It takes two to tango. As with love, as with political agency. What, then, are the collaborative dynamics between artists, and between artists and institutions? In its 25+ year history, our house has served as a stage to 2000 artists. In this time, each project has introduced their respective contexts, concerns, learning curves, and modus operandi, providing us with further cues into our shared lived experience and daily (struggles of) co-existence(s), and enabling us to comment on the social and political predicament.

In Rana Hamadeh’s The Ten Murders of Josephine on our second floor, the artist and institution have worked closely together to structure a generative program from which to develop an ambitious production, taken up by Hamadeh as soon as we extended her the invitation last year. The production consists of the exhibition currently on view; an enveloping sound and text-based opera that takes the exhibition as its discursive holder, its factory, and assembly line; a study group as a lead-in to the exhibition, which invited readers from different fields to think aloud together on contemporary infrastructures of justice in relation to her redefined notion of “testimoniality”; and, finally, culminating in a publication that will form the opera’s libretto in part. This multipart program comes at a pivotal moment in Hamadeh’s diverse and urgent practice, while equally testing the performative dynamics of exhibition making.

Our third-floor exhibition, Öğüt & Macuga, undergoes a major transformation too. Enabled through our pairing of two critically engaged artists, Goshka Macuga and Ahmet Öğüt, currently on view is the second episode of their collaboration, stemming from their extensive and ongoing conversations, their shared interest in political and historical contexts, and numerous coincidences along the way. With the first part of their dialogue steered by Öğüt himself, which laid bare their initial vocabularies and toolboxes, Goshka Macuga now takes the lead for Episode 2: The Show is Over, taking up the notions of destruction and ‘sudden change’ – using the exhibition space as test-site – as a means to explore processes of reconstruction; be it institutional or political, played out through the pair’s continued committed investigations.

Spurred by conversations with the individuals and groups involved in our past summer program Cinema Olanda: Platform with artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh, we also embark on a number of initiatives, including Rotterdam Cultural Histories #12: Witte de With: What’s in a Name?, which lays bare a history of Witte de With the figure, the street name, and naming of our institution; only a first step in a longer and sustained trajectory of addressing issues of representation within public institutions and Dutch society more broadly.

Last but not least, on our ground floor, we mark the conclusion of the Para | Fictions commissioning series, which pairs literature and contemporary art. Join us engaging in the aesthetic considerations of our latest commission Ah, my beautiful Venus! by Rayyane Tabet, who makes use of the only remaining quarry currently active in Syria, and Dineo Seshee Bopape thereafter, as she seeks to bring justice to those who resisted against, and who were subjected to, colonial violence, through her healing practice via the medium of sculpture.

Defne Ayas
Rotterdam, September 2017