Many of the practices presented in the context of the thematic cluster on “Crafts” map out forms of risk-taking. The story of the fatally wounded “Fire Master” Jimmy Grima tells in his contribution only offers one such example. “Why would someone risk their life for this?,” asks the Maltese artist-researcher at the same time as he provides answers to why a certain community in his home country continues to do just that. To this day.
The artistic negotiation of sexuality also engenders risks: to one’s body, reputation and aesthetics. In her report on the sex positivity community, the curator Eva Neklayeva investigates how some of these risks can be confronted and how they might be applied in art. We have been preoccupied with a remark by Gala Vanting, with whom Neklayeva spoke for her contribution: the manager of Hedon House in Sydney alerted us to the fact that the idea of risk-free spaces and a seemingly complete protection from harm—so-called “safe(r) spaces” for example—need to be critically examined. Vanting emphasizes the deeply subjective nature of feelings of safety and vulnerability, a fact our language often fails to acknowledge.
We pursue this avenue of investigation further, and in the context of a new thematic focus on harm—and vulnerability—we present practices and perspectives that relate to these concepts in different ways. How is the act of injuring and hurting particularly productive and aesthetically interesting for artistic strategies? We think back to a thesis from Max Aschenbrenner’s essay: art, according to the dramaturg and performer, should not only be understood in the tradition of practices of cultivation and care but also in line with destruction and war.
In the sphere of art, the act of damaging does not only cause harm—it can also create new spaces, as the work of the Swiss duo of photographers Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs demonstrate. Using digital methods, they tamper with analogue photographs to create paradoxical image worlds that oscillate ambivalently between utopic and dystopian visuals, at once devastated and soulful. The museologist and curator Danaé Panchaud met the duo for V/A; the interview will be published over the course of the coming weeks.
The projects of the Austrian choreographer Florentia Holziger also illuminate the aesthetic potential of injuries. In her Étude for an Emergency, she and her collaborators repeat violent acts on stage and thus create, as author Sascha Ehlert argues, something deeply meditative. Ehlert met Holziger in Berlin for a conversation that will be published in the coming weeks in the German print magazine Das Wetter as well as on V/A.
The first installment of the new thematic cluster is a conversation that highlights how structures of power and violence shape supposedly liberated or free spaces, particularly in the context of art. Japan-based producer Terre Thaemlitz identifies the omnipresent and even during a pandemic persistent desire for liveness in the culture industry as one such structure. She criticizes consistently that the refusal of this industry to let go of notions of authentic self-expression, originality, and authenticity, obstructs the production and presentation of non-performative works. As she argues in the conversation we conducted with her in the context of the YPAM festival in Yokohama, the insistence on “liveness” ultimately derives from fascist and patriarchal tendencies.
In addition to the contributions to the new thematic focus mentioned above, we will continue to publish new material for the existing clusters on (In)dependence, Alliance, Crafts, Disappearing, and Petri Dish. We came to realize that these clusters mutually illuminate each other—and that much is left to be said about them.