Colonisation and Decolonisation strand

Thursday November 16, 10.00–18.00, at HDK, Stora Hörsalen.

Colonisation and Decolonisation addresses colonial and master paradigms in the
arts as well as institutional, communal and collective perspectives and looks to
strategies for a new arts and humanities that embraces epistemic and disciplinary
disobedience, non-capitalist, pluri-national institutions and modes of aesthetic

  • 10.30–11.00 Patricia Lorenzoni
    Painting the land back – National integration and art as resistance in the northern Brazilian Amazon
  • 11.00–11.30 Ahmed Ansari (Decolonising Design)
    Presentation via video link
  • 11.30–12.30 Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe)
    The Empire Remains Shop, including serving of cake
  • 12.30–14.00 LUNCH, served at Valand
  • 14.00–14.45 Leah Gordon
    Ghetto Biennale: Does it bleed? Film and presentation.
  • 16.00–17.00 Group discussion related to topics brought up during the day

The Colonisation and Decolonisation strand is chaired by Erling Björgvinsson, Temi Odumosu, and Mahmoud Keshavarz.


Painting the land back – National integration and art as resistance in the northern Brazilian Amazon

Patricia Lorenzoni

Macuxi land in the northern Amazon has historically been cut into pieces by first Portuguese, Spanish and British colonial projects, later the national settler colonial projects of Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana. The region’s most famous landmark is the plateau mountain Monte Roramia, which has also given name to the Brazilian state of Roraima and is located where Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana meet. From a colonial perspective a frontier zone, marking the uttermost peripheries of Brazil and frequently seen as in need of colonial settling and “development” so as to guarantee state presence. This process is commonly called “integration of the national territory”.

Monte Roraima is also the stump of the world tree and the dwelling place of Makunaima. The Macuxi are the children of Makunaima, and Roraima therefore the centre of the world. Through the double character of a region that is simultaneously periphery and centre, I explore how local artists defy nationalist rhetorics of integration. If one follows sociologist José de Souza Martin’s notion of the Frontier as constitutive for a Brazilian experience of the nation still in its making, Roramia can be understood as a space of an extended national birth moment. Through the ideology of inclusion through integration into aggressive raw capitalism, national sovereignty is to be guaranteed on the whole of the territory. People resisting this kinds of inclusion, in particular indigenous people such as the Macuxi, are perceived as threats.

Decolonising Design

Ahmed Ansari

My talk will be about delineating two different but related, challenges, and their corresponding projects, that I see at work in design work following a decolonial politics: a project of articulation, platform building and pedagogy, and a project of delinking, overcoming the colonial rupture, and deriving pluriversal alternatives.  I will outline the nature of both of these projects and the specific aims and practices that they direct themselves towards, and then give some indications of my own thoughts regarding how the second project can be undertaken through a process of building what I call the silsala of technics, or a geneatechnics, through the study of non-western ontologies.

The Empire Remains Shop

Cooking Sections (Pascual Fernández and Alon Schwabe)

Empire Shops were first developed in London in the 1920s to teach the British how to consume foodstuffs from the colonies and overseas territories. Although none of the stores ever opened, they intended to make foods such as sultanas from Australia, oranges from Palestine, cloves from Zanzibar, and rum from Jamaica available and familiar in the British Isles. The Empire Remains Shop, a public platform opened by London-based duo Cooking Sections in 2016, speculated on the possibility and implications of selling back the remains of the British Empire in London today.

Over its three months of duration, between Brexit vote and Trump’s election, it employed food as a tool to question current forms of power and dismantle geographies, origins, and exchanges across the present and future of our postcolonial planet.

After centuries of violent colonisation, land dispossession, and appropriation of natural and cultural resources, the world still favors political structures that promote neoliberal nationalism. The Empire Remains Shop traces the construction of landscapes, imaginaries, economies, desires and aesthetics derived from trading imperial foodstuffs in order to critically think of political counter-structures for a more equal hyper-globalised world.

This performative lecture will explore the idea of a counter-franchise agreement to open an Empire Remains Shop in different postcolonial contexts. The project reverses the invention of the ‘exotic’ and the ‘tropical’, digs into conflict geologies, speculates on the financialisation of ecosystems, embraces ‘unnatural’ behaviours, dismantles the ecological perception of ‘invasive’ and ‘native’, rejects ‘culturally neutral’ food aid, inhabits death in a neoliberal age, busts real estate bubbles, and repurposes offsetting and the offshore amongst other topics that investigate devaluation towards human prosperity. Expect drinks.

Ghetto Biennale: Does it bleed?

Leah Gordon

In December 2009, Atis Rezistans, the Sculptors of Grand Rue, hosted their first Ghetto Biennale. They invited fine artists, film-makers, academics, photographers, musicians, architects and writers to come to the Grand Rue area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to make or witness work that was made or happened in their neighbourhood. The Biennale aimed to be a “third space … an event or moment created through the collaboration between artists from radically different backgrounds”. The 2nd Biennale was held in December 2011. Yet while the Ghetto Biennale was conceived to expose social, racial, class and geographical immobility, it seemed to have upheld these class inertias within its structural core.

In this presentation, Leah Gordon, co-founder of the Ghetto Biennale, addresses the contradictions and challenges posed by the event, and how the 3rd & 4th Ghetto Biennales sought to confront them. Gordon attempts to interrogate concept of the Ghetto Biennale as institutional critique in comparison to its potential as a direct route to the institution, or even becoming the institution itself. She questions whether the event is a form of poverty tourism or an exit strategy from the ghetto. Gordon reflects on the effect of the 2010 earthquake and the ensuing NGO culture on cross-cultural relations in Haiti and asks whether the Ghetto Biennale can produce meaningful discussions about sameness and difference in an allegedly de-centred art world, and transcend different models of ghettoization?

Holding Space: a conversation an action a strategy

Teresa Cisneros and Karen Salt

Holding Space is one part of the year-long Object Positions project at the Showroom Gallery in London lead by curatorial fellow Teresa Cisneros. Holding Space is a programme of development for artists whose practice engages with ideas of colonial administration, cultural equity and or decolonial processes.

To ‘hold space’ is an act of caring, it means to be with, work with, work through and alongside others in a way that allows another to feel like they can just be, practice, exist as themselves rather than in relation to the expectations of others. A space to be honest, a space to think with others and be there for them. This discussion will take the notion of holding space as a starting point for a reconsideration of institutional /curatorial practice. Can an institution take a position of holding space as a mode of being or mode of practice? Can an institution ‘hold space’ for its artists, its audiences, its stakeholders? Could ‘holding space’ be seen as a curatorial or institutional procedure and if it could how would this affect our relationship to institutions?

To the top of page