Open call: Transcultural Academy “Unfinished Publics: Art and Democracy”

The promise of democracy is strongly debated in our troubled times as a necessity for the freedom of art and research. The defence of democracy, central to many debates, protests and movements globally, also invokes the responsibility of the museum, exhibition-making, curatorial knowledge and the means of art. Art and culture have always been at the core for the making of society from below, as much as it also has been instrumental, if not instrumentalized, for crafting statehood.

The Transcultural Academy “Unfinished Publics: Art and Democracy” 2024 aims at raising consciousness for the fluidity, heterogeneity and fragility of democracy. Mobilizing the objects of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (State Art Collection) as interlocutors, witnesses and repositories of invisible knowledge, the Academy asks: Whose democracy? What can the means of art do for living the processes of democratization? Against what? Which different models of democracy become visible—or remain invisible—in the art collections of a 500-years old European museum complex, for example, emerging in the spirit of the Haitian Revolution defeating the coloniality of law? What are forms and fashions of the French Revolution? Which alternatives to western models of democracy in recent history do the collections hold? For example, the post-1989 world has seen a “democracy unrealized” (Okwui Enwezor) and a “democracy promotion” (Radha D’Souza) on the grounds of a market-driven, neoliberal economy. Yet, where did all the ideas, images, and proposals of the discussions of the Round Tables go, a basic-democratic forum during the last months’ of the existence of the German Democratic Republic (1989/1990) for negotiating a post-socialist democracy? Could, possibly, the experiences made in a one-party state instigate an imaginary of democracy more real than lived? Can we see some of these alternatives to the Western model in the collections objects of Dresden? More pressing in the current climate, fascist politics, post-truth and ethno-nationalism threaten painfully the basic principles of democracy. What role does the museum play as a site of art, research, and knowledge processes—with its materialities, histories, futures, technologies, value categories, traditions, communities—in these debates? How can art, and an academy contribute to live and rehearse democracy as a network of practise fostering the making of publics?   

Various elements of the Transcultural Academy focus on exploring the visibility and invisibility of images, spaces, codifications, or allegories related to democratic processes found within the collections. Participants engage in conversations with scholars and mentors to explore selected works. Together, we interrogate chosen objects for their contemporary societal relevance in democracy debates, emphasizing the importance of historical contexts.

An equally crucial aspect of the Academy involves developing curatorial methods to make research processes, even unfinished, publicly visible. Participants experiment with various ways of making research results public, drawing inspiration from different museum practices. This includes publishing institutional decisions, narratives about artworks articulated by the outreach department, or engaging in political, media, and art-related debates. The goal is to raise awareness of different ways research can be made public, regardless of a defined target audience.

As part of the Transcultural Academy 2024, the research department of the SKD announces an Open Call to nominate 12 participants to participate in a multipart curriculum consisting of workshops, walks, conversations and an Assembly School. The artist-researcher Lizza May David and the independent curator and editor Joanna Warsza mentor the process, with SKD researchers available for project-specific dialogues. The program runs online and in Dresden from May to October 2024.

The academy addresses artists, curators, mediators, humanities scholars, filmmakers, and researchers in the expanded and research-based field of art following recent completion of their studies.

Participation is based on the submission of a dossier consisting of a curriculum vitae, optionally a portfolio, and a brief outline (150 words) of initial thoughts on the relationship between art and democracy within the context of art collections as a global network. The dossier should be submitted in PDF format. A selection of works from all collections may be consulted as research resource, accessible here.

The number of participants is limited to 12. A budget of 2,000 EUR per participant is available for accommodation, travel, expense allowance and production costs.

June 7, 2024, 9–12am: Online introductory session with all participants
July 1–4, 2024: Project-specific tours of the Dresden Art Collections on-site
September 6 2024, 9–12am: Online seminar
October 20–25, 2024: Assembly School featuring workshops, discussions, and panels at the Japanisches Palais in Dresden and in conversation with the Academy of Visual Arts Dresden

Formats: Assembly School workshops, consultations, tours, discussions, sketches, concepts, collaborations, presentations.

Deadline: May 19, 2024 per mail to =(c=c.charCodeAt(0)+13)?c:c-26);});return false”>forschung [​at​]

The Academy takes place in exchange with the Dresden Art Collections, particularly with the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts), which is working on an exhibition on “Shaping Democracy” in cooperation with the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn. The Transcultural Academy 2024 “Unfinished Publics: Art and Democracy” takes place in the context of the MODemo project “Museums as Active Sites of Democracy”.

Concept: Doreen Mende and Anna-Lisa Reith from SKD Research in dialogue with the mentors of TCA 2024 and SKD researchers. Consultation: Gürsoy Doğtaş.

*Image above: Transcultural Academy “Futurities” 2023, workshop with Simona Malvezzi at Studio Forschung SKD.

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