Chus Martínez

Under Siege

September 15th, 2014 No Comments

How does an artistic community work within a context of siege? How, under these conditions, is it possible to maintain the sense of practice when only trusting on internal relations? These and other important questions on the idea and condition of siege were fundamental issues explored at the 2012 edition of dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel.

Kabul became the workplace for carrying out part of this investigation, by presenting an exhibition that became central to the general project. Within the context of dOCUMENTA (13) the Afghan artistic and intellectual community, as well as participants from elsewhere, met in Kabul and Bāmiyān on different occasions over the course of several months to explore contemporary artistic experience in a precarious yet simultaneously committed situation.

How can people live through war and live beyond war and conflicts. Especially in times of war, of the suspension of law, or in post-conflict conditions, can art act as a form of healing? In a state of siege, time acquires new dimensions and the focus and ambition of any activity are concentrated in a closed circle. When acting, as we did in this project in Kabul, as if there were no conflict, no occupation, no incredible security measures, in reality we were proposing that one can interfere, interrupt and change reality in some way, by virtue of the force of affirmation and imagination. This was the basis of the work for organising a series of seminars and an exhibition in Kabul and Bāmiyān as a part of dOCUMENTA.

The obviousness of the Kabul case led us to reflect on the unstoppable progression of what Giorgio Agamben calls “a worldwide civil war”, the state of exception as a paradigm of the dominant government in contemporary politics. And, two years later, the experience of Kabul continues irradiating and the concept of siege linked to reflection and artistic practice does not lose its power.

Chus Martínez

Chus Martínez was curator of dOCUMENTA 13. At present she is director of the Institute of Art of the Academy of Art and Design of Basel

The reflection on the siege will take the form of various activities. Firstly, an installation comprising two audiovisual works by the artists Mariam Ghani and Omer Fast, accompanied by a conversation between Mariam Ghani and the curator, Chus Martínez, about artistic practice in the context of siege. Secondly, three debates with journalists and researchers about differential and characteristic aspects of contemporary sieges, which will also include the projection of a documentary.