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Thursday, June 8 • 2:15pm - 3:00pm
Keeping the Edges Open: Towards an Inclusive Curatorial Practice in Regions Distant from Cultural Centers

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The theoretical underpinnings of the lecture is  in the critical reconsideration of culture in regions that are distant from cultural centers and indigenous cultures as conceptualized in subaltern studies from the mid 20th century, for example by Eduard Glissant and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and as developed by postcolonial theorists of the early 21st century such as Sugata Bose and Kris Manjapra, who consider marginal and indigenous cultures through the conceptions of multiscalar and queer cartographies. The lecture introduces the perspectives of curatorial and cultural professionals operating in regions that have sustained/ presently withstand a colonial reality and that are distant from cultural centers. Specifically, professionals that deal with the dominating force of a westernized cultural perspecive that is embedded in the ruling ideology of the region and that overshadows other cultural perspectives. Departing from Louis Althusser’s theory of the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) that explains in what way government institutions create knowledge constructions that are embedded within the ruling ideology, the panelists will ultimately deal with the power that is invested in cultural leadership/curatorship in regional institutions that are in the position to either enforce or critique the western, colonial cultural perspective. The lecture will embark with the question of how an institutional curator or cultural practitioner based in a region that was settled as part of the colonialist impulse, faces the dilemma of either reinforcing the colonial, governing agenda or openi it up to critique. This question will be addressed by considering Michel Foucault’s notion of local knowledge as an autonomous, non-centralised form of culture that is not dependent on the approval of the established regime. Panelists will consider Foucault’s idea of local, autonomous, non-centralised forms of culture that had stemmed in the European discourse of the 20th century, and how it has met the cultural discourse of the beginning of the 21st century. In what way is it possible for cultural professionals operating in institutions that are distant from cultural centers to introduce autonomous and non-centralised forms of culture into regional institutions that have assumed an overarching western cultural perspective and to ultimately challenge the ruling ideology that has eroded local knowledge and tradition? Each panelist will tackle this question by demonstrating how their practice has met the limitations of the western cultural perspective and in what way these limits had led to the development of counter curatorial approaches. My presentation will present counter curatorial methods that I had developed during my directorship at two institutions, which I had also co-founded in the Negev, the international residency program Arad Art and Architecture, and the exhibition space Arad Contemporary Art Center, in the city of Arad (2014-2018) and how they communicated the cultural dominance and the power administered by the ruling ideology in terms of its western cultural perspective to its audience. From the perspective of a second-generation Israeli, I will demonstrate in what way the colonial impulse of my father’s generation that considered the region within a Jewish context, had overlooked rich regional knoweldges and cultures, and how the rushed creation of the state of Israel in the middle of the last century encouraged the dominance of a westernized perspective on culture. How the perspective that I embody, as a white, gendered and classed subject, brought me to research the Arab Bedouin indigenous culture through the notion of ‘situated knowledges’ as developed by Donna Haraway: as a mode of feminist objectivity that brings in vantage points of the subjugated that includes partial cultural perspectives of limited locations and embodied experiences that include traditional customs that pass from generation to generation through oral narratives. The challenges of representation of Arab Bedouin culture of the Negev will be demonstrated by myself through the analysis of The Museum of Bedouin Culture (f. 1980), located in the Negev (the area that lies between the Gaza border and the Dead Sea). The biggest museum in the world that deals with Arab Bedouin culture museum serves as a strong case of the absorbance of traditional and non-western cultural forms into the westernized, cultural perspective. I will discuss in what way the curatorial framework of the museum that exhibits traditional costumes; medicinal herbs; kitchen utensils; wedding ceremonials and guns and ammunition is tied to European museums that built their collections on artifacts from expeditions to the colonies during the 19th and early 20th centuries. And how, although the museum was founded at a time when post-colonial discourse was already very much alive, the museum’s curatorial agenda propagates the colonial ruling ideology and pursues a western approach to curating the Arab Bedouin culture. I will demonstrate counter curatorial approaches that combine subjugated perspectives, creating alliances between minority communities in the Negev ‘open the edges’ of the univocal western perspective and provoke a mode of engaged critique.  Fleshing out the notion of ‘critique as engagement with’ as articulated by Chantal Mouffe as a form of radical politics that disarticulates existing discourses and practices with the aim of constructing a different discourse, I will demonstrate counter curatorial methods developed by myself in the city of Arad in the Negev desert that tackle the univocal and westernized curatorial perspective of the The Museum of Bedouin Culture by creating discursive settings in which perspectives of audience members from different communities may be articulated. Taking the contrasting social realities of Negev residents as its starting point (the Arab Bedouin population is the poorest community in Israel while the Israeli Jewish are the most well-off), the public event Salon Beton 1 that I curated dealt with the ideological construction of the city of Arad that was rooted in the analysis of the modernist aesthetic ideology of the construction of the city that was intended to create common ground between differential positionalities. Discussing what happens when artistic and curatorial interventions that raise differential opinions and positionalities exist in the public sphere of the Negev - where the ‘messiness’ of differential opinions is very much present - the analysis of the outdoor event that focused on a series of regional ‘brutalist playgrounds’ that were designed by the original planning team of the city will open adiscussion on the politics of play, leisure and recreation in the public sphere of the Negev and how it reflects the ruling ideology. How thewesternized cultural perspective that was present in the initial design of the city dictates the current reality of the city’s public sphere and the need to reach consensus regarding the meaning and use of public spaces. The panelists will contribute their own experience in the development of curatorial methods that deal with the collection, categorization, preservation, and exhibition of ‘situated knowledges’ of non-western cultures in cultural institutions that represent a wide range of cultures including indigenous cultures. And finally, the lecture will conclude with a discussion on ‘critique as engagement with’ as a counter curatorial approach that sustains the tensions and hostilities that may arise from the intersection of partial perspectives and ‘situated knoweldges’ of residents from western and non-western cultures in cultural institutions that are distant from cultural centers and that represent a wide range of traditions and knowledges.

avatar for Hadas Kedar

Hadas Kedar

Lecuturer, Bezalal Academy of Art and Design

Thursday June 8, 2023 2:15pm - 3:00pm EDT
Room D