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Conceived by Florencia Portocarrero, curator in residence of the program Curating Connections organized by KfW Stiftung and DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program

Sharon Lerner, curator at Museo de Arte de Lima – MALI, Lima
Manuela Moscoso, senior curator at Museo Tamayo, Mexico City
Louidgi Beltrame, artist, Paris
María Iñigo Clavo, researcher and lecturer at Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona

Introduction and moderation: Florencia Portocarrero, researcher, writer, and curator, Lima

“The struggle for global social justice must be a struggle for global cognitive justice as well. In order to succeed, this struggle requires a new kind of thinking, a post-abyssal thinking.”
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Beyond Abyssal Thinking: From Global Lines to Ecologies, 2007

This symposium takes as a point of departure Boaventura De Sousa Santos’s assertion that coloniality has an epistemological layer that continues to be a blind spot and operates through “abyssal thinking.” Abyssal thinking is characterized by a mono-cultural worldview that elevates modern science and Western art into unique criteria of truth and aesthetic quality, while suppressing non-scientific forms of knowledge and, at the same time, the subaltern social groups whose social practices were informed by such knowledge. In the case of the indigenous people of Latin America, De Sousa Santos continues, this form of epistemicide was the other side of genocide during colonial times.
In the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, after the independence wars, Latin American newly formed nation-states promoted mestizaje—the merge of races and cultures—as a strategy for finally overcoming colonialism. However, the truth is that the apparent end of political and economic dependence and even the success of mestizaje did not mean that colonialism stopped functioning as a form of social relationship, and therefore, as a persistent and insidious force capable of shaping subjectivities. Quite the opposite, the process of absorbing indigenous people into the modern and homogenized nation states implied the transformation of the diversity of their cultures, cosmologies, and knowledge to the expression of an archaic form of irrationality or superstition that hindered modernization and national unity. The future, it seemed, belonged to the West and its distinctive notion of progress and civilization. Today, after years of neglect, the crisis of modern values and global ecological disaster have given rise to a renewed interest in indigenous knowledge as a tool for both questioning Western thought and imagining a post-capitalistic future.

For the symposium curators Manuela Moscoso and Sharon Lerner, artist Louidgi Beltrame and theorist María Iñigo Clavo will take Latin America as a point of departure for reflecting on global concerns such as the types of dialogues and relationships that are possible between different types of knowledge within the contemporary art world. By sharing their practices and work methodologies they will deliberate over how to challenge pre-existing epistemic institutions and hierarchies and offer possible “entanglement models” for curatorial, artistic, and theoretical practice from which to avoid the trap of “abyssal thinking.”

Florencia Portocarrero is a researcher, writer, and curator based in Lima. She received her BA in clinical psychology at the Catholic University of Peru, where she also earned an MA in psychoanalytical theory. From 2012–13 she participated in the De Appel Curatorial Program in Amsterdam and in 2015 completed an MA in contemporary art theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. Portocarrero’s writings on art and culture regularly appear in contemporary art magazines such as Atlántica Journal, Artishock, and Terremoto. In Lima she works as a public program curator at Proyecto AMIL, and is a co-founder of Bisagra, one of the few independent art spaces in the city. She recently edited Videos From This Woman: Performance Documentation 1997–2010, a monograph on the work of the artist Elena Tejada-Herrera.

The program Curators in Residence: Curating Connections is an initiative of the foundation KfW Stiftung and the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program. It seeks to stimulate intercultural dialogue by providing one emerging curator per year from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia with the opportunity to spend six months in Berlin. Besides encouraging high-level networking, research and critical reflection, the program facilitates interdisciplinary encounters between the guests of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program and the Berlin cultural scene. Previous grant holders include Zasha Colah, Dana Whabira, and Mustafa Hussain Shabbir; the upcoming grant holder is Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh.

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