Decolonising Practices

Internationalism today necessarily involves an awareness of the colonial structure of power relations and of symbolic production in contemporary global societies. By colonial we designate both the rhizomatic structures brought about by the historical process of colonial exploitation, as well as the ongoing and ubiquitous reproduction of forms of domination and inequality based on the racial and cultural inscription of the subject. Coloniality does not only chase our present as a ghost from the past. It constantly produces new social realities, which defy attempted definitions of the realm of politics in either exclusive or static terms.

Any critique of the economic or institutional system, and any emancipatory imagination should be thought of as part of a decolonising process. This sheds new light to class-based and feminist politics, since it addresses us all as the result of a relational process of colonial differentiation and subjectification, which exceeds any dualistic logic.

Europe's political frontiers, as well as its ethnic borders, are the result of an enduring colonial process which is actualised in the present. The rise of nationalisms and the spread of xenophobia are symptoms of an inadequate political language articulating our societies. The contemporary condition involves the prise de parole of a new, different subject, a new kind of social governance and a radical transformation of the role of cultural institutions. Decolonising ourselves and our institutional practices thus involves a two-sided position: both resisting the process of reproduction of colonial taxonomies and vindicating radical multiplicity as the basis of any imagination of the social.

Objects/Subjects in Exile. A conversation between Wayne Modest, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, and Margareta von Oswald
Wayne Modest, Margareta von Oswald, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung
This conversations has been initiated in order to find a different approach to the notions of crisis and migration – through the perspective of objects, more particularly, the so-called ethnographic objects categorised as "non-European", and thus as "foreign". As it happened in response to the recent arrival of refugees in Europe, the heated debates around ethnological museums have re-drawn lines between "us" and "them". In both contexts, notions of difference and questions about who and what can be defined as "Western" or "European" reappear. It is therefore pertinent and urgent to ask: what does/can constitute a common "we"? Who is included and excluded from this common denominator, and on what bases? To what extent could it even be productive to think of objects as migrants in exile, and thus to think of "object diasporas", as the archaeologist Paul Basu did?
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A Grin Without Marker
Filipa César
We stopped calling it an archive and instead a collective milieu, an assemblage of shrapnel. To deal with the shrapnel of colonialism means to deal with all the violence that comes through it; it means embracing the conflicts related with a permanent "decolonisation of thinking" as a condition and as a never-accomplishable task.
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The Invisible and the Visible. Identity Politics and the Economy of Reproduction in Art
Nav Haq
The discourse of 'identity politics' in art for a long time has looked highly redundant, and for very good reasons too. With some exceptions, it was something that had rather stifled aesthetic limitations, with its clichéd images of the self or the body holding forth a marginalised status – a kind of figurative portraiture of one's "otherness" if you like. 'Identity politics' art, arguably, may even have caused more problems than it set out to resolve.
Neviditeľné a viditeľné. Politika identity a ekonomika reprodukcie v umení
Nav Haq
Diskurz "politiky identity" v umení dlho vyznieval veľmi redundantne, a to z dobrých dôvodov. Až na výnimky znamenal dosť dusivé estetické obmedzenia – klišé obrazy človeka alebo tela mávajúceho svojím marginalizovaným statusom – akési figuratívne zobrazenie ľudskej "odlišnosti".
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H[gun shot]ow c[gun shot]an I f[gun shot]orget?
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
What would it sound like if we could hear this vast database of police gunfire rather than have it ring out only in the desensitised and terrorised communities in which it is a regular occurrence. Instead of demanding our privacy be granted and rejecting this technology, we should instead be demanding more listening, more archiving in order to reverse-engineer it's selective ears.
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Decolonial Sensibilities: Indigenous Research and Engaging with Archives in Contemporary Colonial Canada
Crystal Fraser, Zoe Todd
Recently the idea of reconciliation has been brought to the forefront of the Canadian socio-political terrain. Indigenous peoples battled the federal government for access to files and documents in possession of the Government of Canada pertaining to the centuries-old history of the school system, illustrating some of the nuances and complexities inherent in the question of 'decolonising the archives'. In this short piece, we first question who controls these archives?
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In Search For Queer Ancestors
Karol Radziszewski
In the post-socialist states particularly, or other contexts marked by dictatorships for example, where some historical threads were broken or could never emerge, there has been an attempt to build new national narratives. Recent history is being largely constructed today, and sometimes manipulated. Decolonising history through queer archives has become for me a mission, an "identity project".
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Buried (and) Alive
Jeffrey T. Schnapp
There is no single or simple answer because archives come in multiple shapes and sizes. One thing, however, seems certain: however invaluable, traditional top-down approaches to the processing of materials and the construction of archival repositories are, at best, an incomplete solution. This, because of the quantities and variety of materials involved as well as the fragility of their "qualities."
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The Archives of the Commons Seminar, Madrid, 2015
Mela Dávila Freire, Carlos Prieto del Campo, Marisa Pérez Colina, Mabel Tapia
The Archives of the Commons seminar was held on 11 and 12 December 2015 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. It was conceptually developed through the joint work and dialogue of three institutions/ platforms: the Museo Reina Sofía, Fundación de los Comunes (Commons Foundation), and Red Conceptualismos del Sur (Southern Conceptualisms Network). The collaborative nature of the project was, in fact, the seminar's first distinctive feature: the conviction that these three agents, with their different histories, interests, and agendas, would be able to produce and share a space for dialogue and interaction on equal terms.
El Seminario "Archivos del común", Madrid, 2015
Mela Dávila Freire, Carlos Prieto del Campo, Marisa Pérez Colina, Mabel Tapia
Los objetivos del seminario eran: pensar qué es el archivo hoy, en una época de enorme volatilidad de la información, la memoria y la comunicación social, como contenedor de la memoria colectiva ligada; reflexionar sobre cómo estos archivos, que alimentan un patrimonio importante de la memoria, la experiencia y la identidad colectivas, pueden ser construidos, gestionados, conservados y abiertos a la ciudadanía; y debatir cuál sería la posible implicación de las instituciones públicas para proteger este tipo de archivos frente al doble peligro de su privatización o su invisibilización y abandono.
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The Hump of Colonialism, or The Archive as a Site of Resistance
Rona Sela
While one major aspect of the Zionist-Israeli colonial mechanism is physical, another is less tangible and involves the judicious and deliberate construction of a Zionist imagery system. From the earliest days of the Zionist movement, the colonisation of Palestine was described – often with the use of visual aids – in ethical, softened and euphemistic terms aligned with and constitutive of an official narrative. Discriminatory, immoral and oppressive mechanisms have been whitewashed ever since.
חטוטרת הקולוניאליזם, או הארכיון כאתר של התנגדות
Rona Sela
המאמר עוסק בעבודתם של אמנים וחוקרים עכשוויים המאתגרים ארכיונים במדינות קולוניאליות ואזורים של קונפליקט. הוא ממשיך את מחקרי אודות ארכיונים קולוניאליים בישראל או ארכיונים בעלי היבטים קולוניאליים, מאפייניהם וההיסטוריות שלהם ומתמקד בעבודתם של אמנים פלסטינים וישראלים ושל חוקרים שקוראים מחדש ארכיונים קולוניאליים אלה
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Archives of the Commons: Knowledge Commons, Information and Memory
Carlos Prieto del Campo
The "archives of the commons" is based on the notion of the archive as an engine for political activation in the present. It also seeks to establish devices that do not annul or objectify the grassroots systems that gave rise to these exercises in the conservation of memory, which give the archive its value and the inventive potential of a new institutionality.
Archivos del común o los commons del conocimiento, la información y la memoria
Carlos Prieto del Campo
La línea de investigación/intervención de archivos del común piensan el archivo como motor de activación política en el presente, al mismo tiempo que pretende definir dispositivos que no cancelen ni cosifiquen las dinámicas desde abajo de las que proceden esos ejercicios de conservación de la memoria en la actualidad, que dotan al mismo de todo su valor y potencial inventivo de nueva institucionalidad.
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Collecting Life's Unknowns
Clémentine Deliss
If, today, mass collecting for ethnographic museums has necessarily come to a standstill, which institutions today are still able to place a purchase on life's unknowns? What might a contemporary ethnographic collection look like? Has the acquisition of life's unknowns shifted from the earlier speculative and occult interests of ethnographers and their museums to the rising market in globalising collections of contemporary art?
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Catch Me, If You Can!
Nana Adusei-Poku
For the past two decades, educational and cultural institutions have tried to counter white privilege by initiating diversity policies aimed at "inclusion" and "equal opportunities". In this text Adusei-Poku points out the role of time as a political tool to reproduce a hegemonic education system. The argument she makes is that there is no "catching up" which calls the decolonisation of state institutions and their education system into question.
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The Dutch VOC mentality. Cultural Policy as a Business Model
Mirjam Kooiman
Around 2010 Dutch institutions as the Rotterdam's Wereldmuseum and Amsterdam's Tropenmuseum and National Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum) that have a collections with links to the Dutch colonial history, all suffered severe budget cuts. These cuts appear to be linked to a renewed insistence on defining Dutch identity and a disquieting indifference towards some of the darker moments in the country's history.
De Nederlandse VOC-mentaliteit. Cultuurbeleid als business model
Mirjam Kooiman
Sinds de harde bezuinigingen op cultuur in 2010 zijn het Wereldmuseum (Rotterdam), het Tropenmuseum en het Scheepvaartmuseum (Amsterdam) in zeer slechte staat. Dit zijn alle drie instellingen met collecties met wortels in het koloniaal verleden van Nederland. Deze ontwikkeling lijkt in verband te staan met een hernieuwde drang tot definiëring van de Nederlandse identiteit en vertonen tekenen van een verontrustende onverschilligheid jegens een aantal zwarte bladzijdes uit de vaderlandse geschiedenis
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"I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet... but your kids are gonna love it" - PART 1
Ana Bigotte Vieira
Through an investigation in three works this text investigates the limits of public space and collective agency in Portugal's 1980s, having the public sphere as an imagined community and inquiring into something that can be thought of as commons: common memories of common practices, memories and practices that can become part of a common imaginary and help illuminate a certain repertoire of actual practices.
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"I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet... but your kids are gonna love it" - PART 2
Ana Bigotte Vieira
Through an investigation in three works this text investigates the limits of public space and collective agency in Portugal's 1980s, having the public sphere as an imagined community and inquiring into something that can be thought of as commons: common memories of common practices, memories and practices that can become part of a common imaginary and help illuminate a certain repertoire of actual practices.
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The Culture of Coloniality
Daniela Ortiz
The fact that cultural institutions do not express any resistance to culture being used to reinforce xenophobic and racial segregation practices by means of the discourse of integration makes it impossible to imagine how a process of decolonisation could take place simply through exhibitions, debates and talks that regularly appear in their programmes of activities.
La Cultura de la colonialidad
Daniela Ortiz
En un contexto de extrema violencia colonial como el que vive actualmente la población migrante y refugiada en Europa, preguntarse por descolonizar el museo puede ser útil y necesario pero también corre el riesgo de ser una pregunta completamente fuera de contexto y hasta ofensiva si no se plantea como uno de los elementos principales de discusión la actual situación que impone el sistema de control migratorio europeo a las personas provenientes de las ex-colonias.
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Institutional Fever in China
Colin Siyuan Chinnery
Of all art forms, visual art is the most marketable while being censored the least. That means contemporary art enjoys the most creative freedom while providing the biggest financial reward for supporters. In contrast, cinema is censored heavily by the government, music has no copyright protection, and experimental theatre and dance have no way to pay back supporters.
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Another Mapping of Art and Politics. The Archive Policies of Red Conceptualismos del Sur
Ana Longoni, Red Conceptualismos del Sur
Red Conceptualismos del Sur is an international platform of work, thought and collective positioning that currently has over 50 members in different countries of Latin America, Canada and Europe. It was founded at the end of 2007 by a group of researchers and artists with concerns over the need to politically intervene in the processes of neutralising the critical potential of a set of what we could call conceptual practices that took place in Latin America from the 1960s onwards.
Otro mapeo de arte y política. La RedCSur y sus políticas de archivo.
Ana Longoni, Red Conceptualismos del Sur
La Red Conceptualismos del Sur (RedCSur) fundada a finales de 2007, es una plataforma internacional de trabajo, pensamiento y toma de posición colectiva. La formaron más un grupo de más 50 investigadores y artistas preocupados por la necesidad de intervenir políticamente en los procesos de neutralización del potencial crítico de un conjunto de lo que podríamos llamar "prácticas conceptuales" que tuvieron lugar en América Latina a partir de la década de los sesenta.
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Presenting Pasts
Andrea Stultiens
In August 2011, Ugandan artist Rumanzi Canon and Andrea Stultiens started what they called an "archival platform" named History In Progress Uganda. They looked for collections of photographs in Uganda: in cultural, educational and governmental institutions and in people's homes, including those of photography professionals.
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Radically De-Historicising the Archive. Decolonising Archival Memory from the Supremacy of Historical Discourse
Wolfgang Ernst
Applied to memory agencies and especially the "digital archive", a new interpretation of its epistemological and aesthetic dimension as well is needed. Although the traditional archival format (spatial order, classification) will in many ways necessarily persist, the new archive is radically temporalised, "ephemeral", multi-sensual, corresponding with a dynamic user culture which is less concerned with records for eternity than with order by fluctuation.
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