Notes from Venice
A floating school-boat in Lagos. A cooking school for Palestinian women in the occupied territory. A self-organized art centre in the black community of Cape Town, outside the established art world that is characterized by white supremacy. An indigenous village in Alaska that creates collective survival skills for the changing climate. Alternative strategies for art making and societal activism in Venice, a city defined by the bi-annual flow of high art and capital, in an old harbour warehouse.
Alternative histories of key moments in political histories. Exhibition structures for self-representation of the perspectives of indigenous people. Media channels that challenge those corrupted by corporate interests. Amplifying the muted voices of oppressed and abused workers in Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.
Creative Time, a New York based art commissioning organisation, hosted a 3-day summit in the context of the 56. Venice Biennale. While the biennale, titled All the World’s Futures, echoed and invited projections and reflections of social justice in- and outside the art world, the summit focused on pedagogy and knowledge production as an underlying condition for alternative futures to emerge.
A premise for learning, knowing and acting and for any future to emerge, is engagement with the world – and curiosity. Here, too, the dominant approach of the presented projects was not so much to give answers but to produce structures for asking. Ideological certainties were replaced by questions like: What? Who? How? What if?
Art in this context not only sheds light on perspectives that are shadowed by mainstream media, but more importantly, works as platform for creative imagination of alternative realities.
The core of the programme planning of Checkpoint Helsinki is a question: What is future contemporary art?
Rather than binding our projects to any given form, aesthetic paradigm or genre, they grow out of asking of this question again and again, and opening space for different people to answer it in their own ways. All the answers project not only a concept of art, but also an utopia of future societies, and thus contribute to the important discussions on values and policies of today.
Participating the Creative Time – The Summit reinforced my belief in the the strategies we’ve taken. Participatory and political approaches might seem trendy, but their emergence also signals a necessity to look for alternative social forms.
Even if the biennale and high profile art gatherings take place deep within the walls of the art world, the participating institutions and individuals all work sincerely in their own communities.
We – individual artists or art organizations like Checkpoint Helsinki – don’t make art for the art world. We make art with the world. And it’s good to know that we’re not alone.
Chair of the Board, Checkpoint Helsinki
PS You will find the livestream of the summit here.