Please be patient while we are loading the interactive content!
Ute Meta Bauer
The Kula Ring
Expedition and Convening.
UTE META BAUER: The Force behind the Scenes
by Annie Paul / Jamaica
UTE META BAUER is not a household name and likely never will be. Although the stage is a passion for her you will never see her on a red carpet in the glare of a zillion flashlights or hotfooting it from an army of fans; no paparazzi will ever hunt her through the tunnels of Paris or anywhere else. 

Why should we be interested in her then you ask? Simple. Alongside the celebrity culture and money-driven economies we occupy in this neoliberal epoch, there are social economies at work, trying to imagine and realize more creative and equitable systems of co-existence. Can art have social functions beyond being storehouses of monetized value tailor-made for buying and selling? What role can/should artists play in the design of more humane, less number-driven societies? How can we institute the ability to explore, to experiment and to improvise, to work and think in unconventional ways? How can we engineer an automatically innovative, self-reinventing social system? Such questions have animated the work of Ute Meta Bauer over the arc of her career inciting her to operate at the frontiers of research into new thinking about art, art education and performance. 

Thus subjects like cultural, social and media theory, gender, cultural and critical postcolonial studies, curatorial studies and methods of presentation, cultural policy, the study of transcultural and, popular-cultural issues have all been grist for Ute’s mill. Her unconventional but productive approach to knowledge and knowledge-building has attracted the attention of institutions at the forefront of education in art and technology and her curatorial practice has encompassed a wide range from contemporary art, film, video to sound installations. 

After trying to shake things up at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria, as a Professor of Theory and Practice of Contemporary Art (1996–2006) Ute went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she was director of the Visual Arts Program for several years and Founding Director of the Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). In both places Bauer tried to revolutionize the curricula, arguing for more interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinary research, and occasionally even an anti-disciplinary program of studies. 

“Why not regard students as competent partners capable of cooperating and being actively involved in the design of their learning environment?” she asks. In her own student days in Hamburg, Germany, Ute, along with other students, had formed a group devoted to extracting and molding the kind of educational structures they wanted and needed from the programs of study they were offered.

“We developed projects — exhibitions, events, performances — and made videos. We set our own context. We saw professors as resources, more as coaches, not people we waited on for instruction. When I became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1996, I was stunned by the antiquated notion of the Master Schools, and that the “professor as master” model was still in place. I was then the only female professor, since Erika Billeter, a predecessor, had left. The last female professor before her led the textiles class during World War II. To enter into a context is to understand its mechanisms and the inherent power relations it operates under. Changing structures requires changing politics, which has been critical to my approach.”

Inevitably Ute’s determination to change the politics of art and the structures within which it operates, has brought her into the ambit of art professionals such as the highly acclaimed Okwui Enwezor, another curator with similar ambitions. In 2002 she became part of Enwezor’s Documenta11 curatorial team, widely acknowledged to be the most paradigm-shifting of any Documenta in the weighty exhibition’s 60 year old history. Curating the 3rd Berlin Biennale for contemporary art in 2004 and several other ground-breaking exhibitions since 2013 Bauer has been the Founding Director of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, a national research center of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Her mandate is to merge various streams of programs into a cross-disciplinary platform. Just a little after two years into the operation they are well on their way.


The Kula Ring Expedition: Collective Body, Exchange and Knowledge

This unique enterprise of a three-year cycle of inquiry and exchange unfolds in various formats across the globe. While the annual TBA21 Triennium field expeditions on the research vessel Dardanella have their focus on the urgencies posed to the archipelagos in the Pacific Ocean these issues will also be addressed at various occasions in different parts of the world to draw attention to the specific conditions of these archipelagos caused by human interference in oceanographic (and other) environments.

Although the visited archipelagos contribute only 1% of the global carbon footprint, they will be fatally affected by the rise of sea levels caused by global warming. Nuclear testing, mining and fracking as well as tourism pose a massive threat to these areas.

Expedition teams
Three expedition leaders of the TBA21 Triennium will be joined on the research vessel Dardanella by five researchers s/he specifically selects for each journey. A following Convening will expand the experience of the field trip with a larger group of thinkers. Though participants on the three field trips with the research vessel Dardanella will rotate, the various participants will stay engaged and form an expanded network throughout the duration of this three year project sharing their experience and inquiry in the annual Convening.

Field trip No1
TBA21 The Current’s first expedition was guided by Ute Meta Bauer (Founding Director of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore), who took a team of artists and researchers to Papua New Guinea in the autumn of 2015. This first expedition in a series of three departed alongside the TBA21 Triennium initiators and directors, a film crew, with a curator and five artists on its first field trip in October 2015 on board of the vessel Dardanella to the eastern archipelago of Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea. PNG has one of the world’s highest biodiversity and until today more than 800 languages are spoken. Mining and increasingly fracking contributes strongly to the current economy of PNG, but is endangering the environment, its flora and fauna, and challenges the complex social hierarchies of the many local tribes. Global warming and the rise of sea levels already create a devastating impact on the Pacific Islands.

Inspired by the tribal exchange tradition of the Kula Ring that takes place since centuries in the Trobriand Islands and Milne Bay area, expedition leader Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore) invited artists Laura Anderson Barbata (Mexico/US), Tue Greenfort (Denmark/Germany), Newell Harry (Australia), Armin Linke (Germany/Italy) and PhD candidate Jegan Vincent de Paul (Canada/Singapore) to join her on the inaugural exploration. Sailing through partially unchartered waters anchoring at rarely visited islands the group has been collecting local crafts items, documented their unique experience through photographs, video documentation and interviews with expedition participants and locals met on the various stops.

The second expedition is scheduled for July 2016 to the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. Mururoa and Fangataufa are situated south west of the archipelago. the two atolls were active nuclear test sites from 1966 until 1996. Although the islands were declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1977, the nuclear tests were continued for another 19 years.

At the beginning, Ute Meta Bauer’s research project will involve three layers that will raise a set of questions as a way to find a method to engage with the complex challenges on site:

What is a collective body?  What do we mean by exchange? What do we consider knowledge?

Topic
The beginning of this research project will involve three layers that will raise a set of questions as a way to find a method to engage with the complex challenges on site:

What is a collective body?
What do we mean by exchange?
What do we consider knowledge?

Collective Body
What is the surplus of sharing and experiencing a new place/time as a group - rather than as an individual - and what space is produced through such collectivity? The expedition considers a collective dérive, to drift from island to island as a method of dislocated Situationist practice. Instead of our urban known we move through the unknown of the Papua New Guinea littoral. Joining our intellects and senses will we be able to understand a new territory as one extended body? Is it possible to form an expanded sensorium to see and sense together?

Exchange
What constitutes contemporary modes of exchange between communities and cultures as well as between cultures and the environment? We consider the Kula, a ceremonial exchange system of the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea, as a point of departure. First described by Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in 1922, the Kula is a network of exchanges (consisting of valuables such as necklaces and armbands) among the people of the Trobriand Islands. The act of exchanging allows for certain acknowledgment, agreement or peace amongst groups of people. What kind of gift economies do we have today and what kind of exchanges do we practice?

Knowledge
What constitutes knowledge, where is it embedded, how is it transmitted and what determines its ownership? Knowledge throughout history has constituted power and determined social, economic and political hierarchies. One the one side Papua New Guinea has one of the lowest per capita income in the world, however it is one of the richest in terms of biodiversity, communities and languages. If knowledge is power and biodiversity and languages are considered knowledge, should we not revise our cultural understanding of the Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands?

Ute Meta Bauer Singapore, December 2015



Tue Greenfort
Tue Greenfort’s interdisciplinary practice deals with issues such as the public and private realm, nature and culture. Interweaving these subjects with the language of contemporary art the artist formulates an often direct critique of current economical and scientific production practices. Fascinated by the dynamics in the natural world, Greenfort’s work often evolves around ecology and its history, including the environment, social relations, and human subjectivity.

Tue Greenfort lives and works in Berlin where he is represented by Johann König. As a participant in dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel, Greenfort was co-curator of an archive on multi-species co-evolution, The Worldly House. He has had extensive solo presentations at Berlinische Galerie (2012), South London Gallery (2011), Kunstverein Braunschweig (2008) and Secession, Vienna (2007). He has participated in numerous international exhibitions at institutions including Kunstverein Hannover (2011), Royal Academy of Arts, London (2009), Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (2009), the Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples (2008), Skulptur Projekte Münster (2007) and Witte de With, Rotterdam (2006). Among his publications the most comprehensive, Linear Deflection, was published by Walther König in 2009.

tuegreenfort.net

Jegan Vincent de Paul
Jegan Vincent de Paul was born in Tamil Eelam (Sri Lanka) in 1978. His family migrated to India in 1986, during the civil war in Sri Lanka, and then settled in Canada a year later. He currently lives and works in the United States.

Studying western art and architecture at the University of Toronto, Jegan received a B.A. in 2003. He is trained as an architect at the University of Toronto, where he received an MArch in 2007. From 2007-2009 Jegan studied at MIT?s Visual Arts Program, receiving a Master of Science in Visual Studies. Jegan has worked as researcher, designer and artist in various capacities around the world: including for internationally known artist Ai Weiwei in Bejing and the prominent architecture firm LOT-EK in New York City. In 2009, Jegan co-founded Counter, an agency to frame, amplify and transmit culture. As part of Counter, Jegan produced projects for a number of artists and organizations such as Voices Beyond Walls, Nakba Archive, the MIT Museum, and the MIT School of Engineering. Jegan was a research fellow at the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) from 2010–11 where he conducted research on energy viewing not as a commodity, but as a socio-economic network. Jegan writes for critical.org, a blog he co-founded on art, media and politics; and he is currently a lecturer at ACT.




CC by Jegan Vincent de Paul
Countercorportation (Co-Founder)
Newell Harry
The work of Australian artist Newell Harry draws on his interest in notions of currency, value and exchange in relation to alternate economic modes. He has carried out extensive field research in the South Pacific and on the island of Vanuatu in particular where he experienced traditional forms of tribal legal tender. Exchange of goods is practiced there, combining a utilitarian quality and aesthetic, while still acting as a form of hard currency. Newell Harry lives in Sydney, Australia.



Laura Anderson Barbata
Mexican born artist Laura Anderson Barbata is Professor at the Escuela Nacional de Escultura, Pintura y Grabado La Esmeralda of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, México. Her transdisciplinary work has received grants and awards from Bellas Artes and FONCA. Since 1992 has worked primarily in the social realm, and has initiated projects in the Amazon of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Norway, the USA, and Mexico. Her work is included in various private and public collections, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the Museo de Arte Moderno Mexico City, and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart, Germany. Since 2012, she has worked on the ongoing project Transcomunalidad, a lasting collaboration with stilt dancers from Brooklyn, NY, the Caribbean and Mexico. So far, the project has had public presentations, including performances and solo exhibitions at Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Mexico; Museo de la Ciudad de México; BRIC Art House, Brooklyn, New York; Helen Louise Textile Collection Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Madison as well as an upcoming solo exhibition in 2016 at The Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Orlando, Florida. www.lauraandersonbarbata.com

Image: Laura Anderson Barbata


Armin Linke
As a photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke combines a range of contemporary image- processing technologies in order to blur the borders between fiction and reality. His artistic practice is concerned with different possibilities of dealing with photographic archives and their respective manifestations, as well as with the interrelations and transformative powers between urban, architectural or spatial functions and the human being’s interacting with these environments. Through work with his own archive, as well as with other historical archives, Linke challenges the conventions of photographic practice, whereby the questions of how photography is installed and displayed become increasingly important. When the artist takes over the role of an exhibition maker in a collective approach, together with artists, designers, architects, historians and curators, narratives are procured on the level of multiple discourses. He was Research Affiliate at MIT Visual Arts Program Cambridge, guest professor at the IUAV Arts and Design University in Venice and is currently professor at the HfG Karlsruhe. He lives and works in Milan and Berlin. www.arminlinke.com




Parley for the Oceans

TBA 21 X Parley for the Oceans

PLASTIC IS A DESIGN FAILURE. WE CAN ONLY END THE PROBLEM WITH A NEW MATERIAL. IN THE MEANTIME WE SAVE MARINE WILDLIFE BY CLEANING UP SHORELINES AND OCEANS AND CUT INTO THE PRODUCTION OF NEW, VIRGIN PLASTIC THROUGH CLOSED-LOOP RECYCLING SYSTEMS.

A I R

AVOID. INTERCEPT. REDESIGN.
The majority of the plastic in our oceans is broken into small pieces 1/4 of an inch or smaller and scattered over massive areas. The center of a Vortex, where the plastic concentration is highest, is constantly moving. It is difficult to collect and retrieve this plastic without harming fish and other sea life. Only a minority of ocean plastic floats on or near the surface, while the majority sinks to the ocean floor. While it still seems impossible to clean up the Vortexes, huge volumes of plastic debris wash up on beaches and shorelines, where it can be collected relatively easily and without complex technology by the global Parley network of cleanup organizations.
Awareness campaigns, cleanup operations and recycling initiatives allow us to help alleviate immediate threats to marine wildlife and reduce the use of virgin plastics in product design, manufacturing and distribution. In close collaboration with major brands, we also work to reduce overall plastic use. But we can only end ocean plastic pollution in the long run if we invent smarter materials and synchronize the economic system of mankind with the ecosystem of nature. Therefore Parley with its global expert network is operating an extensive research and development program to invent alternatives and to establish new industry standards.

Learn more about Parley for the oceans mission on their website:
www.parley.tv
Sonic exchanges
Performances by
Cat Coore and Mutabaruaka, Kingston, Jamaica
Mika Vainio, experimental electronic musician, Finland/Norway
March 17, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy
What-Lives-Beneath
Performance, March 16, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

What-Lives-Beneath is an original cross-disciplinary performance developed by artists from Mexico, Jamaica and the Caribbean diaspora. Based on firsthand experiences, research and ancient wisdom, it charts the physical and emotional relationship maintained with the ocean and the urgent need for collective transformation. The resulting work combines dance, spoken word, stilt dancing, costuming and music to create a unique form of storied performance for the occasion of TBA21 The Current, The Kula Ring Convening in Jamaica.

Collaborators:
Laura Anderson Barbata, artist. TBA21 The Current Fellow; FONCA-Conaculta, México
Chris Walker, Choreographer. Professor, University of Wisconsin, Madison
The Dance Department of the University of Wisconsin, Madison
The Brooklyn Jumbies:  Najja Codrington, Ali Sylvester, Keil Alibocas, Jabari Rollocks
The National Dance and Theater Company of Jamaica: Kerry Ann Henry, Jillian
Steele, Mark Phinn and Kemaar Francis with Kevin Ormsby: Kashedance, Toronto
Ewan Simpson and NDTC Music:
musical director, vocals and drums: Ewan Simpson
Vocalists: Leighton Jones and Sarina Constantine
Guitar: Steve Golding
Congas: Jesse Golding
Bass: Roel Miller
Amina Blackwood Meeks
Alexander Girvan

National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC)


Laura Anderson Barbata
Born in Mexico City, Laura Anderson Barbata is a transdisciplinary artist best known for her collaborative social art projects, including Transcommunality. This project, a collaboration with the Brooklyn Jumbies, Los Zancudos de Zaachila from Oaxaca and artisans has been exhibited in numerous museums and public spaces internationally since 2001. In 2011 she presented Intervention: Wall Street, conceived as a response to the economic crisis of 2008. In 2007, Barbata presented Jumbie Camp, closing down 24th Street in the gallery district of Chelsea in New York City for a street performance by 70 costumed children and members of the Brooklyn Jumbies. 2015 Barbata was the Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where she created a community project involving more than 500 people from 50 local community groups that included a street procession titled STRUT! The same year, in Brooklyn, New York, she presented Intervention: Indigo, created in collaboration with Chris Walker, the Brooklyn Jumbies and Jarana Beat.

Barbata currently lives and works in Brooklyn and Mexico City, where she is Miembro del Sistema Nacional de Creadores, FONCA-CONACULTA and Professor at the Escuela Nacional de Escultura, Pintura y Grabado La Esmeralda of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, México. She is Honorary Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program. Her work has received several awards and grants by the Institute of Bellas Artes in México and beneficiary of Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte of the Fondo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes, Mexico. Since 1992 she has worked primarily in the social realm and has initiated projects in the Amazon of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Norway, USA, and Mexico. Her work is included in numerous renowned collections private and public, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the Museo de Arte Moderno Mexico City, and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart, Germany.
Chris Walker
Associate Professor of Dance and the Artistic Director of the First Wave program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and choreographer  with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, Co-founder/Artistic Director of NuMoRune Collaborative and program director for the New Waves Dance & Performance Institute in Trinidad & Tobago.  He is a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards including the New York-Thayer Fellowship, Government of Jamaica PM Award and the UW-Madison Romnes Fellowship and has taught and presented his work in Europe, Asia and the Americas. In 2014, Walker presented “Contemporizing in Reverse…” the annual Philip Sherlock Lecture in Kingston, Jamaica and recently along with Assistant Professor Monika Lawrence, presented the shared-lecture “Nettleford’s NDTC: Folk Origins and Contemporary Aesthetics” during the Rex Nettleford Arts Conference at the Edna Manley College in Kingston, Jamaica.  Walker’s recent creative works include: “Rough Drafts” a 30-minute work for the NDTC in collaboration with Ewan Simpson and NDTC Music, “FACING Home: Love & Redemption” in collaboration with Kevin A. Ormsby, “Jus Luv” created through combining Jamaican mythical and traditional figures into a ‘mas’ character for contemporary subversive performance in collaboration with Laura Anderson Barbata’s for “Intervention: Indigo” presented in Brooklyn and in the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, featuring the Brooklyn Jumbies and Jarana Beat and “Manifest” for Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago.   In 2016 Walker will tour FACING Home: Love & Redemption to Jamaica, Cayman Island and New York, as well as develop collaborative work with Laura Anderson Barbata for TBA21 The Current, Kula Ring in Jamaica.

The Brooklyn Jumbies
Brooklyn Jumbies Inc. is an organization whose sole purpose is to heighten the community’s cultural awareness of African and African-Caribbean culture.  Brooklyn Jumbies performs stilt dancing, which is one of the numerous cultural elements of the African and Caribbean Diaspora. The founding members of Brooklyn Jumbies Inc. are Ali Sylvester and Najja Codrington.  The Jumbies made it one of their goals to help revive knowledge, respect and pride in our traditions.  The organization firmly believes that planting these seeds in the minds, hearts and spirit of the youth and the public is one of the keys to empowerment and self-determination for our people. http://www.brooklynjumbies.com

Since 2007 the Brooklyn Jumbies Inc. have worked closely with Laura Anderson Barbata presenting collaborative and outreach projects in Mexico and the US. Since 2008 they have collaborated with the Zancudos de Zaachila (traditional stilt dancers from Oaxaca). With Barbata they have performed in various Museums, among the Modern Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, Museum of Modern Art, MoMA in New York, Centro Nacional de las Artes in Monterrey, Mexico and Museo de la Ciudad de México. Among their most significant performances are Intervention: Wall Street, presented in the Financial District of New York, 2011 and Intervention: Indigo, presented in Brooklyn, New York and The Macy´s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 2015.
Jegan Vincent de Paul
Installation, March 16–17, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

This installation in the contect of The Kula Ring Convening at _space, Kingston, Jamaica presents a collection of materials and ongoing research that Jegan Vincent de Paul has undertaken to examine (un)official perspectives on Chinese state-led infrastructure construction across Eurasiaoceans, attempting to reveal the political fallouts of the routes and its general social, cultural and economic effects in a society.

More:

Oskar Metsavaht
Presentation, March 17, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

The artwork Interfaces marks a transitory moment in Oskar Metsavaht's life. Conceived during an artistic residency at Inhotim, it allowed him for the very first time to combine his different perspectives – or interfaces – of being a physician, designer and artist, and to live up to their full potential. Interfaces I – man//art//nature thus carries this new awareness. In his talk, he proposes a reflection about this "imaginary layer” aiming at defying the boundaries between the human body and nature. 

Oskar Metsavaht is a physician, environmentalist and philanthropist based in Brazil.




Nabil Ahmed
Ring of Fire: Ecocide and Environmental Self-determination in West Papua

Lecture / presentation, March 16, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

Investigating the intersection of contemporary eco-politics, art and architecture at multiple scales and in the making of new legal and political forums, this presentation lecture explores an ongoing geopolitical investigation of ecocide and environmental self-determination in West Papua, a militarized territory on the northeaster eastern edge on the Ring of Fire.

The anthropocene is an epoch where humanity has taken on geological force but which ‘humanity’ exactly? To address the anthropocene is to address structural inequality and asymmetry brought from the violence of capitalism, slavery, and colonialism. Extinction and dispossession are ever linked. The planet is a crime scene where the climate and oceans is the alibi, victim and instrument of a durational violence. If ‘every contact leaves a trace’ then these are increasingly diffused. While remaining sceptical, Science can be mobilized to evidence slow moving violence. The methods and actions we invent must support resistance of the dispossessed of the earth across resource, ecological, planetary, deep oceanic, mineral frontiers. This is political work of a politics with the earth. To seek a spatial justice, an ecological justice is a species right for humans and non-humans alike. The forum is not only of the law. We must invent new forums.


The spatially diffused and temporally protracted nature of contemporary environmental crises such as climate change and resource scarcity, conflict ecologies and migration poses challenges for their narration, representation and presentation as evidence at a planetary scale. The talk poses the investigation of conflicts in resource frontiers conceptually from the perspective of architectural research in the way the built and natural environments are seen to interact. The talk explores an ongoing geopolitical investigation of ecocide and environmental self-determination in West Papua, a militarized territory on the northeaster eastern edge on the Ring of Fire, slicing the earth with immense seismic activity, volcanoes and forming a mineral frontier along the edges and under the Pacific Ocean.

At this conflict shoreline, I describe how the Indonesian state used the process of decolonization in the 1960’s to annex indigenous land that contributed to the making of a de facto ‘non self-governing territory’. Tracing crucial historical moments, difficult definitions, and competing accounts of the prolonged conflict will offer a critical view of the decolonization process. Given that Papuans have had little control of their political future and natural resources, the talk will address the challenges of evidencing and articulating contemporary environmental self-determination from multiple perspectives. A history of violent military occupation can be traced along the spatial transformation of Papuan landscapes. Industrial mining at the Grasberg mine has resulted in a durational, ‘out of sight’ environmental disaster in West Papua. The talk describes how environmental forensics, as a method and set of spatial, aesthetic practices such as remote sensing, mapping and modeling can contribute to evidencing environmental crimes.

In particular the talk presented findings from a collaborative research with geographers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre that takes an ecological perspective towards developing novel techniques for detecting heavy metal contamination in aggregated forest, riparian and coastal seas using remote sensing for dense cloud covered, tropical regions in the Southern Hemisphere. It poses the questions, how can evidencing ecocide push the boundary of laws relating to environmental crimes towards a project of emancipation? How can artistic research transversally link such multiple trajectories? How can spatial storytelling, evidence gathering, and network building help to produce public proof and provide access to justice?



Carolyn Cooper
‘Slackness’ Versus ‘Culture’ in the Dancehall

Lecture / presentation, March 17, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

Jamaican dancehall music is often conceived as a primal scream – a barbaric, degenerate, eschatological sound. I suppose scatalogical as well. More broadly, Jamaican dancehall culture is commonly disparaged as a misogynist, homophobic, homicidal discourse that reduces both men and women to bare essentials: skeletal remains. Women are misrepresented as mindless bodies, (un)dressed and on display exclusively for male sexual pleasure. And men are stereotyped as dog-hearted predators stalking potential victims. 
It is true that sex and violence are recurring themes in the lyrics of both male and female DJs. The dancehall is, essentially, a heterosexual space (heterosexist, even) in which men and women play out eroticized gender roles in ritual dramas that can become violent. But sex and violence are not the only preoccupations of Jamaican dancehall culture. There is a powerful current of explicitly political lyrics that urgently articulate the struggle of the celebrants in the dance to reclaim their humanity in circumstances of grave economic hardship that force the animal out of its lair.  Indeed, Jamaican dancehall culture celebrates the dance as a mode of theatrical self-disclosure in which the body speaks eloquently of its capacity to endure and transcend material deprivation. Furthermore, the politics of the dancehall is decidedly gendered: it is the body of the woman that is invested with absolute authority as men pay homage to the female principle. Arguing transgressively for the freedom of women to claim a self-pleasuring sexual identity that may even be explicitly homoerotic, I propose that Jamaican dancehall culture at home and in the diaspora is best understood as a potentially liberating space in which working-class women and their more timid middle-class sisters assert the freedom to play out eroticized roles that may not ordinarily be available to them in the rigid social conventions of the everyday. 
The dancehall becomes an erogenous zone in which the celebration of female sexuality and fertility is ritualised. In less subtle readings of the gender politics of the dancehall, this self-conscious female assertion of control over the representation of the body (and identity) is misunderstood and the therapeutic potential of the dancing body is repressed. Indeed, the joyous display of the female body in the dance is misperceived as a pornographic devaluation of woman. 
In addition, the unapologetic materialism of dancehall culture, with its valorisation of ‘bling bling’ – all of the trappings of worldly success – is much derided by both self-appointed middle-class arbiters of ‘good’ taste as well as by fundamentalist Christians who, in theory, mortify the flesh. But the desire to own an ornate gold chain, for example, is not essentially different from the pervasive middle-class Jamaican aspiration to acquire a house that could easily pass as a castle; or the fundamentalist Christian’s intention to walk on streets paved with gold. In summary, then, I examine the unsettling politics of location in Jamaican dancehall culture, exploring a wide range of conflicts between ghetto youth and authority figures across shifting lines of gender and sexual orientation. 

Armin Linke
Anthropocene Observatory Project and Deep Time

Lecture presentation / screening, March 17, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

In his lecture performance, photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke presented and commented some filmic extracts of the project Anthropocene Observatory. The ongoing project started in 2013 as a collaboration with John Palmesino, Ann-Sofi Rönnskog (Territorial Agency) and Anselm Franke and has been presented at Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin and BAK Utrecht in 2014 and 2015. The audiovisual material also presented footage from the last travels and projects in 2015 and 2016 related to similar topics including the travel with the Dardanella to Papua New Guinea and that might be incorporated in a larger film project to be developed in the next two years.

By combining film, photography, documentation and interviews, the Anthropocene Observatory illustrates the thesis of the Anthropocene as the epoch defined by the actions of humans. The project operates as an observatory, a composition of documentary practices and discourses, that is, it depicts the work of international agencies, organizations and scientific researchers. The project documents these behind-the-scenes processes in a series of short films, as well as interviews and documentary materials. In doing so, it aims to illustrate in detail the unfolding of the thesis of the Anthropocene in its many streams of influence.

Lucy Orta
Clouds – OrtaWater – Antarctica

Lecture / presentation, March 16, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

Lucy Orta talks about three of their ongoing projects that intersect issues of water scarcity and pollution; climate change and its effect on migration, Clouds OrtaWater and Antarctica.

Clouds evolved from Lucy + Jorge’s body of work OrtaWater, which explores through objet and experience issues relating to water pollution and scarcity. Clouds was inspired by a research field trip to the Moqattam neighborhood of Cairo (Egypt), in 2009. In Moqattam, the Zabbaleen community collect and recycle the city’s garbage creating a mountain of refuge, which serves as the foundations, walls and floors of their homes. The immense organic formations of bundled plastic collected by the thousands of workers inspired the sculpting process Lucy and Jorge employ to make their objects and installations. Through hands-on workshops, they have explored the relationship between a lack of water in the world, the privatisation of the resource represented by plastic bottle bundles, and the parallel economy of people surviving on waste. Their Cloud: Meteoros won the international sculpture competition, ‘Terrace Wires’, in 2012 and was exhibited at St.Pancras station, London in 2013.

The body of work Antarctica evolved from the artists’ incredible expedition to the Antarctic in 2007. Lucy & Jorge choose to focus on Antarctica as a metaphor to highlight the continuous advance of the effects of global warming and it is the last example of an environment which has not yet been subjected to exploitation, a geopolitical exception. The results of their ephemeral installation ‘Antarctic Village No Borders’ was exhibited for the first time at Hangar Bicocca Milan (Italy), in 2008. The focus of the exhibition was on providing a place of encounter for people to develop a new bio-political imagination. Developing out of ‘Antarctica Village No Borders’ and influenced by the political aesthetics of B. Petromarchi, in which art is seen as a function capable of changing the way reality is looked at and interpreted. Other works that had their first public showing in this exhibition were, ‘Life Line-Survival Kits’, ‘Drop Parachutes’, and ‘Antarctica World Passport Delivery Bureau’. The passport bureau was designed to deliberately resemble the makeshift checkpoint reminiscent of those found on borders of conflict zones. The artists’ world passports resemble a travel document, each uniquely numbered, are distributed during their exhibitions and conferences. Data collected from distributions across the world has been transferred to a digital platform and will provide a forum for the borderless world community, to act on climate change.
http://www.antarcticaworldpassport.com

Since 1992 Lucy Orta has worked with her husband, the Argentine artist Jorge Orta. Lucy + Jorge Orta’s collaborative practice draws upon ecological and social sustainability issues to create artworks employing diverse media, including drawing, sculpture, installation, couture, painting, silkscreen, photography, video and light, as well as staged ephemeral interventions, performances and workshops. Emblematic bodies of work include, HortiRecycling: the food chain in global and local contexts; 70 x 7 The Meal: the ritual of dining and its role in community networking; OrtaWater and Clouds: water scarcity and the problems arising from pollution and corporate control; Antarctica: migration and climate change; and Amazonia: the value of the natural environment to our daily lives and to our survival. Their work has been to focus of numerous exhibitions in international museums and biennales across the world. In recognition of their contribution to sustainability, the artists received the Green Leaf Award in 2007 for artistic excellence with an environmental message, presented by the United Nations Environment Programme at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo (Norway). In 2000, Lucy and Jorge founded Les Moulins, a complex dedicated to the research and presentation of contemporary art in the former paper mills and factories along an 8km stretch of the rural valley Grand Morin, in Seine-et-Marne (France). Where they produce their work and host residencies and research workshops. For over 15-years, Lucy has been committed to embedding social and environmental issues in art and design institutions of higher learning. In 2002, she co-founded ‘Man & Humanity’ the pioneering social and sustainable Master program at the Design Academy Eindhoven (Holland), and she was made Professor of the University of the Arts London (UK), where she now holds the title of UAL Chair of Art and the Environment. 

Kite Workshop
Flying Fish Kites meet Robotics
With TBA21 The Current Expedition ParticipantFellow, Tue Greenfort, artist, Denmark;
Marvin Hall, Educator, TED Fellow and Founder of Halls of Learning, USA;
Julia Moritz, Education Curator, Switzerland

Workshop, March 16, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

This workshop seeks to experiment with the practical and visionary idea to research local fish species and make them fly – by way of the kite. Bridging global and local traditions and technologies of kite building, it departs from the exploration of Jamaica’s maritime environment and includes a flying of the fish kites created in the workshop in order to leap into the fusion of the two. The workshop will be followed by a conversation about how access can serve as a tool of playful learning about technology and environmental issues. 




Patrick Heimbach
The Ocean—Flywheel of Global Change

Lecture / presentation, March 17, 2016
TBA21 The Current Convening: The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy

This lecture presentation of animated visuals that were collected through various satellites underscores the global connectedness of the coupled climate system at large, and the far-reaching effect that regional changes can have. In the same way that polar ice sheet melt influences tropical communities living near the coast, changes to the tropical atmosphere-ocean circulation will impact polar climate. As we convene to witness changes to the local environment, we will do so against the backdrop of global changes. 

Patrick Heimbach, oceanographer, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Associate Professor, the University of Texas, Austin, USA

The Kula Ring Convening
The starting point for the first TBA21 The Current Convening – held from March 16 to 17, 2016 at the art venue _space in Kingston, Jamaica – was an expedition in October 2015 led by international curator and educator Ute Meta Bauer. It brought the artists Laura Anderson Barbata (Mexico/US), Tue Greenfort (Denmark/Germany), Newell Harry (Australia), and Armin Linke (Germany/Italy) and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art PhD candidate Jegan Vincent de Paul (Canada/Singapore) to the Milne Bay region in Papua New Guinea. Taking as their point of departure the local tradition of the kula ring, a system of ceremonial gift exchange practiced by a number of tribal societies throughout the Trobriand Islands, the participants explored the negotiation of modalities of exchange between communities and cultures, as well as between cultures and the environment. The act of exchange can serve as a means of acknowledgment, agreement, or peacekeeping among groups of people. The unique format of the Convening embraces interdisciplinary knowledge production in the form of dialogues, conversations, installations, and performances.

What Is a Convening?
Informed by the oceanic expeditions of its participants, TBA21 The Current Convenings are public presentations that take place over two to three days. The Convenings are envisioned as democratic and inclusive events, where the investigations and experiences of the expeditions leaders and participants can unfold in front of an audience in an experiential and participatory manner. During this first Convening the focus is on the effects of the Anthropocene epoch and climate change, with a focus on the oceans.

The Current’s director, Markus Reymann, explains, “that each Convening consists of academic and intellectual talks, performances, shared experiences, workshops, and more with the purpose of transforming audiences into collaborators. The aim is to create an experience that resonates with people from numerous disciplines across a range of demographics and age groups with a program that is inclusive of local audiences. An exploration of the global phenomenon of climate change is timely and urgent in Jamaica as well as around the world.”

“Confronting challenges and discussing solutions will be at the core of this new ideas festival,” says TBA21 founder and chairwoman Francesca von Habsburg. “This open think tank goes beyond disciplinary boundaries and formats to forge new alliances and educational platforms and envision new ways of creative thinking and entrepreneurship. The objectives of this ambitious program in Jamaica are manifold: to reflect upon and evaluate the imprint we create in the world that we occupy and subjugate, to respond with a creative spirit and a constructive exchange, and to share knowledge in order to address these vast challenges.”

This first edition of the The Current Convenings – titled The Kula Ring, a Gifting Economy – featured multimedia artist Laura Anderson Barbata (Mexico/USA) with the socially engaged performance group Brooklyn Jumbies (USA), in collaboration with choreographer Chris Walker (Jamaica/USA) and dancers from the National Ballet of Jamaica. Architect and researcher Nabil Ahmed (UK); University of the West Indies cultural studies scholar Professor Carolyn Cooper (Jamaica); Amina Blackwood Meeks, custodian of the oral tradition and performer, Jamaica; Cat Coore, musician and Mutabaruka, dub-poet (Jamaica); artist Tue Greenfort (Denmark/Switzerland); Cyrill Gutsch, Founder of Parley for the Oceans; TED Fellow and Halls of Learning founder Marvin G. Hall (Jamaica); artist Newell Harry (Australia); MIT Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences program oceanographer Professor Patrick Heimbach (Germany/USA); artist and filmmaker Professor Armin Linke (Italy/Germany); physician, artist and environmentalist Oskar Metsavaht (Brazil); electronic musician and composer Mika Vainio (Finland/Norway); Professor Lucy Orta, artist and Chair of Art in the Environment University of the Arts London (France/UK); writer Annie Paul (Jamaica); and art writer and curator Filipa Ramos (Portugal/UK) were joined by the Convening organizers Professor Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore), TBA21 founder and Chairperson Francesca von Habsburg, and TBA21 The Current Director Markus Reymann.