Art in Dark Times: On the Conditions for Gathering, Thought and Action
15-17 February 2019
The Luleå Biennial: Tidal Ground coincides with the darkest period of the year, and therefore we have taken the darkness of the region as both a necessary and generative premise for our work and thinking. The biennial asks questions about what “dark times” may be said to entail: that social and political forces are also going through a period of tidal movement? Or that darkness is an ever-present condition for us to navigate? During the last weekend of the exhibition, the biennial invites artists, activists and thinkers to reflect on the political darkness that surrounds us, its geography and specific historical contexts, as well as the necessity of transnational alliances and friendships. The conference takes place at “Blackis” Folkets Hus (People's House) in Svartöstaden and Folkets Bio (People's Cinema) in central Luleå. On Saturday a party has been arranged in collaboration with Föreningsgatan 7.
Participants: Federica Bueti (writer and critic, Berlin), Övül Durmuşoğlu (curator, Berlin), Ayse Gülec och Fritz Laszlo Weber (Unraveling the NSU Complex and the Society of friends of Halit, Kassel), Stefan Jonsson (professor, Stockholm), Michele Masucci (philosopher and activist, Stockholm), Oscar Männikkö (artist/Boden against racism), Gergely Nagy (artportal.hu, Budapest), Nataliia Neshevets (VCRC, Kiev), Didem Pekün (artist, Istanbul/Berlin), Igor Stokfiszewski (Krytyka Polityczna, Warsawa), Kim West (critic, Stockholm).
Friday 15.12, 10.00-17.00 A Changing Art Field: Survival Strategies and Antifascist Resistance
At ”Blackis” Folkets Hus, Svartöstan
Participants: Dmitrii Bezouglov (Smena/The Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Yekaterinburg), Ida Börjel (poet, Malmö), Ayse Gülec och Fritz Laszlo Weber (Unraveling NSU Complex & the Society of friends of Halit, Kassel/Bremen), Michele Masucci (philosopher and activist, Stockholm), Oscar Männikkö (artist and activist Boden mot rasism (Boden Against Racism) & Ali Ghezeire (activist, Luleå), Gergely Nagy (artportal.hu, Budapest), Nataliia Neshevets (VCRC, Kiev), and Igor Stokfiszewski (Krytyka Polityczna, Warsawa) and more.
During the first day of the conference, a networking event has been arranged for art-workers and activists from different parts of Europe who employ anti-fascist strategies in order to sustain the operation of their respective initiatives. Friday’s programme has been organised together with the AOOO network, Arts Organizations Out of Office, established by Art Lab Gnesta and Konstfrämjandet (The People’s Movements for Art Promotion) to gather self-organising actors in the North that are engaged with contemporary art. By meeting, exchanging experiences and knowledge, the network will be able to find new strategies, create resistance and work pro-actively against both abstract and practical threats to our organisations.
The day will take as its starting point a number of presentations by speakers engaged in relevant issues across the European art scene, followed by a conversation moderated by the philosopher and activist Michele Masucci. How have the political developments of the last few years affected our conditions for working in the field of art, and how might this be related to other political restrictions? How can we, as art-workers, learn to handle or even curb that development? Which alliances do we need to establish, not only to ensure the free agency of art but the democratic rights of everyone?
→10:00 Introduction Sebastian Dahlqvist Caroline Malmström (AOOO), Emily Fahlén and Asrin Haidari (The Luleå Biennial: Tidal Ground)
Michele Masucci (Moderator)
Tomas Örn (Artist, Intresseföreningen Svartöstaden)
Oscar Männikkö and Ali Ghezeire (Boden/Luleå Against Racism)
→10:40 Igor Stokfiszewski (Krytyka Polityczna, Warszawa)
→11:00 Nataliia Neshevets (VCRC, Kiev)
→11:20 Gergely Nagy (artportal.hu, Budapest)
→12:40 Panel discussion
→13:30 Ayşe Güleç and Fritz Laszlo Weber (Unraveling NSU Complex & the Society of friends of Halit, Kassel och Bremen)
→13:50 Tigran Amiryan and Lucine Talalyan (Queering Yerevan, Yerevan)
→14:10 Dmitrii Bezouglov (Smena/The Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Jekaterineburg)
→14:30 Panel discussion
→15:00 Coffee break
→15:30 Open discussion moderated by Michele Masucci
→17:00 Reading by Ida Börjel (Poet, Malmö)
→20:00 Bus trip to The Blood of Stars (2017), an installation by Raqs Media Collective in Mjölkuddsberget
Saturday 16.2, 13.00-19.00 Catastrophe and (in)visibility
At ”Blackis” Folkets Hus, Svartöstaen
Participants: Federica Bueti (writer and critic, Berlin), Övül Durmuşoğlu (curator, Berlin), Ayse Gülec och Fritz Laszlo Weber (Unraveling the NSU Complex and the Society of friends of Halit, Kassel), Stefan Jonsson (professor, Stockholm), Didem Pekün (artist, Istanbul/Berlin), and Monika Szewczyk (curator, Berlin).
The artist Didem Pekün’s film Araf (2018) is one of the works in the Luleå Biennial and will provide the framework Saturday’s conference programme. Araf is an essayistic road movie and diary of a ghostly character, Nayia, who travels between Srebrenica, Sarajevo, and Mostar in Bosnia. She has been in exile since the war, returning for the 22nd memorial of the Srebrenica genocide. Araf traces paradoxes through Nayia’s displacement and her return to her home country post-war – that of a constant terror and a standstill.
In relation to the emergence of fascism, the light of distance can help make a historical occurrence seem more easily discernible, but what do we see in the middle of an ongoing eruption? Catastrophes carry different temporalities – so how do we handle those that happen in slow transitions and shifts rather than explosive ones? A historical catastrophe can be silenced, hidden in landscapes without traces or monuments, in archives empty of information and in memories that remain private. And the catastrophe that is happening just now may be, in its ongoing shape, outside of language, and it can paralyse our ability to take action. Using Araf as springboard, Saturday’s presentations and performances will be centred around questions of the visibility or invisibility of a catastrophe in its afflicted landscape and society. What types of new understanding may be generated by art? What significance is attributed to it during dark times?
In the evening a party is hosted at Föreningsgatan 7, 22:00–02:00. Live: Noise Against Fascism (live at 22:00), Karl Sjölund & Henrik Söderström, DJ: Sissel Wincent.
→10:00–13:00 Time to visit the biennials exhibition venues in Luleå: Konsthallen i Luleå (Kulturens hus), Norrbottens museum and Galleri Syster
→13:30 Araf: The River
→13:40 Introduction, Emily Fahlén and Asrin Haidari
(Luleå Biennial: Tidal Ground)
→14:00 A Soliloquy: 3 Thoughts on Inhabiting ’Araf’, Didem Pekün (artist and academic)
→14:30 Against Structural Ignorance: Collective Mourning and Memory as a political act, Ayşe Güleç and Fritz Lazlo Weber (Unraveling NSU Complex & the Society of friends of Halit, Kassel och Bremen)
→15:30 Coffee break
→15:50 Araf: The Walk
→16:05 I Want to Feel: the Emotionality Threshold of Politics, Övül Ö Durmuşoğlu (curator, Berlin)
→16:50 Darkness into Darkness: From Neoliberal Austerity to Fascism – and the Intervention of Critique, Stefan Jonsson (author and professor, Linköping)
→17:30 Coffee break
→17:50 Araf: Purgatory
→18:10 Spell Buildning, Federica Bueti (curator, Berlin)
→19:00 Dusk Listening for a People’s Music, Monika Szewczyk
→22:00 Bus from Blackis departs to Föreningsgatan 7 for an afterparty: Noice Against Fascism, performance Karl Sjölund och Henrik Söderström, dj Sissel Wincent
Sunday 17.2, 13:00–16:00 The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts
At Folkets bio, Luleå
Participants: The study group on ”The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts” in Stockholm: Jörgen Gassilewski (author and poet), Martin Högström (poet and translator), Emma Kihl (artist and researcher), Christoffer Paues (artist), Kim West (critic and researcher), and Ellen Wettmark (cultural theorist and public servant).
”Popular Fronts”: this was the name of the political coalitions of left and liberal parties which were established in Europe and elsewhere in the late 1930s, in order to form united blocks against the rise of fascism. The most important ones were the French Front Populaire, in government between 1936 and 1938, and the Spanish Frente popular, which was overturned by Franco’s military coup in 1936. But popular fronts also existed in the UK, Austria, the US, and Chile, all responding in different ways to the Comintern’s endorsement of the popular front strategy at its seventh world congress in 1935.
How should we relate to this history today, as we are once again facing the rise to power of the extreme right, in Europe and beyond? How should we understand these attempts at achieving unity in resistance now, thirty years after the end of ”actually existing socialism”, and in the midst of a historic crisis for European social democracy? In the early fall of 2018 we set up a study group on ”The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts”, in order to discuss texts and artworks, policy visions and cultural initiatives relating to the period of the popular fronts. Since then we have met bi-weekly to talk about, among other things, texts by Simone Weil and films by Jean Renoir, the expressionism debate and working-class pageantry, the Ciné-Liberté association and popular educational reforms.
What we have been seeking is not a simple analogy, a confirmation that today is just like then, that we are witnessing a ”return of the 1930s”. Instead, we have been seeking to confront two historical moments, looking for differences just as much as for repetitions. Our idea has been that, if we compare the present with the past, then perhaps we can see more clearly the specifics of the present. And if we look at the past from the perspective of the present, then perhaps we can discern some possibilities, or even responsibilities, that the past passes on to us. Is there a tradition of anti-fascist unity with which we might still identify ourselves? An aesthetics of resistance that we might still draw upon? This seminar will present some provisional speculations derived from this ongoing and open-ended work.
— The Study Group on the Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts
→10:00–12:30 Bus trip to A Sense of War (2018), an installation by Karl Sjölund in Rödbergsfortet (Boden). Bus departs from Elite Stadshotellet Luleå
→13:00–16:00 Seminar by the study group on The Aesthetics of the
Popular Fronts, Stockholm
→13:00 Introduction, Kim West
→13:30 For the Popular Front (on an image in progress), Christoffer Paues
→13:45 Sweden During the Popular Front Years, Ellen Wettmark
→14:15 Coffee break
→14:30 Poetry During the Popular Front in the US, Martin Högström
→15:00 Nature and the Popular Front in the US, Emma Kihl
→15:30 The Popular Front: Brecht, Montage, and the Debate on Realism, Jörgen Gassilewski
→16:30 Joint walk from Folkets bio to the south harbor to experience Dirghtamas (2018), an installation by Vishal K Dar