole Arps (Political scientist, Berlin), Ole Bonnemeier (Doctor, Hamburg), Andreas Georgiadis (independent Master mechanic), Christoph Breitsprecher (Linguist, lecturer/research assistant, Uni Hamburg), Anja Kanngieser (Cultural Geographer/research assistant, Melbourne/Hamburg), Aida Ibrahim (Student, Uni Hamburg), Marion von Osten (Cultural producer, Professor Vienna, transit e.V. Berlin), Peter Spillmann (Cultural producer, Labor K3000/Zürich, transit e.V.), Marianne Pieper (Sociologist, Professor Hamburg), Angela Melitopoulos (Filmmaker, transit e.V.), Athansios Marvakis (Associate Professor Aristotele University Thessaloniki), Petra Barz (Manager dock europe GmbH), Daniela Lausberg (Pädagogin, Forschungsstelle für interkulturelle Studien, Uni Köln), Michael Koenen(Student, Uni Köln), Mark Terkessidis (Journalist, Berlin), Karin Cudak (Studentin, Uni Köln), Erika Schulze (Sozialwissenschaftlerin, Forschungsstelle für interkulturelle Studien, Uni Köln), Susanne Spindler (Sozialwissenschaftlerin, Professorin, Darmstadt), Ugur Tekin (Sozialwissenschaftler, Forschungsstelle für interkulturelle Studien, Uni Köln), Indra Röglin (Studentin, Uni Köln), Andreas Hollender (Graphiker, Köln), Christiane Hess (Historikerin, Hamburg/Bielefeld), Despina Altinoglou (Lehrerin, Hamburg), Eleni Altinoglou (Mytilini), Peter Holzwarth, Angelika Hipp (EU - project management; Neue Arbeit Zollern-Achalm e.V.), Valery Alzaga (unionist den haag/berlin), Nadine Gevret (historian, hamburg), Angela rein (educationist, Tübingen)
...who wants to sign, write to

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Midilli'de No Borders Kampi/ No Borders Camp in Lesvos

Turkiye kiyilarindan Ege Denizindeki Yunan Adalarina ve Yunanistan'a gecmeye calisan multecilere karsi sertlesen, insan haklarina karsi kosullarin tartisilacagi ve adadaki gozalti merkezinde eylemlerin duzenlenecegi bir kamp (25 - 31 Agustos)

* multecilik durumu yaratan yeni emperyalizm politikalarina karsi
* sinir idaresi ve baski+kontrol pratiklerine karsi
* gocun suclastirilmasina karsi
* gozalti merkezleri ve gocmen/ multecilerin insan haklarinin ihlaline karsi
* gocmen emeginin somurulmesine karsi

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kahire Misafir Programlari Sempozyumu Uzerine Dusunceler/ Afterthoughts on the Cairo Residency Symposium

International Branches, Local Initiatives, Or A Structure We Cannot Imagine Yet

Cairo Residency Symposium was organized by Townhouse Gallery and Fonds BKVB at the end of March 2009 and supported by the main funding institutions in Europe. Its stated aim was “to discuss in depth the significance and possibilities of cultural exchange in residency centers between artists from Europe, the Middle East and Africa”. It unraveled in the form of keynote speeches, case studies and group discussions. The structure allowed for voices of funders, institutions and to some extent artists to be heard, regarding the existence of international residency network. The location of the meeting allowed for more horizontal dialogues to emerge and alternative views to be heard, which could have remained unarticulated in another climate.

Our host, William Wells welcomed his guests proudly to Townhouse Gallery, which proves to be a very successful institution with a strong impact on the development of contemporary art practice in Egypt and on choosing “the work to be picked up and shown in the international arena”. They also run multiple outreach programs tailored to local needs.

Lexter ter Braak from Fonds BKVB provided the first insights into the mind of “the funder”. He informed us about artists not wanting to go to “the best in the West anymore” but instead preferring “residencies in non-Western countries to discover and explore other cultures”. He structured his speech around the metaphor of mirror neurons, proven to exist in human beings by a neurologist recently. He explained that “they reflect the activities of others in the brain”, thus “we love to imitate and synchronize”. He linked this phenomenon to artist residencies, suggesting their existence allows for “seeing, feeling and understanding”. With this scientific explanation, he legitimized the existence of the whole artist residency system.

Bassam el Baroni, a writer, curator and co-founder of ACAF (Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum) was the chosen voice of “the host”, moderating the flow of the symposium in the next two days. He made it clear from the outset that the interest in the region was a post 9/11 condition, which is not only reflected by increased funding for residency programs in the region but also by major regional shows curated in the West. He walked on a cotton thread keeping his critique insistent, while making his anxiety over his role felt. He set the tone of criticism by suggesting that the residency network and our desire to construct, maintain, support and participate in it is an impulse to carry on the failed cosmopolitan project. He also referred to Boris Buden’s text “Criticism without Crisis: Crisis without Criticism” , not only to suggest the crisis inherent in this system but also to point out the necessity to reflect on the conditions of production in the art world.

Chris Keulemans, a writer and a “host to be”, gave a beautiful speech about the complexities of hospitality. He suggested, “True hospitality will be given without expectation of return”. He evoked the colonial past so gracefully, “Europeans came as uninvited guests, not only overstayed but occupied the whole house, mistreated its inhabitants and got rich out of it all”. He asked if hospitality as a traditional value would disappear. Although traces of it were felt in the next few days, it seems like institutions need a more solid language to explain their efforts in words such as expectations, evaluations and benefits.

“Voice of the artist” was a rarity in the symposium represented by Mahoud Khaled, who delivered one of the case studies “Mobility and Stability: The Dynamics of Losing and Finding Locations in an Artist’s Career”. He referred to the residency system as “part of the necessary lifestyle of a contemporary artist”. He talked about his four residency experiences and reflected on how they met his specific needs at certain times in his career. “Good living and working conditions” was mentioned multiple times, making us realize these are unusual qualities, especially in the South. He referred to the state of being a guest but his was a notion very much defined by institutional expectations and the professional needs of the artist.

Alessio Antoniolli of Gasworks and Triangle Arts Trust talked about the “Post-Residency Period”, which was unlucky. They fund so many of the artist-run initiatives in the region for emerging artists that he could have offered a lot more in sharing his experience in that direction than restating some experiences with resident artists. He referred to the residency system as “rare, expansive and a lot of work” but emphasized its crucial role in helping artists evolve. This was taken up in the Q&A session by artist Lara Baladi, who criticized this language as “infantilizing”.

Case studies presented by four different institutions proved that it is impossible to speak about a single model and that the structure of the institutions should be articulated based on local context. In her presentation “Residencies Around Urban Matters”, Marilyn Bell from Doul’Art in Cameroon explained their strategy of working, in which an artist is invited for a short stay of approximately one week and is invited back again whenever they come up with a project proposal to be realized. Goddy Leye, who is an artist also working in Douala, started the initiative “Art Bakery” not to get depressed and out of his own needs. He saw the lack of education and infrastructure, which led him to develop the portfolio program geared towards producing and presenting artwork. Meskerem Assegued presented her utopian vision for Zoma Contemporary Art Center in the ancient village of Harla, Ethiopia. Resident architects and builders, who will use local construction methods, will construct the center. They are working in close contact with villagers and tailoring the program to their needs.

The only case study outside the African continent was “Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center” from Istanbul, Turkey. The center was started by Vasif Kortun soon after 9/11, when people were already looking at the city. He defined Istanbul as “ a flux city, which does not remember having been the capital of an Empire but feels it”. The center was even more specifically contextualized on Istiklal Street, which has been historically politicized and still is the site of most public demonstrations. From the start, he aimed at creating an “A League” institution and worked towards this vision as his negotiating power with funders increased. He emphasized the necessity of choosing the resident artist from a shortlist that is prepared by the partner institution most likely in Europe. He insisted on a local decision-making mechanism that can create the alchemy between the right artists and the city. Developing regional residency programs for artists from the Balkans and the Middle East has been a priority for Platform and Kortun emphasized the role they played in strengthening the networks and developments in the region. Platform set a unique example in tailoring the institution to the local needs, while determining how the local art scene will become part of the international art world.

The next speaker was Mouktar Kocache from Ford Foundation with his speech “Evaluation as a Funder and Host”. He shared the experience of working hard to include artist groups and foundations supporting art, in a conference of community based foundations working on social justice. They were the least prepared and most demanding among the participants. He called for the necessity of developing the knowledge and tools in the sector that will allow them to “remain at the table”. Chus Martinez raised an important point in the Q&A session about the power of funding institutions in defining the content of production.

Two ideas were central to the discussions; mobility and migration. Todd Lester from freedimensional, which is an international network that advances social justice by hosting activists in art spaces, introduced a perspective that is neglected by most of the people working in the field. He insisted on elongating the mobility discourse to other vocations. Although artistic mobility is central to the residency system, the concept of mobility was not dissected to reveal its relationship to many other contemporary debates about power and post-fordist working conditions. Thus, it is necessary to approach artistic mobility with some caution, questioning its connections with an expanding market and other flows such as capital, oil, information, labor, refugees and tourists. Still, I would like to end with a positive evocation of mobility as “a freedom from constraint, from the methods of confinement and conformity that nation-states, academies and other orthodoxies practice.”

Migration seems to be the main current that makes the whole system move. Let’s recognize the contradiction from the outset: Why is there a language of diversity and tolerance in the cultural field, while the harsh political language of Europe’s closed-door policy emerges when we start speaking about borders and security issues? As Jakob Myschetzky from Inklusion stated, many Europeans are retiring and newcomers are needed as a workforce. It is necessary to include the new people by using creative means. And of course, newcomers are not only arriving because they are needed. There is an accelerating increase in migration to Europe motivated by economic, political and professional realities “at home”. Most of the funding from Europe for arts and culture is focused on finding ways to deal with, mediate the increasing diversity within Europe. One of the participants drew attention to the fact that many regional exhibitions shown in the West are closely linked to migration processes and issues of integration. And Bassam asked, “Are we peeping into the culture of the minority through the artist?”

From all the ideas that have been voiced, some tendencies and shifts became apparent: Instead of exporting giant institutions that are expensive to maintain, foundations are leaning towards supporting individual artists with their specific needs. Local initiatives are already articulating the necessary models that function well and influence the formation of the art scene in their contexts. Support for regional networks and exchange should increase for constructing a truly international art world. We shall see how the results of the meeting manifest themselves as cultural policy at a global level.

Iz Oztat