The ambition in staging the project Between Here and Then by the Caucus group as doctoral researchers of the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) is palpable to the intellectual and creative pulse of the faculty. With a title that implies complex responses to the liminality of temporality and space, the creation of the project itself promotes a new line of enquiry about the artworks. This project is ‘part and parcel’ of how we remain ‘engaged and interested in a set of ideas’ as Okwui Enwezor argues, in order to create a space where:
… new ideas emerge and new research illuminates gaps in our information, and provoke new readings, considerations, and revisions. (Enwezor, 2017)
Between Here and Then is an organising principle as an expanded research process. It becomes vital to generate and stimulate new forms of reflection for the work. The public project that includes film screenings, a curated show, online presence, printed material and performance, uncovers propositions and concepts of ideas, creativity and thinking to develop new perspectives on the research.
The project is the result of the effort and creativity by the 19 PhD researchers at CREAM presented in this brochure. Without the space to give justice to their individual work, I highlight aspects associated with their practice as research that we will look at and engage in.
Between Here and Then generates fresh perspectives about the materiality, techniques, and affective qualities of artworks. The principle of researching materiality and technique, means to experiment, converge media and challenge normative conventions of making. The film artworks curated for the show are a case in point and evidence of a quality and depth of knowledge about filmmaking practice associated with CREAM’s doctoral research. Polyvocal narrative techniques, explorations of archive material, and heterogeneous spaces underpin the filmmaking practice including: the film Jennifer by Nina Danino, part of a series of works with monastic communities of women; and the multiscreen installation Diving by Arne Sjögren exploring different narrative forms through multimedia and live performance.
Creative interpretive techniques and concepts on migration, transgressing borders, diasporic narratives and transcultural formations continue to be central to the research work at CREAM and evident in many of the works. The contemporary global moment of queer, feminist and race politics, social activism and agency, means that subaltern and disenfranchised communities are able to contribute to hypermedia spaces as complex matrices of arts practice, politics, performance and social media. Examples such as: Sarah Rahman Niazi’s research material presented as an audio-visual projection Urdu Imaginaire; Francesco Arese Visconti’s black and white portraits about Italian migration in Switzerland GENUS- Generational Shifts; Gilbert Calleja’s photographic project Liminal on transgender communities in Malta; Sunil Gupta’s photographic montages on HIV/Aids and queer identity in Homelands; and Deniz Sözen’s ceramics and video documentation of her performance Kahvehane Kongresspark renegotiating the narratives about coffee, all contribute as cultural interventions.
Reinterpreting [a]long the archival grain of historical ontologies, Ann Laura Stoler notes, challenges authority ascribed to documentation. This practice for the archive is a persistent and critical theme. Artists, in effect, ‘call archives to account’ exposing their limits, allowing more imaginative possibilities of family narratives, colonial histories and social traditions. Works such as the photographs from About an Archive by Ana Janeiro referring to her family’s archive; Jini Rawlings’ art installation Dear Child of silk hangings and video projections; and Sue Goldschmidt’s ceramic installation Sub Rosa of porcelain and bone china; complicate meanings made of historical material and our relationship towards them.
Between Here and Then is a project framed by an institution and determined by doctoral researchers/artists. Academic institutions are the spaces where critical debate, thinking and creation of new knowledge occurs. They have always been the spaces of potential agency. But in 2017, this is no easy task. In this sense, the late Jean Fisher’s writing about the trickster character comes to mind, describing the need to be ‘an agent who … creates noise to engender a new pattern of relations’. In this way, we can also wrangle with the question:
Can art function as an effective mediator of change or resistance to hegemonic power, or is it doomed to be a decorative and irrelevant footnote…? (2002, p64-65)
Enwezor, Okwui and Artur Walther (2017). Talks and Interviews: Okwui Enwezor on the Recent Histories of African Photography, Aperture blog, 4 May. Available from http://aperture.org/blog/okwui-enwezor/ [Accessed 5 May 2017].
Stoler, Ann Laura (2009). Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Fisher, Jean (2002). Towards a Metaphysics of Shit. In: documenta und Museum Fridericianum (eds.) Documenta 11_Platform 5: Exhibition Catalogue. Berlin: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 63-70.