An Unusual Support Structure In The Making: CDA-Projects Grant for Artistic Research and Production

An Unusual Support Structure In The Making: CDA-Projects Grant for Artistic Research and Production

Now that the first edition of CDA-Projects Grant for Artistic Research and Production has been successfully awarded for 2011, it is timely to explain how the scheme came into existence and reflect on its potential functions. Moiz Zilberman, owner of CDA-Projects and Gallery Zilberman located in Mısır Apartment, Istanbul, and Burçak Bingöl, artist and artistic director of the galleries, approached me to propose possible projects that could be supported by their successful business plan. Mr. Zilberman wanted to invest back through projects that are not commercially driven.

As an artist, who is committed to articulating alternative support structures that prioritizes the agency of independent cultural producers, my suggestion was to create a 10,000 Euro grant announced through an international open call. From there, the collaboration between the three of us was catalyzed towards constructing a new structure in CDA-Projects. We agreed to make the grant available specifically in the framework of  “artistic research and production” for various reasons. “Artistic research” has been under discussion over a decade now, in relation to the Bologna Process, which standardizes European education system in line with the needs of cognitive capitalism, and practice based PhDs that create a support system for artistic thinking in academia but also suggests new legitimization guidelines on artistic production. We found it necessary to support a network of practices that claim this undefined space of exploration and alternative knowledge production. With the increasing role of the market in shaping art practice and the pressures of academia in defining the boundaries of what can be considered relevant knowledge production in the art field, it is crucial that galleries, too, support the  articulation of sites for discursive practices and open-ended processes, which do not always result in tangible results.

An open call was sent out in September 2011, inviting authors (including artists, curators, writers, thinkers etc…) of any nationality, regardless of age, for projects that can be carried out individually or collectively. Through this inclusive criteria for eligibility, we hope to develop a dialogue with practitioners that are articulating what “artistic research” is in all parts of the world within or independently of institutions. The only obligation of the grantee is carrying out the research and presenting the results by the agreed date.

With the assessment criteria, we tried to map out what we see as essential qualities of artistic research; taking on an urgent issue in a way that fundamentally alters our ways of knowing by suggesting a new methodology, mapping connections across fields to introduce different perspectives, articulating a subjective point of view and exploring the performative potentials of knowledge. Since we all work under precarious conditions in the cultural field and are highly dependent on institutional agendas, self-reflexivity on the conditions of production is expected to be inherent in the discussion.

We decided to present the results of the chosen project with a publication that will be produced six months after the completion of the project to emphasize the open-ended research process and to disseminate the discursive aspects of the undertaking.

The jury consisted of Hito Steyerl, Anton Vidokle, Pauline J. Yao and myself. It was crucial that the decision was made by a group of practitioners, who are invested in pushing the boundaries of what can be considered art with their multi-layered production and what art’s political potential can be in interpreting, as well as impacting our contemporary condition.

We received more than 400 applications from all over the world. The grant has been awarded by the unanimous decision of the jury to Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti for their project titled “The International Exhibition in Solidarity with Palestine”. The jury also decided to make an honorary mention of the projects proposed by Beatrice Catanzaro, Burak Delier, Four Faces of Omarska, Labaorotorio 060, Önder Özengi, Erich Pick, Orit Ben Shitrit, Hong-An Truong, Erc van Hove and Amir Yatziv.

We will be working towards the project outlined below with Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti, which will culminate in an exhibition to be opened in Museu D’art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) at the beginning of 2013, where the publication will be co-produced and launched with the museum. Later in 2013, the exhibition will travel to Istanbul. Another aim of the grant is curating a workshop and discussion series from the proposals that were submitted to build up a network of practitioners, who explore “the creative practices of knowledge” with Irit Rogoff’s term.

The International Exhibition in Solidarity with Palestine

Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti

The International Art Exhibition in Solidarity with Palestine was inaugurated on March 21st, 1978, in Beirut and open to the public until April 5th of that year. In addition, a two-month long workshop for local emerging artists was organized alongside it with some of the international artists invited to Beirut. Organized by the Unified Information Office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the show included approximately 200 works by 197 international artists from approximately 29 countries. The initiative was inspired from the Salvador Allende Resistance Museum in Exile, undertaken by Chilean artists in Paris in 1973 after the Pinochet coup. The works were donated with the aim of constituting a seed collection for a museum of international modern art in solidarity with Palestine, in exile.

In comparison with large-scale exhibitions and biennials organized by neighboring Arab states, the International Art Exhibition in Solidarity with Palestine was remarkable in scale, scope and international outreach. The fact that it took place in Beirut, in the midst of the civil war, makes it furthermore hard to imagine how it could have been executed. For Palestinians, it represented a stupendous feat, the recognition of world-acclaimed artists of the righteousness of their revolution. It also marks a crystallization of the mobilization of the solidarity network of the international revolutionary left. The works were housed in a building used by the PLO, in 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Beirut, it was bombed to rubble. The institutional archival traces of the exhibition were destroyed.

The research project will reconstitute the story of the exhibition, pieced from unearthing documents from archives of artists and participants as well as recorded testimony. It seeks to explore the network of solidarity the international, anti-imperialist left, as well as articulations of political engagements in the 1960s and 1970s. The project will ultimately take form as a staging of the exhibition in documents and other materials, as well as a publication that will map and reflect critically on the intricacies of the investigation and the process of research.