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Dis/Possession: Post-Participatory Aesthetics and the Pedagogy of Land

Project leader:
Anette Baldauf (IKW)

Project team:
Berhanu Ashagrie Deribew, Silvia das Fadas, Ipek Hamzaoglu, Janine Jembere, Naomi Rincon Gallardo, Rojda Tugrul

Funded by:
FWF - Austrian Science Fund | PEEK (AR471)

FWF I PEEK project
led by Anette Baldauf, Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies
Duration: 1.3.2018 – 28.2.2021

In cities as diverse as Addis Ababa, Istanbul, Mexico City and Berlin, the concept of dispossession currently provides a key point of reference for activist, academics and artists to engage with a wide scope of violent appropriations including colonial theft, corporate land grabbing, state facilitated resettlement, urban gentrification, etc. The proposed project starts off from the realities of the struggles of the dispossessed – public revolts, activism, but also the more informal and ephemeral tactics of encroachment and epistemic interventions that provide the basis for subtle modes of contestation. The project contends that art-based research which aims to unify knowing, doing and feeling can grasp the complexity of dispossession, which here is understood as a state of violent appropriation of land, bodies and relations, and also as the result of the always tenuous process of subjection that constitutes subjectivity. With regards to this synthesis the project finds inspiration in epistemologies of the South, decolonizing methodologies and Black aesthetics, which trace the conditions of dis/possession to the fusion of the state of being and having in the 18 th century that tied the self-possessed subject to the necessarily dis-possessed object in the colonies.

With this heritage in mind the project looks at (1) the creative strategies of survival in the grand-scale resettlement orchestrated by authoritarian developmentalism in Addis Ababa (visual artist Berhanu Ashagrie Deribew), (2) women’s struggles against state violence and enforced displacement in Mexico City (visual artist Naomi Rincon Gallardo), (3) Istanbul and its radical rescaling of the urban landscape in the melodramatic format (multimedia artist Ipek Hamzaoğlu), (4) the imagination of land/scape in colonial narratives and their recounting in Berlin today (sound artist Janine Jembere), (5) the reenactment of an early 20 th century anarchist commune in the countryside of Portugal (filmmaker Sílvia das Fadas) and finally, (6) it turns its focus onto the study group itself, tracing its own negotiation of dis/possession and claims to property and individualism. With regards to the artistic research methods, the project wants to learn from participatory art and explore methods attributed to post-participatory aesthetics (e.g. initiating, listening, with/nessing, indignation, maintaining), which enable a coming together in friction. Supported by Anette Baldauf (social researcher) and Epifania Amoo-Adare (architect and educational theorist) from C3, an institute dedicated to critical pedagogy and spatial literacy in Accra, Ghana, the research group will finally use their insights to create a toolbox for a pedagogy of land. The toolkit will be a compact, easily accessible collection of hands-on material supporting the struggle against dispossession; it will travel to each of the sites of study, grow as it is informed by the encounters there, until it becomes the project’s art-based contribution to unite knowing, acting and doing.