CWE BRINGS TOGETHER PEERS FROM THE SOUTH ASIA REGION AND ACROSS THE GLOBE, INTO DIFFERENT WORKING CONSTELLATIONS TO SHARE WRITING HISTORIES AND KNOWLEDGE WITH EACH OTHER, EXPERIMENT TOGETHER AND PRODUCE NEW CRITICAL IMPULSES REGARDING ART WRITING
February 5-8, 2016 | curated by KATYA GARCÍA-ANTÓN, ANTONIO CATALDO, DIANA CAMPBELL BETANCOURT, CHANDRIKA GROVER AND BHAVNA KAKAR | Dhaka Art Summit
Critical Writing Ensemble, Photo courtesy of the Dhaka Art Summit and Samdani Art Foundation. Photo credit: Noor Photoface
“to reshape some histories, to bring back the forgotten others, to reassess and alter the already hazily known, to redefine some standards of writing and our understanding, thoughts and feelings of an era lost. More importantly, to allow this man to breathe his words […] Memory, collectively lost, can now be somewhat regained.”
These thoughts are taken from the last pages of the publication The Art Critic dedicated to the Burmese born, India based critic and artist Richard Bartholomew. The words come from Bartholomew´s son Pablo, and they eloquently comment on the power of his father’s archive, in particular his writing, to critically build different pasts. Bartholomew’s thoughts do more than address the urgent need to fortify the interlinking of art historical narratives - many forgotten or simply unknown - within the South Asia region, but they inspire us to consider their impact beyond it. And they do more, since they demand that we persevere in new ways of nurturing critique that will strengthen regional histories of immense richness to the world.
To do so we must nurture structures of empowerment, knowledge sharing and production, within which micro-histories will not just claim their place within macro-histories but also contribute to their revitalisation.
It is on the wings of this impulse that Diana Campbell Betancourt, Artistic Director of the Dhaka Art Summit, together with Katya García-Antón, Director and Curator of OCA, Office of Contemporary Art Norway, Chandrika Grover Ralleigh, Head of Liaison Office India of the Swiss Arts Council – Pro Helvetia, and Bhavna Kakar, Director of Take on Art Magazine are launched the CRITICAL WRITING ENSEMBLE as part of the Dhaka Art Summit 2016. The project was curated by Katya García-Antón, Director and Curator of OCA, with the collaboration of Antonio Cataldo, Senior Programmer of OCA. Research into the processes and structures that could help to empower writers today has been a part of the curatorial practice of Katya García-Antón in recent years. She was commissioned by Pro Helvetia – Swiss Arts Council in 2012-13 to devise a programme for the discussion and activation of critical art writing in Switzerland involving cross-generation peers across the linguistic regions and traditions of the country. CWE has drawn from this valuable experience, repositioning previous thoughts and posing new questions within the context of the Dhaka Art Summit, as well as the histories and currencies of the South Asia region. CWE took a cross-regional approach and was developed in collaboration with Bhavna Kakar, who in addition to convening with the peers in Dhaka, also developed CWE-1 in an official partnership with Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, by organising a series of discussions and workshops amongst regional peers during the month of December 2015 in the lead-up to CWE II at the Summit. Finally, in 2017, CWE will be developed as a further iteration within the context of Nordic Europe through a programme held in OCA, Oslo.
CWE therefore brings together peers from the South Asia region and across the globe, into different working constellations to share writing histories and knowledge with each other, experiment together, and produce new critical impulses regarding art writing, which will be compiled in a specially dedicated publication with wide international distribution.
Such an endeavour is positioned within a local therefore as much as a global framework, in more ways than one, for not only is this a project of some urgency regionally, it reminds us of the fact the crisis is a global one. Art writing has for some time endured challenges which vary in nature across the world. In some parts there are fewer places in which to write critically and experimentally about art and art history, there is less and less financing for this, there is less and less time; in others whilst platforms for writing may actually be on the rise, their value and impact has declined.
Writing is by nature a lonely endeavour, but under these conditions, art writing is being pushed to the margins and alienated from the central and critical position it should have in our societies, as will the immediate contact it should have with our audiences. If this decline continues, art histories around the world will homogenise and the immense richness and diversity of our cultures, essential to rewrite and re-imagine present and past histories, will lose their critical edge as the very voices that should build it, which should experiment it and reinvent it, disappear over time.
CWE seeks to foster a community of art writing peers working together. Breaking the isolation that characterises much writing practice, the platform hopes to create a lively environment for intellectual exchange.
CWE seeks to connect art writers experience and knowledge of regional and national writing histories, across the South Asian region and other regions globally.
CWE II seeks to develop these relations through a four-day platform of presentations, panel discussions, lecture performances, group debates and readings, within the context of the Dhaka Art Summit, its exhibitions and talks programmes.
CWE views art writing as a practice in its own right. Writing in general is strongly shaped by the contexts in which it is practiced and where it appears, and so the platform will consider discussing writing in a variety of historical and formal contexts.
CWE counted on access to the Asia Art Archive that was on site in Dhaka.
CWE will publish the material presented during, and derived from these sessions and distribute it internationally by Mousse Publishing. The publication will include a variety of contributions from all peers.