What is RAW Académie ?
RAW Académie is an experimental residential programme for the research and study of artistic and curatorial practice and thought. The programme takes place over 7 weeks in Dakar. It is dedicated to a dynamic reflection on artistic research, curatorial practice and critical writing. Two separate sessions are held each year in the spring and fall. Session 6 was led by RAW Material Company’s Founding Artistic Director Koyo Kouoh.
What the task of a curator is or has become is not a relevant question or debate anymore. The starting point of our reflection is rather the fact that today curating is an established practice in the field of translation and mediation of artistic and intellectual production. It takes part in disclosing visions, which in turn have the potential to contribute to broadening our understanding of complex geographies and narratives.
CURA, RAW Académie Session 6, is the result of RAW Material Company’s collaborative reflection after five sessions of this programme. It is a session dedicated to curatorial practice as a contemporary cultural currency, and as social and political agency. Curating as a way to write and re-write histories, a way to read the present and imagine all possible futures. A method to change the meaning of things, and thus our readings thereof. Curating as a tool to occupy spaces and to interact with works of art. Curating as a model to be, to live, and to think with and through art and artists, in proximity to them and what they make, from their studios to the exhibition formats of their choice.
RAW Material Company is a nucleus, inhabited and animated by the spirit of a team of curators, where curating is both our work and at work. Inspired by and responsive to the creativity of its environment in Dakar, Senegal, RAW is Pan-African, with an ear cocked and a hand extended to the rest of the planet. It is a trans-disciplinary site for the thinking and practice of art. While the exhibition as a form is at the heart of our work, we do not consider it the only format for engaging with art. We are interested in the porosity of forms of mediation. Many have argued that the history of art is no longer a history of objects but of exhibitions, but for an institution such as RAW whose praxis deals with knowledge in its diversity of forms, the history of art we initiate embraces the multiple possibilities that are coming into being for curating ideas and the shapes of their materialization. We look from the visual arts to the sonic, sartorial and edible and are inspired by the arts of hospitality, movement and social performance. We turn a critical eye to the practice of pedagogy itself and think always about how these forms can ignite the political imaginary. We are curious about the before of before, the while of while and the after of after.
RAW is in addition the workplace for twenty fellows and an ever-increasing number of Académie faculty for a total of six months every year. We continuously question our proposals and curatorial ideas as we are constantly exposed to the invaluable input and knowledge of the professionals who work with us and enter our universe. The space of RAW, and its team, become placeholders and interlocutors for methods that challenge the way we approach curating. What does it mean for an institution to enact such suppleness? And to what extent is the Académie programme a curatorial project by RAW, or an opportunity for RAW to be curated? Several decades after the establishment of institutional critique in the artistic sphere, the ways in which institution building is itself a form of curatorial practice still constitutes an oft-overlooked field of enquiry.
Session 6, CURA, offered a much-needed platform for delving into these questions and more, offering the opportunity to discuss and experience the institutional proposal that is RAW Material Company and its collaborators. We explored the conundrums that feed our profession in contexts as specific and diverse as the environments they arise from. Such complexities include conveying the most recent critical thinking and aesthetic theory produced in the field of curating, invoking its historiography and the possibility of a decolonial curating. We went further — what of resisting curating as a path that emerged from a theoretical framework predominantly shaped by the West, or reflecting on the impact of male dominance and misogynistic transgressions in a professional field defined, amongst other paradigms, by hierarchies of gender and race.
And lest we forget the interdependency that exists amongst curators and artists, critics and art historians, and the increasing crossover between these disciplines, CURA welcomed fellows from across the arts, focusing on practice over title and in the process asking necessary questions about the nature of collaboration.
The session played out as a curatorial summit of a different order. Curators who have nourished and sustained a critical tension with regards to the craft and created unique perspectives and universes will form the body of the faculty. These are individuals and collectives who at once inform and challenge the work of RAW Material Company, and expand the possibility of transforming cura from noun to verb.
Faculty included Zoe Butt, Diana Campbell Betancourt, Princesse Marilyn Douala Manga Bell, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Adrienne Edwards, Reem Fadda, Kate Fowle, Natasha Ginwala, Samuel Leuenberger, Chus Martinez, Gabi Ngcobo, Ruth Noack, Maria Lind, Miguel A. López, Marion Louisgrand Sylla, Bisi Silva and WHW.
Koyo Kouoh is the founding artistic director of RAW Material Company. For Carnegie International, 57th edition, 2018, Kouoh is participating with Dig Where You Stand, an exhibition within the exhibition based on the Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection. With Rasha Salti, she recently co-curated Saving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the Era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Previously, she was the curator of 1:54 FORUM, the educational programme at the Contemporary African Art Fair in London and New York, and served in the curatorial teams for documenta 12 (2007) and documenta 13 (2012). Kouoh was the curator of “Still (the) Barbarians,” 37th EVA International, Ireland’s Biennial in Limerick (2016); and has curated numerous exhibitions internationally as well as published widely including Word!Word?Word! Issa Samb and the undecipherable form, RAW Material Company/OCA/Sternberg Press (2013), the first monograph dedicated to the work of seminal Senegalese artist Issa Samb; Condition Report on Building Art Institutions in Africa, a collection of essays resulting from the eponymous symposium held in Dakar in January 2012; and Chronicle of a Revolt: Photographs of a Season of Protest, RAW Material Company & Haus der Kulturen der Welt (2012). Besides a sustained theoretical, exhibition, and residency program at RAW Material Company, she maintains a critical curatorial and advisory activity and regularly takes part in juries and selection committees internationally. She lives and works in Dakar and Basel and is consciously addicted to shoes, textiles and food.
Calendar of Public Sessions
CURA - RAW Académie Session 6
Monday March 25, 6:00
Public lecture with Ruth Noack
Sleeping with a Vengeance, Dreaming of a Life
Based on a series of exhibitions around contemporary politics of sleep, this conference interrogates the possibity of reconfiguring curation, like sleep and dream, as a radical and subjective activity.
Wednesday March 27th, 6:00
Public lecture with Chus Martínez
Hyper-pedagogy or The future of teaching
Can an art school be the place to develop further ideas on the future of art and curating? Can we see art schools as the perfect place to develop new ideas on how to understand artistic production? Are art schools perfect partners to join forces with other art institutions in other to support what artist do, in order to create a truly different space? But also, could we imagine that to study art is to study the way we relate to nature, to gender, to postcolonial processes? And what about skills? What about the digital when the digital is not truly possible?
Friday March 29th, 6:00
Public lecture with Samuel Leuenberger
Claiming Public Space
Looking at SALTS and Parcours side-by-side, we will examine the challenges of developing site-specific and site-responsive artworks, installations and performances. I propose to use the concept of the ‘comfort zone’ to approach the reclamation of public space through artistic interventions. The comfort zone prefigures a supportive base for artists to explore and activate a given site, through which new perspectives and orientations may emerge and to finally exit that very comfort zone again.
Wednesday April 3rd, 6:00
Public lecture with Princesse Marilyn Douala Manga Bell
Ars & Urbis
Princesse Marilyn presents the experience that doual’art has been developing in the city for 27 years, in close synergy with the inhabitants and the city (clusters in the city), has revealed multiple dimensions of art. We cannot be content in reducing art to matters of relationality, mediation, or aesthetics. Art in the urban public space is a political commitment, indeed it is primarily a political affair as it concerns municipal management and public affairs. And above all else it builds a reference point for identity, no longer of a community but of a collectivity that has the right, indeed the duty, to break free from the codes and forms of servitude.
Tuesday April 9, 6:00
Public lecture with Diana Campbell Betancourt
The Rise of Art Institutions from the Bengal Delta
Bangladesh was born as an independent nation in 1971 on the back of a devastating cyclone and oppressive rule by Pakistani forces who strategically massacred the country's intellectuals. Only three years later, the government founded the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and the Asian Art Biennale. Today, artists from Bangladesh are creatively thriving due to institutions built by artists for artists. This talk will address the rise of art schools in Bangladesh, artist led initiatives, and festivals such as the Chobi Mela, Asian Art Biennale, and Dhaka Art Summit.
Friday April 12th, 6:00
Public lecture with WHW
“My Sweet Little Lamb (everything we see could also be otherwise)”
Members of curatorial collective What, How & for Whom/WHW Ana Dević and Nataša Ilić will present their exhibition project My Sweet Little Lamb (everything we see could also be otherwise), co-curated with Kathrin Rhomberg. They will also be discussing ways in which the local perspective continuously influences their curatorial practice, anchored in directing non-profit Gallery Nova in Zagreb and their recently inaugurated educational program WHW Akademija. This program aims to enable new forms of self-determination for the participants, based on modes of critical reflection, curiosity and encounters among artists, artworks, arts professionals, scholars and practitioners in various disciplines.
Tuesday April 16th, 6:00
Public lecture with Kate Fowle
While the 1990s saw the beginning of the global biennial boom, opening up the potential for connections between divergent practitioners, the turn of the millennium saw the evolution of new models for institutions that enabled the development of longer-term networks and collaborations regionally and internationally. But, now, as curators have undertaken increasingly politicized roles and exhibition topics, the growing pains are evident. From where we stand today, what imaginaries will support the advancement of reflexive institutions that can critically contribute to twenty-first-century society?
Friday April 19th, 6:00
Public lecture with Miguel A. López
Tuesday April 23th, 6:00
Public lecture with Elvira Dyangani Ose
Ritual as institution
Building on some of the concerns explored at the symposium Experience as Institution – Part 1: Artist Collectives and Cultural Platforms in Africa, which took place at Tate Modern in 2013, this seminar takes Senegalese artist collective Laboratoire Agit’Art’s modus operandi as a starting point to examine from a theoretical standpoint the birth and status of collective contemporary art practices in Africa. The session explores a number of case studies, featuring artists, artist’s collectives and organisations that engage with socio-political questions occurring beyond the time and space of the art experience.
Monday April 29th, 6:00
Public lecture with Maria Lind
Working with Things I Don’t Understand
Contemporary art remains an incredible form of understanding, a meta category which can include everything else. This makes it exceptionally useful in terms of dealing with contemporary existence. By making new narratives possible, contemporary art asks the difficult questions and articulates imaginaries which we did not know before. Working curatorially with contemporary art is for me an endless enquiry into things I don’t understand, which I don’t know.
Wednesday May 1st, 6:00
Public lecture with Natasha Ginwala
Tant de faims
This seminar series will combine the intellectual and physical labours of curatorial practice and collective research while addressing three interrelated thematic complexes: corruption, social justice and riots.
Friday May 3rd, 6:00
Public lecture with Zoe Butt
We do not know French. We speak Vietnamese
Vietnam started its road towards independence from the French Empire during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 - but at a massive cost. How do vietnamese artists respond to the ensuing history of civil agitation, proxy wars , mass demographic movements, of the Communist and the economic success of the country? What alliances do these artists try to create by tracing their cultural senses, beyond official histories and tourist stereotypes?