PRINT September 2020


Where we’re at: Berlin, Rotterdam, Istanbul, Madrid, Turin

Richard Kennedy, Fubu Fukú, 2020. Performance view, Trauma Bar und Kino, Berlin, July 16, 2020. Richard Kennedy. Photo: Dareos Khalili.


TFW in the middle of the odd Corona Summer, when the club has been closed for months, an artist explodes five centuries of history into an operatic “queer Black retelling of the colonial project from sugarcane to ketamine.” Made possible by Trauma Bar und Kino, which navigated virus guidelines to safely open its subterranean space for two nights, and hosted by New Models (which, full disclosure, I co-run), Richard Kennedy’s Fubu Fukú put five stunning bodies onstage—namely, those of Miss Hollywood, Fernando Casablancas, PK Gyaba, Peter Fonda, and the artist—all fitted with custom latex garments crafted by Florian Máthé. Kennedy, having honed their craft in part on the Broadway stage and by hosting parties like NYC’s 11:11 (with stints at Bard and MacDowell along the way), knows the Western high-art canon as well as they know how to subvert it by elegantly reframing its conventions—e.g., a classical aria delivered as dark ballroom anthem, with large-format Expressionist paintings extracted from the white cube to stand in as backdrop. To connect the acts, Kennedy invited DJ CEM (of Herrensauna fame) to bathe the masked audience in an ambient soundscape. With official nightlife on hold for the foreseeable future, the afterimage of Kennedy’s work lingers like an acid memory, like a hallucination of something that couldn’t have happened but maybe did and in any case reveals a reality that has always been there, big and true, just beneath the surface.

Caroline Busta is a writer based in Berlin.



IN THE FIRST WEEKS of the pandemic, I felt that time had taken on a different dimension. Stretching and shrinking simultaneously: A day seemed endless, but suddenly a month had passed. Notions of linear, progressive time, with the day segmented into working hours, are all inventions of a paradigm from which we appear to be departing. Perhaps this timescale is a relic of a modern subjectivity past its prime, what Sylvia Wynter has called the liberal monohumanist mindset. At an online book launch organized by Hebbel am Ufer in Berlin, Paul B. Preciado suggested that this episteme, hegemonic from the sixteenth century until now, is collapsing.

In her current exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum, in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, Yael Davids proposes the museum as a site of practice and not merely of representation. The show was inspired by the artist’s extensive study of the movement therapiesof Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais, whose method of “somatic learning” encourages us to pay close attention to our bodily habits in order to change them. Instructive panels on Feldenkrais exercises accompany the works on view—Davids’s own alongside those of Hilma af Klint, Nasreen Mohamedi, Lee Lozano, Adrian Piper, and others—disrupting ocular-centric regimes of viewing and activating a potential for embodied experience. Workshops in the Feldenkrais Method are offered in the museum and online.

In a brilliant talk in February of this year, the artist and scholar Charl Landvreugd presented his research on Wakaman, a critical artists’ collective that, from 2005 to 2009, nurtured artistic exchange between Suriname and the Netherlands at a remove from the dominant art system. The cultural practices of a younger generation, Landvreugd suggested, don’t appear to need institutions anymore at all. Seemingly as part of the deep shifts that are taking place, the art institute in Rotterdam that hosted his lecture has finally dropped the violent colonial conqueror’s name it bore for almost thirty years. In an effort to supersede the individualism of our fading lifeworld, the institute has announced the renaming as a participatory process to be completed in January 2021.

Wendelien van Oldenborgh is an artist working in Rotterdam and Berlin.

“With official nightlife on hold for the foreseeable future, the afterimage of Richard Kennedy’s work lingers like an acid memory.”
Caroline Busta


THE ISTANBUL ART COMMUNITY has responded to the pandemic with incredible creativity and resourcefulness both IRL and online. Can Altay’s freewheeling podcast, AHALI Conversations, is certainly worth listening to. My favorite episode featured Stephen Wright on expanded permaculture and the work of Conceptual artist Raivo Puusemp, whose mayoral tenure in the small town of Rosendale, New York, scaled art’s capacities beyond the realm of objects and exhibitions. The School of Mutation, a digital symposium conceived as an “open re-learning platform on the Future of Cultural Institutions, Radical Care and Art for UBI,” came to me via artist Zeyno Pekünlü and prefigures a postcapitalist society—with contributions from artists, activists, and teachers in Istanbul as well as in Naples, London, Athens, Saint Petersburg, and other cities.

Collector and social entrepreneur Haro Cumbusyan is expanding his urban permaculture initiative, Ek Biç Ye İç, to open a multifunctional space in a former bread bakery in the quaint neighborhood of Kurtulus¸ that will serve as an urban farm, a commercial kitchen, and a place for small, safe social gatherings. With artist Burak Delier’s intervention foregrounding local histories of bread baking, this space will be the Istanbul site of my organization Protocinema’s five-city show, “A Few in Many Places,” opening this month. This geographically dispersed group of single-artist shows is our attempt to cope with the realities of Covid, to continue opening up new dialogues that connect people across the globe while remaining locally relevant. In these exhibitions, we are reducing consumption by using DIY methods and found materials, thus eliminating the need for overseas travel and shipping. Could such practices light the way for the future?

Mari Spirito is the Founding Director of Protocinema and a curator based in Istanbul and New York.



FOR ALMOST SEVEN YEARS, between 1999 and 2006, our email exchanges and phone conversations were constant. I traveled several times to Los Angeles; Michael Asher visited me repeatedly in Barcelona. The objective was to organize an exhibition dedicated to his work at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, the museum I was directing at the time. At first, we wanted to create a specific project. Later, we decided the project should be contextualized with earlier work. Step by step, the show became a retrospective, the shape of which was modified continuously as the artist rebutted each new formulation we proposed. He was always more interested in questioning the devices and structures of cultural production than in obtaining a concrete result. When we seemed to have finally reached an agreement, Asher decided to put the show on hold indefinitely. At first, I did not understand his reasons. With time, I came to appreciate that his intention was not so much to make an exhibition as to stop making one. Asher was looking for a collaboration that explored aspirations and desires in order to reveal the contradictions and limitations of a system that is apparently more interested in profit than in people.

Amid the coronavirus crisis, this unrealized exhibition has become more pertinent than ever as we try to imagine what the future holds. We will need to build on top of these ruins. Not to reconstruct what didn’t work, but to create a new reality—and in turn, perhaps, to complete the exhibition that I was earlier unable to realize.

Manuel Borja-Villel is the director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.

“We will need to build on top of these ruins. Not to reconstruct what didn’t work, but to create a new reality.”
Manuel Borja-Villel


THE PANDEMIC has compelled me to think more and more about our physical, embodied relationship with art. I often wonder how much the lockdown is in the tradition of the quarantine (the quarantena were the forty days sailors had to stay on board a ship in port on arrival in Venice, centuries ago, to avoid transmitting contagious diseases) and how much it simply accelerates our conversion to an elitist society where the wealthy travel and engage with art “in the flesh,” their incessant flights exacerbating the environmental crisis, while the poor must stay put and experience art remotely, online or perhaps through VR. You ask about energy. You ask what gave me and gives me energy. It gave me energy to reopen the museum as soon as possible; it gave me energy to set up outdoor programs; it gives me energy to navigate this incredible financial crisis and come out of it with no lost jobs; it gives me energy to teach younger curators how to care for art, how to be precise in our tremendously exciting yet imprecise era. Prae-cisus: before the cut. To be precise is to prepare to do what you do before you do it, before you pull out the scissors and cut something down—before you do something that can’t be undone.

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev is the director of Castello di Rivoli and Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti in Turin.