June 3, 2012 - Human Activities - Opening Seminar
June 3, 2012

Opening Seminar

Institute for Human Activities, 2012.

Institute for Human Activities announces its Opening Seminar
11–12 June 2012

800 km upstream the river Congo
D.R. of Congo

Presentation and Screening of the Opening Seminar
30 June 2012, 10pm
7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
KW Institute for Contemporary Art
Auguststrasse 69
10117 Berlin, Germany


On 11 and 12 June, the Institute for Human Activities inaugurates its Gentrification Program with a two-day opening seminar on its specially built Settlement in Congo.

A Gentrification Program
If one feels that a critical position is only possible if art fully embraces the terms and conditions of its own existence, it may be good to inquire where art has a bigger impact on social reality. Is it at the sites where critical artistic interventions are staged or at the sites of art’s public reception, in galleries, museums, and at biennials where these pieces are subsequently shown, discussed, and sold?

On the one hand, cities like Berlin and Istanbul have become important centers for the presentation of critical, interventionist art. However, local politicians or businessmen do not finance important biennials because they hope this will radicalize local politics, but because they know art will make their cities stronger in the battle for attention, for high-net individuals, and for capital investment. On the other hand, at the locus of artistic interventions in, say, Congo, Peru, or the Parisian banlieues, art may very well have a real impact, but one which often remains confined to the symbolic level. Such interventions rarely produce the material results achieved at the centers of reception.

In the transfer of critical art from a zone of intervention to a zone of reception, a gap seems to arise. This gap seems to be very similar to the division between labor and profit in other globalized industries. Art may expose the need for change in Nigeria or Peru, but in the end it brings opportunity, beauty, and real estate value to Berlin-Mitte, or Chelsea and the Lower East Side in New York.

The accumulation of capital, privilege, and prestige—at the sites of reception, that is—may well be art’s prime intervention in social reality. It certainly is the one that is most speculated upon. We may lament this and feel this observation undermines art’s integrity and critical mandate. However, it may be more fruitful for art to forge a new, more radical criticality based on this awareness

In the coming five years, the Institute for Human Activities turns art’s potential for gentrification into a critical, progressive, and interventionist tool. Eight hundred kilometers upstream from Kinshasa on the river Congo, on a specially created Settlement in the proximity of a former Unilever plantation, the Institute for Human Activities mobilizes the modalities of art production and launches a five-year Gentrification Program.

Opening Seminar
The Opening Seminar is the first step in the Institute’s endeavor to establish a study site where a radical acceptance of the terms and conditions of the production of art and critique do not undermine them, but feeds their articulation.

On 11 June, Mumbanza mwa Bawele of the University of Kinshasa and activist Réné Ngongo talk about the appropriation of land and the alteration of the notion of ownership and labor since the 1960s. As the Gentrification Program aims to place art’s “most speculated upon side effect”—its tendency to accumulate capital—at the center of its strategies, Richard Florida appears by satellite connection and presents a talk elaborating on the concept of the “creative class” and the ways to stimulate economic growth in this setting. Anthropologist Katrien Pype and artist Botalatala talk about mimesis, agency, and power in Kinshasa’s artistic circuit.

On 12 June, Eyal Weizman, TJ Demos, Marcus Steinweg, and Nina Möntmann position the Gentrification Program in larger debates in the art world today. They discuss with what strategies art can meaningfully deal with its complicity with the regimes it critiques; how current discussions on the post-Fordist condition of the service economy may evolve, if material labor and the precarious conditions of large shares of the world’s population is included; new variants of institutional critique; the possibility for art to make valid universalist claims, or whether this ideal should be abandoned altogether; and on the stakes in this Gentrification Program. Elke Van Campenhout moderates this debate.

With this seminar, the parameters of the Gentrification Program will be mapped out. The opening seminar equally kicks off the gentrification process altogether. After the seminar, a reception is organized, which is open to all.

On June 30, 2012 a screening of the seminar is presented within the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, where it functions as the closing event – the last day to visit the Berlin Biennale will be July 1, 2012. The Berlin Biennale is organized by KW Institute for Contemporary Art (www.kw-berlin.de).

Institutional partners
VPRO (Hilversum), Lichtpunt (Brussels), Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven), 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, (Berlin), Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), KVS (Brussels), Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunsten (Amsterdam), Mondriaan Foundation (Amsterdam), KASK/ University College Ghent (Ghent)

Corporate partners
Feronia Inc. (Kinshasa), Bralima, (Kinshasa)



Institute for Human Activities announces its Opening Seminar
Human Activities
Share - Opening Seminar
  • Share
Click to subscribe to e-flux and be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements
Subscribe to e-flux
Be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements.
Subscribe to architecture
Explore the most recent content from e-flux architecture and urbanism
Subscribe to e-flux programs
Keep up-to-date on all upcoming talks, screenings, and exhibitions at e-flux in New York