Seminarangebot: Caretaking and/or curating. An example of an attempt to take care of a biennial’s ecology

Im Seminar „Caretaking and/or curating. An example of an attempt to take care of a biennial’s ecology“ gibt es noch freie Plätze!


Dozentin: Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez

Veranstaltungszeiten: 27./28. November 2020 und 15./16. Januar 2021

It is no doubt that the period in which we (us, you, all the human and non-human population) live is defined by an ongoing crisis that expands from the current COVID 19 pandemics onto a social justice struggle through Black Lives Matter movement and further into a deeper environmental or planetary deregulation. Profound social, cultural and ecological re-thinking that have been taking place should have a strong dialogue and impact also with and on the cultural and artistic field.

As a curator and cultural worker who acts in awareness of and by using their white privilege, I feel the necessity to propose a transformed way of understanding of the methods of working within the field of artistic practices as an important part of the social sector of care work. “Theorized as an affective connective tissue between an inner self and an outer world… a feeling with, rather than a feeling for others”[1], care work, when mobilized, offers “visceral, material, and emotional heft to acts of preservation that span a breadth of localities: selves, communities, and social worlds. Reciprocity and attentiveness to the inequitable dynamics that characterize our current social landscape represent the kind of care that can radically remake worlds that exceed those offered by the neoliberal or post-neoliberal state, which has proved inadequate in its dispensation of care”.

Such a proposal implies slowing down and situating our ways of working and being in the given context over longer periods, imagining new ecologies of care as a continuous practice of support, and listening and paying attention to feelings that arise from encounters with objects and subjects.

The methodology that I use is inspired by decolonial feminist[2] and decolonial ecological[3], anti-racist and intersectional feminist practices and theories, as well as by what we term “slow research” or “slow methodology”, following Isabelle Stengers’ understanding of slow science as “the quality of research and its relevance for today’s issues”[4]. Stengers writes that in the point of view of fast science, paying attention is equated with a loss of time; but from the perspective of slow science, paying attention can teach research institutions and researchers to be affected and to affect the creation of the future. More specifically, I am interested in the intersection between physical and mental traumas in relation to racism in diasporic communities in Europe, and the care work through artistic practices that can lead to important personal or communal transformation.[5]Intersectional method is related to the term “intersectionality”, famously coined in 1989 by the law professor and theoretician Kimberlé Crenshaw. Crenshaw defined it as the “view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.” As Crenshaw sees it today, “intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.[6] Today, with neofascism acquiring greater visibility and power, intersectionality is a crucial framework for dismantling the existing power structures of whiteness within institutions and methods of working within artistic and curatorial practices.

Taking the case study of the Contour Biennale 9: Coltan as Cotton, I would like to pose a question on how to take care of a biennial’s ecology that it produces, and how to undo its prevailing function related to an unsustainable cultural tourism. Contour Biennale 9 was designed in phases: a continuum of projects in various formats, in contrast to earlier editions when the biennial ran for 10 weeks. Between September 2018 and October 2019, three phases shaped it. These phases were aligned with the phases of the lunar cycle, one of our most natural rhythms, which induces a cyclical conception of time. Projects developed over a course of a year and they explored entanglements between the decolonization of structures, mind and history in Belgium and the Lowlands, and the need for practices of degrowth, care and solidarity to be intertwined more profoundly with contemporary artistic practices. The stretched duration of the biennial enabled a slowed down research phase and a more situated way of working within the social fabric of the city of Mechelen and around it.



[1] Hi‘ilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart and Tamara Kneese, “Radical Care. Survival Strategies for Uncertain Times”, Social Text 142, vol. 38, No. 1, March 2020.

[2] See Sara Ahmed, Living a feminist life,  Durham : Duke University Press, 2017; Françoise Vergès, Un féminisme décolonial, Paris: La Fabrique éditions, 2019; Kuratieren als antirassistische Praxis (Curating as an Anti-Racist Practice), eds. Natalie Bayer, Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, and Nora Sternfeld (De Gruyter, 2017); and Décolonisons les arts! (Let’s Decolonize the Arts!), eds. Leïla Cukierman, Gerty Dambury, and Françoise Vergès (L’Arche Éditeur, 2018).

[3] Malcom Ferdinand, Une écologie décoloniale, Paris: Seuil, 2019. Ferdinand argues that modernity has birthed the idea of two seemingly separate movements “that rarely speak to one another. On the one hand, there are environmentalist and climate change movements, and then as separate engagements from this, we also see anti-racist and anti-colonial movements. Quite often, we fail to recognize the intersections of these two movements, and the way their respective struggles are inextricably linked.”

[4] See Isabelle Stengers, “‘Another Science is Possible!’: A Plea for Slow Science” (lecture, Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, Université libre de Bruxelles, 2011, and Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, “For Slow Institutions”, e-flux journal nr. 85, 2017,

[5] See a recent article on racism as a public health issue in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement: “Although the chronic condition of stress can have negative side effects on all persons, the unique psycho-social and contextual factors, specifically the common and pervasive exposure to racism and discrimination, creates an additional daily stressor for African-Americans. Often, African-Americans do not realize daily stressors that may affect their psychological or physiological health and so we have compiled a collection of articles and additional resources to understand the health effects that result from exposure and perception of racism and discrimination.”

[6] See Patricia Hill Collins & Sirma Bilge, Intersectionality, Polity Press: Cambridge, 2016, and Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, “Transforming Whiteness in Art Institutions, e-flux journal nr. 93, 2018,