Public Editorial Meeting

11 April 2016

Instituting for the Contemporary—part 1

In the first of three Public Editorial Meetings held towards the publication of the new critical reader Instituting for the Contemporary, Ewa Majewska, Rachel O’Reilly, and Simon Sheikh will present draft contributions in response to one of the reader’s eight guiding concerns: “compositionalism”; “not not art, not not politics”; and “care to power” respectively.

These terms bring to question the methods of, and resistance to, the institution. They raise a number of considerations: the transversal assemblies of contemporary organization and its forms (compositionalism); the slippage between categories and methodologies in such practices (not not art, not not politics); and the intertwining issues of care and interlocution in relation to the institution (care to power).

Ewa Majewska’s presentation outlines her proposal for a non-heroic “weak resistance,” that poses the question of an institution of the common. This new form of institution would be one rooted in the resistant composition of singularities that make up feminist, post-colonial, and so-called “periphery locations” debates on the commons and its political agency.

Drawing on her ongoing project The Gas Imaginary, Rachel O’Reilly presents a selection of interventions, images, and vernacular texts, useful for reading the historical present of “extractivist realism” alongside counter-politics, their limits, and the convergences between the aesthetic tactics of contemporary industry and neoliberal culture sectors.

Simon Sheikh connects the notions of care (for the self), through the capacity for speaking of truth to power, to a consideration of the question of how to institute anew. If the speaking of truth has long informed the artistic political critique of institutional critique, the coupling of care to power proposes that the position of speaker — produced as an audience, and speaking for this body — be central to thinking institutionality, and indeed governmentality today.


Ewa Majewska is a feminist philosopher and art critic. Since 2003 Majewska has lectured at the Gender Studies in the University of Warsaw, and has worked as adjunct professor at universities of Szczecin and Krakow, Poland. She held post-docs at the university of Berkeley and university of Orebro. She has published two books: Feminizm jako filozofia społeczna (2009) and Sztuka jako pozór? (2013); and has articles in: e-fluxSignsNowa KrytykaLe Monde Diplomatique (PL) and other journals and volumes. She teaches at the Graduate School of PAN, Warsaw and is currently a fellow at the ICI Berlin, working on the project Chasing Europe or on the Semi-Peripheral Publics. Majewska is based in Berlin and Warsaw.

Rachel O’Reilly is an independent writer, artist and researcher. She is currently writing on ‘Neutrality’ between Non-Aligned Movement legacies and contemporary curatorial economies (with Jelena Vesic), and on artistic autonomy in settler colonial space (with Danny Butt). She holds an MA degree in Media and Culture from the University of Amsterdam and currently works at the Dutch Art Institute, where she teaches the seminar ‘At the Limits of the Writerly’ as part of the How to Do Things with Theory program. From 2013-14 she held a residency at the Jan van Eyck Academie. From 2004-08 she was a curator of film, video and new media at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, including the Fifth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. Recently curated exhibitions include: Some Profound Misunderstanding at the Heart of What Is, Hedah Contemporary Art Space, 2013-14; Videoground, MAAP (Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, Gene Siskel Film Studies Centre, USA), 2008; and The Leisure Class (with Kathryn Weir), Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2007. Her artistic work has been presented by: David Roberts Art Foundation, London; the Museum of Yugoslav History, Belgrade; If I Can’t Dance, Amsterdam; and the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Her writing has been published by Cambridge Scholars Press, MIT Press, and the journal Postcolonial Studies, as well as in exhibition catalogues and critical e-readers. O’Reilly lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam.

Simon Sheikh is a curator and writer who researches practices of exhibition-making and political imaginaries. He is Reader in Art and Programme Director of the MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London. Sheikh was coordinator of the Critical Studies Program at Malmö Art Academy, Malmö from 2002–2009. He was also curator at NIFCA, Helsinki, 2003–2004 and, prior to that, director of Overgaden – Institute for Contemporary Art, Copenhagen from 1999–2002. Between 1996 and 2000, he was editor of the magazine Øjeblikket and a member of the project group GLOBE from 1993–2000. His recent curatorial work includes: Reading / Capital (for Althusser), DEPO, Istanbul, 2014; Unauthorized, Inter Arts Lab, Malmö, 2012; All That Fits: The Aesthetics of Journalism, QUAD, Derby, 2011 (with Alfredo Cramerotti); Do You Remember the Future?, TOK / Project Loft Etagi, Saint Petersburg, 2011; Vectors of the Possible, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 2010; and Capital (It Fails Us Now), UKS, Oslo, 2005 and Kunstihoone, Tallinn, 2006. Sheikh’s writings can be found in such periodicals as Afterall, an architectureOpenSpringerin, and Texte zur Kunst. He has edited and authored several publications, including: On Horizons: A Critical Reader on Contemporary Art (with Maria Hlavajova and Jill Winder) (2011); Capital (it fails us now) (2006); In the Place of the Public Sphere? (2005); Knut Åsdam. Speech. Living. Sexualities. Struggle. (2004); and We Are all Normal (with Katya Sander) (2001). Together with Boris Buden and Maria Hlavajova, he is co-editor of FORMER WEST: Art and the Contemporary after 1989(forthcoming 2016). Sheikh lives and works in Berlin and London.

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