The PLURIVERSALE of the Academy of the Arts of the World is a curated, handpicked constellation of events ranging across different cultural disciplines and different regions and weaving a complex, quasi-literary narrative. As always, the Academy’s main challenge and nerve is to highlight and reflect on the encompassing dialectical relationship between unavoidable planetary conditions and the concreteness of the city of Cologne.
Cologne is singularly typical of “the West,” and the processes and forces that affect it are by no means unique. All over the world, there are powerful tides of economic migration, refugees fleeing wars, the ghosts of the colonial past and the erasure of a patronizing, self-delusive “whiteness.” For over a year now, a war crisis of global dimensions that brought thousands of refugees to Europe has stood at the center of public attention. The mass media tend to tell the story of flight and “integration”: the whole world wants to come “here,” where there is peace, affluence and freedom, while violence, poverty and repression are elsewhere, on the other side of the screen. A welcoming attitude is no guarantee against implicit racism; sometimes it is just neocolonial privilege and economic interest disguised as compassion.
Clearly, matters today are not as simple as the difference between front line and hinterland or dangerous periphery and safe metropolis. Rather, what is at stake is a new structural violence, maintained even once all physical obstacles are overcome. If refugees succeed in fleeing threats to their lives, crossing Fortress Europe’s militarized borders, they encounter new forms of exclusion and coercion—some overt, other more insidious and subtle. New socio-ethnic divisions emerge, until the growing difference between genteel center and impoverished banlieues is reminiscent of the compartmentalization that Frantz Fanon described in his classic account of the colonial city. The same structural violence he describes survives today. With migration, new colonial relations emerge at the heart of the metropolis, while the modernization of cities on the periphery and semi-periphery of global capitalism duplicates the gentrification processes familiar from a city like Cologne. The pressures of forcible integration are manifold, the possibilities for cultural loss endless. The gulf between the West and the rest appears in surprising new combinations and is always present, wherever one flees.
With its cosmopolitan reach and its critical potential, contemporary culture seems well-equipped to reflect upon the complexities of the world as it is today. But contemporary culture often continues to mirror global divisions of labor: just as refugees are victims of the European gaze, non-European artists are native informants, exotic others. Beyond victimhood, however, there is fortitude and humor, and the experience of migration—however forcible—is still often as generative as it is traumatic. Art—understood in the broadest sense—can play a crucial empowering role. It can compile its own counter-archives of conflicted spaces, performing their contradictions in the harshest form or playing out liberating counter-realities. That is something one sees very clearly in a dense program of events, in which artists, filmmakers, musicians, theoreticians and writers respond to the realities of crisis and coercion.
Find the full programme here
PLURIVERSALE V is curated by Ekaterina Degot, David Riff, Aneta Rostkowska and the whole team of the Academy of the Arts of the World.
Participants: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Bachtyar Ali, Arjun Appadurai, Birgit Auf der Lauer & Caspar Pauli, Rochus Aust, Uriel Barthélémi, Christian von Borries, Boris Buden, Felipe Castelblanco & Borderless TV, Lucy Cotter, Neil Cummings, Madhusree Dutta, Flamingods, Gintersdorfer/Klaßen, Louis Henderson, Guy Helminger, Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz, Christian Höller, Sam Hopkins & John Kamicha, Mona Kakanj, Felix Klopotek, Julia Lippoldt, Mazzaj Rap Band, Aernout Mik, Avi Mograbi, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Refugee TV, Tamer El Said, Sandra Schäfer, Sina Seifee, Namwali Serpell, Reut Shemesh, Sonic Shadow aka Satch Hoyt, Mareike Theile & Dominik Müller, Sinthujan Varatharajah, Videonale Lagos, Dorothee Wenner, Katarina Zdjelar, Želimir Žilnik
Academy of the Arts of the World, Cologne