About the Summit

On November 18, 2017, the Curatorial Practice master’s program at the School of Visual Arts presented a day-long international summit organized by Steven Henry Madoff on curatorial activism in light of the rise of nationalism and radical conservatism, and their programmatic attacks on civil rights, environmental protections, scientific research, and free speech, as well as the reduction and rescinding of cultural funds to suppress diverse expression. How must we think about the programs and publics of institutions, both locally and globally, under these political conditions? How can institutions define, present, and perform an ethics or, more pointedly, a polemics in reaction? And if they seek to be polemical, how can they do this within the strictures of governments and commercial powers? In fact, the question must be asked: What is their autonomy and what is their complicity? What can curators within institutions and outside of them do in response to the radical shift now altering our possibilities as individuals, citizens, artists, thinkers, and producers of a (once) liberal culture? And therefore, what is to be done in terms of resistance, sanctuary, and counter-forms of advocacy in the specific political and cultural situations that we work and live in as the 21st century unfolds in ways echoing fascisms of nearly a century ago, hatreds hundreds of years old, and technologies still advancing toward mechanisms of massive fraud and new formations of surveillance?


These are the subjects of curatorial activism that face the politics of shock today, and some of the world’s leading curators and thinkers about museums and exhibitions gathered in New York for a public reading and discussion of manifestoes and declarative talks written specially on these topics for this extraordinary event.


Speakers were: Defne Ayas, Director, Witte de With, Rotterdam; Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore & Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Nicolas Bourriaud, Director, La Panacée, Montpellier; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Director, Castello di Rivoli and GAM, Turin; Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, Curator of Contemporary Art, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, New York; Joshua Decter, independent curator and writer, New York; Clémentine Deliss, independent curator, Berlin, former Director, Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt; Irmgard Emmelhainz, independent scholar, Mexico City; Elena Filipovic, Director, Kunsthalle Basel; Boris Groys, Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, New York University and Senior Research Fellow, Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design; Hou Hanru, Artistic Director, MAXXI, Rome; Maria Lind, Director, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm; Antonia Majaca, curator and researcher, IZK Institute for Contemporary Art, Graz University of Technology; Gabi Ngcobo, founding member, NGO (Nothing Gets Organised), Johannesburg and curator, 10th Berlin Biennale; Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Gallery, London; Jack Persekian, Director, Al Ma’mal Foundation, Jerusalem; Pi Li, Senior Curator, M+, Hong Kong; María Belén Sáez de Ibarra, Director of Cultural Heritage and Director, Museum of Art, National University of Colombia; Terry Smith, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh, and Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art and Critical Theory at the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee; Mick Wilson, Director, Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg; and Tirdad Zolghadr, Artistic Director, Sommerakademie Paul Klee, Bern; Associate Curator, KW Institute, Berlin. Moderators: Adrienne Edwards, curator, Performa, New York; Brian Kuan Wood, Director of Research, SVA MA Curatorial Practice and editor, e-flux journal, New York.


A publication will follow from Sternberg Press, edited by Steven Henry Madoff.


The summit took place at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street, New York, New York, on Saturday, November 18, 2017, from 10 am to 5 pm.


Summit Agenda


10:00-10:10 AM

Steven Henry Madoff, Chair, SVA MA Curatorial Practice



Presentations, Part 1


10:10 AM What Is Indestructible in You? Defne Ayas, Director, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam


10:18 AM Slow Down, Stay Focused, and Evaluate What’s at the Core,” Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


10:26 AM The New Relational Landscape: Towards a Poly-Subjecthood,” Nicolas Bourriaud, Director, La Panacée, Montpellier


10:34 AM A Nine-Point Charta,” Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Director, Castello di Rivoli and GAM, Turin


10:42 AM Of Caretakers and Advocates,” Sofía Hernandez Chong Cuy, Curator of Contemporary Art, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, New York/incoming Director, Witte de With


10:50 AM Politics Burned a Hole Through My Heart,” Joshua Decter, independent curator and writer, New York/faculty, SVA MA Curatorial Practice


10:50 AM Manifesto for Rights of Access ,” Clémentine Delissindependent curator, Berlin; former Director, Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt



Panel Discussion 1

11:10-11:30 AM

Ayas, Bauer, Bourriaud, Christov-Bakargiev, Hernandez, Decter, Deliss, in conversation, moderated by Brian Kuan Wood



Questions from the Audience

11:30-11:50 AM



Break for Lunch

11:50 AM-12:50 PM


Nearby Places for Lunch



Introduction to Part 2

1:00 PM



Presentations, Part 2


1:10 PM How Can We Rise Above All That Is Dying,” Irmgard Emmelhainz, independent scholar, Mexico City


1:18 PM Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise,” Elena Filipovic, Director, Kunsthalle Basel


1:26 PM The Curator as Bureaucrat of the Utopian State ,” Boris Groys, Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, New York University and Senior Research Fellow, Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design


1:34 PM Against ‘Good Morals’ Activism,” Hou Hanru, Artistic Director, MAXXI, Rome


1:42 PM More of the Same: Self-Determination, Survival Technologies, Sovereignty, and Speculation,” Maria Lind, Director, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm


1:50 PM Institutional Inhumanism? Antonia Majacacurator and researcher, IZK Institute for Contemporary Art, Graz University of Technology


1:58 PM I’m Not Who You Think I’m Not,” Gabi Ngcobofounding member, NGO (Nothing Gets Organised), Johannesburg and curator, 10th Berlin Biennale



Panel Discussion 2

2:10-2:30 PM

Emmelhainz, Filipovic, Groys, Hou Hanru, Lind, Majaca, Ngcobo, in conversation, moderated by Adrienne Edwards



Questions from the Audience

2:30-2:50 PM




2:50-3:10 PM



Introduction to Part 3

3:10 PM



Presentations, Part 3


3:20 PM A Common Future,” Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, London


3:28 PM A New Story for Cultural Institutions: Local and Global," Jack Persekian, Director of Al Ma’mal Foundation, Jerusalem


3:36 PM When Political Correctness Is Not Correct,” Pi Li, Senior Curator, M+, Hong Kong


3:44 PM Cosmopolitics of the Living,” María Belén Saéz de Ibarra, Director of Cultural Heritage and Director, Museum of Art, Nationa University of Colombia


3:52 PM Against Rogues: Curating Our Contemporaneity,” Terry SmithAndrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh, and Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art and Critical Theory at the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee


4:00 PM What Is to Be Done? Negotiations in the Political Imaginary of the Interregnum,” Mick Wilson, Director, Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg


4:08 PM Choke Chain,” Tirdad ZolghadrArtistic Director, Sommerakademie Paul Klee, Bern and Associate Curator, KW Institute, Berlin



Panel Discussion 3

4:20-4:40 PM

Obrist, Persekian, Pi Li, Saéz de Ibarra, Smith, Wilson, Zolghadr, in conversation, moderated by Steven Henry Madoff



Questions from the Audience

4:40-4:50 PM



Closing Remarks, Steven Henry Madoff

5:00 PM



SVA MA Curatorial Practice Info Session at front row of SVA Theatre

5:05-5:20 PM


              Steven Henry Madoff, Brian Kuan Wood



SVA Theatre

333 W 23rd Street

New York, NY 10011




Pledges of Allegiance

Conceived by Alix Browne and developed in collaboration with Cian Browne, Fabienne Stephan, and Opening Ceremony | Creative Time, New York

Pledges of Allegiance is a serialized commission of sixteen flags, each created by an acclaimed artist. Each flag points to an issue the artist is passionate about, a cause they believe is worth fighting for, and speaks to how we might move forward collectively. Conceived in response to the current political climate, Pledges of Allegiance aims to inspire a sense of community among cultural institutions, and begin articulating the urgent response our political moment demands... More.

An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017

Curated by David Breslin, Jennie Goldstein, and Rujeko Hockley with David Kiehl and Margaret Kross | Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Through the lens of the Whitney’s collection, An Incomplete History of Protest looks at how artists from the 1940s to the present have confronted the political and social issues of their day. Whether making art as a form of activism, criticism, instruction or inspiration, the featured artists see their work as essential to challenging established thought and creating a more equitable culture. Many have sought immediate change, such as ending the war in Vietnam or combating the AIDS crisis. Others have engaged with protest more indirectly, with the long term in mind, hoping to create new ways of imagining society and citizenship.... More.

Power, Haunting and Resilience

Curated by An-yi Pan and Liu Yung-Jen with Ellen Avril | Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, in partnership with the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan | August 19–December 17, 2017

Fourteen artists from Taiwan expose the lingering, often haunting effects of authoritarianism, social ideology, environmental disaster, international politics, and personal circumstances. Deploying artistic production to confront forces beyond an individual’s control, the artists’ works offer varying responses, from protest and resistance to resilience and hope... More.

Ghosts and Spectres–Shadows of History

Curated by Ute Meta Bauer and Khim Ong | NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore | September 1–November 19, 2017

Ghosts and Spectres—Shadows of History features video installations and films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand), Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore), Nguyen Trinh Thi (Vietnam), and Park Chan-kyong (South Korea). The artists’ research into their own cultural and historical backgrounds gain shape through allegories that re-evaluate the social and political reforms in Post-War and Cold-War Asia. The cinematic works in the exhibition combine fact and fiction. They not only allude to rarely discussed subject-matters but also raise crucial questions about power and authority, construction of narratives, repression of identities, and collective trauma... More.

Öğüt & Macuga Episode 2, The Show is Over

Curated by Defne Ayas | Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam | September 8–December 31, 2017

This exhibition is the result of Witte de With director Defne Ayas’s pairing of two critically engaged artists, Goshka Macuga and Ahmet Öğüt. Both artists’ interests are tied to political and historical contexts, distilled through a variety of media and strategies of representation that include performance, participatory event, sculpture, film, and installation. Macuga and Öğüt began a conversation, and through a series of coincidences identified parallel references drawn from their shared social concerns, personal stories, and the ideas driving their respective practices, such as their mutual investment in collaboration and interest in the representation of critical thinkers in the global imaginary... More.

Sonic Rebellion: Music As Resistance

Curated by curated by Jens Hoffmann with Robin K. Williams | Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit | September 8, 2017–January 7, 2018

Sonic Rebellion: Music as Resistance is inspired by the vital history of music in Detroit and the legacy of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion. The exhibition continues MOCAD’s investigations into the history of Detroit, as well as its programmatic focus on the relationships between art, music, and politics. The show connects these historic events to more recent social movements, from Occupy to Black Lives Matter, illustrating threads between past protests and the unresolved racial politics in the United States today... More.

Curated by Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum | Mural Arts Philadelphia | September 16–November 19, 2017

Philadelphia is a city full of monuments and memorials. Philadelphia is also a city full of monumental histories, many of which are little known, obscured, or simply unacknowledged. These underrepresented histories often exist in tension with officially acknowledged narratives. The projects that make up Monument Lab address issues of social justice and solidarity, including matters of race, gender, sexuality, class, and national belonging. The monuments proposed through this exhibition are made of stone and bronze, as well as recycled materials, images, sounds, and the byproducts of community process... More.

The Image of War

Curated by Theodor Ringborg | Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm | September 20, 2017–January 14, 2018

The image plays a central role in society. Images from conflicts around the world reach people on a daily basis in the news, on social media, in advertisements or in propaganda. Images are used to document, inform and witness – yet also to shock and spread fear... More.

Zach Blas, Contra-Internet

Commissioned by Gasworks, London; Art in General, New York; and MU, Eindhoven | Gasworks, London | September 21–December 10, 2017

A “neutral” network during the 1980s and ’90s, the Internet is fast becoming the principle instrument of accelerated capitalism, surveillance, and control: an infrastructure that is increasingly difficult to imagine an outside of or alternative to. Counter to this, Contra-Internet appropriates queer and feminist approaches to technology and science fiction to reanimate the network’s more progressive past and speculate about forms of resistance to the Internet of the present and near future... More.

Reenacting History: Collective Actions and Everyday Gestures

Curated by Bae Myung Ji | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon | September 22, 2017–January 21, 2018

Reenacting History is an international exhibition that focuses on how the body and gestures can, as an artistic medium, reveal social, historical, and cultural contexts and interest from the 1960s to today. The body is a place on the front line, where “I” form a relationship with others, and a contact zone through which “I” encounter various situations in the world. At the same time, it is a “storehouse of memory,” where the past is inscribed, and a “social place,” where biopolitics functions through power, capital, and knowledge... More.

1 / 3

Please reload