Neolithic Childhood: The Book

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The catalogue of the HKW’s magnificent Neolithic Childhood project has seen the light of day (in an English and a German edition). I contributed two texts to the “glossary,” on autonomy and mythology.

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Modernist Memories in Dutch

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My Texte zur Kunst essay on Günther Förg, which was originally written for, but not published in, the catalogue of the Stedelijk Museum’s current Günther Förg retrospective, has been translated into Dutch for the latest issue of De Witte Raaf. The essay was de facto rejected the museum: imposing unaccaptable edits, or an unacceptable editing style, is a sure way of making an author withdraw an uncomfortable piece. Why fire someone when you have ways of making them quit? Entire paragraphs came marked with the truly brilliant editorial comment “Difficult passage: please rewrite,” without further specification; other parts were deemed “too cryptic” and/or “too abrasive” for “an international public, but even for an average Dutch audience.”

The real bone of contention was of course my critique of the Stedelijk’s policies in the 1990s (when Förg was a mainstay there), as well as in recent times. Criticism and critical art history are site-specific, and for me the only way to contribute to this Stedelijk publication was to provide a form of immanent institutional critique, taking Förg’s presence at the museum over the years as my point of departure. Perhaps not suprisingly, this was a bridge too far; in fact, what happened eerily mirrored what befell a catalogue essay by Mark Kremer from the 1990s, which I discuss in my piece. However, my awareness of context-specificity also meant that the comments on the current Stedelijk were in fact far more condensed and less explicit in the catalogue draft than in the more abrasive version that was ultimately published (in English and German) in Texte zur Kunst, and now in Dutch in De Witte Raaf.

Life After DAI

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Last weekend, I attended the graduation presentations of the Dutch Art Institute’s second-year students, at State of Concept in Athens. This was also my farewell to this institution, which in its current “roaming” format required me to travel to a different city (and, usually, country) each month. DAI is in the vanguard both of critical art education and of relentless self-exploitation, exhaustion, and pseudo-glamorous precarization. All that is solid melts into Airbnbs (or, for the students, youth hostels). In addition to my university teaching in Amsterdam, this was not viable for me in the long run. I can quit because it will not result in instant neo-Dickensian poverty; others are in less privileged positions.

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Nonetheless, I regret having to take this step; not being able to continue working with the current first-year students is a particular regret. The experience of teaching at this exceptional art programme has been rewarding. Teaching a theory seminar at an art school provides different challenges and rewards from teaching in a university context;  with their interesting interests, their already distinct merging practices and critical questions, my students have been inspiring interlocutors, and it has been a pleasure seeing them (and helping them) develop their thoughts and their work.

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After the graduation presentations, my students (Alaa Abu Asad, Stephan Blumenschein, Sara Cattin, Leon Filter, Olga Micińska, Dina Mohamed, Nina Støttrup Larsen, Sam McCulloch; Matthieu Blond couldn’t make it to Athens) raised a toast with a certain beverage that I seem to be notorious for consuming. I usually don’t deal with my teaching here on this site, or get personal, but every rule needs exceptions: cheers peeps, and thanks!