Over the course of the next three years, the program of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst—a discursive space of interlocution between art, knowledge, and advocacy—unfolds through a project titled Future Vocabularies. As a multifaceted series, the project is organized as a succession of inquiry-fueled platforms of collaborative research, exhibitions, curricula of learning, conferences, and publications. The programs are codeveloped with research fellows—artists, scholars, and activists—who accompany us in exploring some of today’s key urgencies, as well as the possibility of—and the new evolving tasks and accountabilities for—a theoretically informed and politically driven art institution in the face of the radically changing structure of power relations within the global condition of the present.
Initiated in 2014 with an opening vocabulary entry on survival, the opening sequence of Future Vocabularies attempts to articulate, with and through art, a set of propositions around some of the most pressing concerns at the present moment, including questions of the endurability of the planet, the future of migration, and shifting institutional infrastructure. The inaugural term brings together a number of artists and theorists from several of BAK’s key past and ongoing projects, including, among others, Boris Buden, Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann, Adrian Melis, Aernout Mik, Simon Sheikh, Jonas Staal, and Elke Uitenthuis and Savannah Koolen together with members of the refugee collective We Are Here Yoonis Osman Nuur and Thomas Philip Guya. In addition to a series of exhibitions, a number of publications contribute to this discourse (such as the online series BAK Notes and the forthcoming Insurgent Publics: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, edited by Maria Hlavajova and Ranjit Hoskote), as well as the continuous educational platform BAK Learning Place, brought to life for and with students from art academies and universities in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and beyond. Further, a series of gatherings and lectures under the title of Other Survivalisms (16–17 May 2014), curated by Boris Buden and Simon Sheikh as an edition of the public editorial meeting within BAK’s key research project FORMER WEST (2008–ongoing), seeks a possibility in instituting-in-common as a way of constructing meaningful trajectories out of the current impasse through art.
The opening exhibition, Aernout Mik: Cardboard Walls (shown at BAK from 2 March to 18 May; opening, 1 March) not only uncovers the ecological ramifications of the regime of the Anthropocene as it steers us towards the aftermath of the (un)natural nuclear disaster of 2011 in Fukushima, Japan, but also poignantly synthesizes the contemporary hour of systemic change in which society finds itself. Shifting seamlessly from daunting questions of the planet’s future to present-day disparities of power and politics, and exploring the subsequent pressures that the status as refugee from one’s very own “humankind” have placed on individuals, the work weaves together the various lineages of thought that we have marked for ourselves as critically important for rethinking, and outliving, survival.
The full Future Vocabularies/ Survival/ program can be found at www.bak-utrecht.nl.
Parts of the series are realized in collaboration with Centraal Museum, Utrecht.
The activities of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst have been made possible by financial support from the City Council of Utrecht and the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science of the Netherlands, as well as generous support from Stichting DOEN, Amsterdam.