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Stories from our Programme

Interrupted but not derailed: Sommerakademie Paul Klee 2019/20 as digital publication

Sommerakademie Paul Klee


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Dorothee Kreutzfeldt

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In August of 2019, the nine international residents selected by the jury to take part in the Sommerakademie Paul Klee (SPK) gathered in Bern for their first summer session of the 16-month programme. This included Johannesburg-based artist and educator Dorothee Kreutzfeldt whose participation was supported by our office. Under the artistic direction of writer and curator Tirdad Zolghadr, the 2019/20 edition focused on Statecraft: Better Governance Within, Via, and in Spite of Contemporary Art. Sadly however, this would be the group’s only in-person gathering. The impact of the global pandemic and  travel restrictions in 2020 forced the SPK organisers and residents to radically rethink and reshape the remainder of the programme.

A year after their first meeting in Bern, the residents engaged in an online remote viewing experiment, testing the potentials of online formats which are bound to play a growing role in the way we work and engage with one another in the near future. Taking up to 15 minutes each – either live on location, or by way of recent footage – residents addressed a physical space within their immediate material surroundings that resonated with the ongoing discussion of the programme: What role do national boundaries still play? How do international debt economies and new legal instruments define the rapport between Contemporary Art and statecraft more recently? How can one create the conditions of production that might make a sustained discussion possible – across space as well as time? From divestment to institution building to propaganda: Which strategic means have been successfully deployed by artists and curators, and which ones continue to make strategic, aesthetic and political sense today?

It was decided to develop the residency as a digital publication. This website assembles new material from the nine residents, all of them contributing from afar. By way of introduction, Tirdad Zolghadr writes: “So how does this website make a virtue out of necessity: for one, it further explores the online formats which are bound to play a growing role in the way we’ll engage with one another in the near future, and beyond. For another, it revisits really-existing space, it accounts for material surroundings, wherever the residents happen to be stranded right now, in the wake of the pandemic. When your common ground gives way, you can still try to shore up the ground your collaborators have been standing on, individually, all along. In the best of cases, new common denominators will emerge in the process.”

The website includes new material from Dorothee and the other residents and brings together the different artistic positions in a common – albeit virtual – location. The thematic engagement among SPK residents ranges from civic movements fighting for grassroots traction in South Africa, to resistance and governance within indigenous territories in Colombia. Others trace the imprint of financialization in the
lives of remote gig platform workers between India and USA, in the entanglements between private companies and economic policies in Switzerland, or in those between creative labour and the strategic interests of Contemporary Art sponsors. Other, reflexive contributions explore conditions of production within Contemporary Art, such as a manual on how to (re-)negotiate working conditions within the field, or in an illustrated guide for cultural practitioners traveling to Palestine. Meanwhile, a speculative, satirical short story reflects on the impact of Contemporary Art on the commodification of cities.

The House, by Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Simon Gush and Andrei van Wyk
January 2021

Applications for Sommerakademie Paul Klee 2021/22 are open until 5 May 2021. Find out more. 

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