Editorial Text

How to Assemble Now

We initiate this focus as the Netherlands, along with a significant part of the global community, begins to emerge from Covid-19 closures and as institutions are busy attempting to return to an awkwardly modulated version of “normal.” Yet the role of art and its institutions, as we understand it at BAK, is to continually envision and embody ways of being together otherwise. Thus, amid significant barriers to mobilizing physically—be they stay-at-home orders, border closures, illness, or the need to channel support structures into our immediate circles—how do we assemble now? Working with and through art, how do we envision and practice proximity, affinity, intimacy, and a comradery of love and care—in person and online, together and at a distance?

In this context, how do we “radicalize the local,” as artist Jeanne van Heeswijk puts it, while navigating the trappings of identity politics and the dangers of re-localization as a mechanism of hard-right politics? How do we rework the “international” and “global” into forms of connection that rely on neither the nation-state nor global neoliberal production, but rather on a nodal basis of specific local concerns within a network of global solidarities? This focus of Prospections, titled “How to Assemble Now“, unfolds within the orientation points of togetherness, locality, and community, in order to seek new adaptive strategies toward living in social and ecological justice.

“How to Assemble Now” builds on multiple research strands and programs at BAK, especially Propositions #2: Assemblism (2017). Co-convened with artist Jonas Staal, Assemblism addressed “the rise of the new authoritarian world order, and the millions of bodies that have gathered in resistance in liberated autonomous zones, occupied buildings, city squares, prisons, and cultural spaces to collectively enact a different demand for egalitarian society.” In a world currently struggling through multiple emergencies—and, in particular, as the pandemic intersects with popular uprisings against anti-Black violence—it is of critical importance to re-center these conversations.

The question “How to assemble now?” thus goes beyond the purported opposition between physical distancing and the necessity to mobilize, instead asking how we might, in the words of Black Panther Party cofounder Bobby Seale, “seize the time” and participate in the struggles of this moment—without utopian illusions, but without hesitation either.

– Maria Hlavajova, Rachael Rakes and the BAK team, 8.07.2020

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