As part of a collaborative project with BAK, basis voor actuele kunst (Utrecht) and the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven) – and as a critical follow-up to the Venice Biennale – Witte de With presents four evening discussions (every Thursday in October) on the topic of the ‘national’ and how it relates to contemporary cultural production and theory today.

In order to expand the dialogue around nation-building, nation-states, and the role of the individual within single country structures – topics that will be also addressed by BAK and the Van Abbemuseum in their debate series this fall – Witte de With has invited Suhail Malik andAndrea Phillips from PoCA (Political Currency of Art Research Group, based in the Department of Visual Arts at Goldsmiths, London, also see website) to collaborate on creating this series of debates. PoCA conducts research on the assimilation of critical and counter-hegemonic contemporary art practices, and how they are situated within the interests of cultural, financial and state institutions. Their involvement with this project will provide the critical approach required to reformulate the problems and politics of what now constitutes the nation(al) in a context of increasingly powerful international forces and their impact on the production, presentation and distribution of contemporary art. The invited guests will explore processes such as global capital, migration, art production and curating under four main headings.

Together with Sophie von Olfers, Suhail Malik and Andrea Phillips will host each evening. Whilst each session will stand independently, audience members are encouraged to attend all four evenings in order to follow and contribute to an ongoing dialogue.

Claire Beke, Annie Fletcher, Nick Hackworth, Nicoline van Harskamp, Munira Mirza, Daniel van der Velden, Olav Velthuis.

Entry is free
Language: English
Reservations are recommended, [email protected].

Thursday 4 October, 7 p.m.
The ‘national’
This introductory session takes the example of the Venice Biennale – the only international biennial with national contributions – as a starting point for this series of debates. It will address notions of national identification in the cultural sector, in particular how the format of the national is used in various ways in order to reach audiences, to gain support, to receive funding, to communicate a country’s cultural agenda, and to present activity that may represent a nation’s image abroad. When does this verge on exploitation? When do cultural producers become cultural ambassadors? At what point does exporting national ‘cultural capital’ become a missionary activity?
Munira Mirza is a writer and researcher on issues related to cultural policy and identity. She has worked for a range of arts and charity organisations and is currently working on a PhD, examining developments in UK cultural policy.
Annie Fletcher is curator at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and has been involved in developing the museum’s long-term cultural diversity project Be(com)ing Dutch, partner project of this collaborative program.
Download MP3 (32MB)

Thursday 11 October, 7 p.m.
This debate will focus on the tools that art institutions and other cultural organizations, governmental bodies and individuals utilize in order to promote themselves within the cultural sector. Recent years have seen a range of high-powered cultural institutions developing hard-hitting marketing strategies and plans for communication. Whether this appears in the form of circulating ones information, or manifests itself through a physical presence elsewhere (i.e. travel, re-location, satellite projects), the pressure to situate and brand oneself clearly and effectively in today’s jungle of activity has become priority on everyone’s agenda. This session will connect with and introduce the following week’s discussion about circulation and exchange.
Daniel van der Velden is a graphic designer and critic, specializing in notions of national branding and visual identity. Shortly after his participation in this debate, he will run a project on the paradox of nation branding with students at Yale University.
Claire Beke works in communication and develops and consults public relations for cultural organizations. She has a wide-ranging experience in the field of marketing, press, branding and image building.
Download MP3 (43MB)

Thursday 18 October, 7 p.m.
Circulation and exchange
Leading on from different modes of promotion in cultural production, the debate on circulation and exchange will delve into the movement and distribution of knowledge, looking in more detail at structures of exchange. Active displacement, which is rapidly growing and has become a normal condition for many cultural practitioners, automatically results in a brisk exchange of cultural capital. Traveling, for instance, means acquiring knowledge and implementing it ‘back home’ – whether deliberately or not. The same goes for taking knowledge and shifting it to another place, as is the case with many commercial galleries and institutions nowadays, who are opening up subdivisions elsewhere. Who really profits from this? The audience or the venturer?
Nick Hackworth is the founding director of the gallery Paradise Row in London. He is also Contemporary Art Critic of the Evening Standard.
Unfortunately Nicoline van Harskamp had to cancel; she will join next week, in Utrecht, October 25th.
Download MP3 (43MB)

Thursday 25 October, 10 p.m.
New capital
(NB: Held at Bak, after the first “Citizens and Subjects: Practices and Debates” discussion, taking place at 8 p.m. at the University of Utrecht. Bus pick-up from WdW at 7 p.m., return bus at 12 p.m. Without areservation, we cannot guarantee you a seat on the bus.)
Summing up the three previous debates, this final evening will conclude Witte de With’s talks series on national representation. Having looked at various political and economic forces within the areas of production, promotion, communication, and knowledge exchange, this session will take the discourse one step further: namely how these aforementioned factors create capital in today’s global market and are utilized as tools to turn cultural capital into actual financial gain. How can we distinguish between what is non-commercial (non-profit) and what is added value? Is everything eventually geared towards generating capital?
Olav Velthuis is an economist specializing in the cultural domain. He will be in conversation with Suhail Malik and Andrea Phillips about the current state of global capital, and its implications on today’s cultural realm, in particular on production within contemporary art.
Nicoline van Harskamp is an artist currently following the Rijksakademie program in Amsterdam. Her work focuses on different modes of assigning political and economic power, both from governmental and individual measures.
Download MP3 (43MB)

If you need any further information, please contact Sophie von Olfers at [email protected].

BAK will present the third stage of the Dutch contribution at the Venice Biennale 2007, Citizens and Subjects: Practices and Debates,

The Van Abbemuseum will present a continuation of its projectBe(com)ing Dutch,

PoCA (Political Currency of Art Research Group, based in the Department of Visual Arts at Goldsmiths, London),

For complete programme and dates of all three institutions, please see here (PDF).

—Supported by