Ongoing - Maastricht - Netherlands

Àngels Miralda

Reading time: 5 minutes



Slow Urgencies – The Third Annual Urgency Intensive at Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht

Ángels Miralda guides us through the annual Urgency Intensive event at the Jan van Eyck Academie, with a pivotal question: Do artists have the skills, ambition, and potential to imagine future worlds where the values of a commons and care can be used on a wounded planet to help others outside of the gallery and academic context?

The third annual Urgency Intensive took place on September 22, 23, and 24, 2022 at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht and is now available online. The three-day event curated by Bruno Alves de Almeida is anchored in speculative science fiction. The event’s title IPACC (Intergovernmental Panel on Art and Climate Change) echoes the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), to imagine the role art could have should artists be involved in tracing climate change. The invited guests are grouped under the fictional “Working Group IV” which mimics organizational tactics of scientific committees. Culture is offered as a counterpoint in which narrative-building can provoke new thought models. Although the program seeks to discuss “pressing topics” a trend this year became the critique of urgency. With an imaginative and powerful choir of voices, the curator has compiled a refreshingly self-critical argumentation.

The opening keynote lecture is by post-humanist philosopher Bayo Akomolafe. Through unexpected twists and turns, the personal is intermeshed with the historical and political to create an expansive bricolage of experiences to denounce the futility of data. For centuries policy-makers confronted with raw evidence have consistently failed to implement change. They have abstracted sense from the world —while claiming that sense was newly implemented— such as in the categorization of mental illness on those defined as “different” (other). More of the same colonial categorization continues to encourage mass catastrophism. Akomolafe speaks with courage, looking towards a new world and accepting the validity of other ways of thought. He asks the world for bravery to get lost off our beaten path in order to expand our possibilities. In the spirit of the word “postactivism” the talk is far from a call to environmental action, but one towards new limits of self-reflection and openness.

Another strain was opened up by Jan van Eyck resident Daniel Godínez Nivón with The Oneiric Assembly. Based on a performance featured in a previous Urgency Intensive, it opens with a reading of dreams by participants of the academy in their own languages. Sometimes these strike at the heart of memories when these languages come from our homes, and sometimes they lay themselves down unintelligibly but communicating another intimate understanding of the world on ears that must open generously to new cadences. Collective dreaming is used in order to open the mind to a world that we tend to forget.

Based in Mexico City, Godínez Nivón relates to dreams through the traditions of the Zapotec in Oaxaca. People from indigenous communities know that they will become healers because it comes to them through dreams. These entities of the subconscious are considered learning mechanisms and modes of communication. Over the course of nine months in the Jan van Eyck, a group of artists performed collective dreaming. In those dreams they saw ants that slowly shaped the earth, ravens staring from their parents’ home, the aroma of the sea, strong wind, mother’s voices telling secrets, and volcanoes melting everything that exists. From this end of the world the dream always produces a new one.

Godínez Nivón appeals to the use of this abundant creativity and world-forming that exists in our nocturnal minds and against exigencies that paralyze us. Urgency is the death-throe of an old world dying and refusing to let the birth of new worlds occur. The only solution being offered to us is one of “Green Capitalism” which is no alternative. In order for new worlds to be born, Godínez Nivón summons to the song of birds that stop the gods from destroying the world and open the chapter of a new sunrise.

New worlds surround us from every direction —some discourses from the “North” also come as alternatives, excluded enclaves of ancestral knowledge persist deep within the geographical north. Contributions from Sophie J. Williamson and Pauliina Feodoroff join in from the Siberian tundra and the Sámi lands of the arctic respectively. Williamson spent time near thermokarst lakes on a project that was abruptly interrupted —cutting off these already-isolated areas of the globe. It is there, in the permafrost where perilous reserves of methane gas lie waiting to erupt. Meanwhile, Feodoroff is one of the artists currently exhibiting in the Scandinavian Sámi pavilion in this year’s Venice Biennale. With this project, she makes links between global art events and climate justice. Poignantly, Feodoroff’s own community was forced off of their land in Northern Russia and confined to territories today in Finland, adding to the continued silence of these cut-off lands.

Performances, dance, and music interspersed the lecture formats. An opening by Yasmine Attoumane, Amauta García, and David Camargo opened and closed the first evening while music and poetry by Himali Singh Soin & David Soin Tappeiser punctuated the second day. These inclusions are an important curatorial gesture that breaks the stiffness of data into various sensibilities and transfers of knowledge. Tradition here is not only the unquestioned academic and scientific format but also that of art described in an anecdote by artists and climate activists Selçuk Balamir and Teresa Borasino: with the collective Fossil Free Culture they managed to rid the entire museumplein in Amsterdam from petro-funding –but not using traditional forms of art.

The Urgency Intensive closed with the invitation of scientists from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency Detlef van Vuuren and Ph.D. candidate Lisette van Beek who collaborated with artists over the course of six months. Adding a counter-point to previous interventions, they bring us back to the reality that we all know and explain the process of speculative storytelling at the root of data analysis and graph-making. Politics and policy then becomes the arena where these tools fail to penetrate. Two experts from IPCC close the event —the strength of the Urgency Intensive is best seen here, in how Dr. Thelma Krug recognizes that the organization has shifted its composition and communication practices. Krug also joined in previous editions and this is where coming together serves as a real provocation for the IPCC to listen and learn from artistic narratives in the ongoing work that these scientists provide for the world.

The future will arrive no matter what. Whether we will be emotionally, mentally, and physically prepared for it is of no concern for data. Do artists have the skills, ambition, and potential to imagine future worlds where the values of a commons and care can be used on a wounded planet to help others outside of the gallery and academic context? The Urgency Intensive at the very least, serves as a testing ground.


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