Unmaster class: Committees of decolonization

Monday, October 26, 2015, 10am-9pm

Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 10am-6pm

Unmaster class: Committees of decolonization

Conceived by Farid Rakun (ruangrupa, Jakarta) with Nabil Ahmed (London) and Doreen Mende (Berlin/Geneva)

HEAD, Boulevard Helvétique 9, 1205 Geneva, seminar room CCC, salle 27, 2nd floor

The two-days Unmaster Class: Committees of Decolonization proposes an experimental setting to imagine a weakening United Nations in the context of contemporary independence struggles. How can we critically think the UN as a functioning intergovernmental organization in the light of ongoing independence processes in so-called ‘non-self-governing territories’ that are subject to decolonizing processes of the present? How is it possible to think of a vocabulary to ‘unmaster’ the United Nation’s definition of sovereignty by using trans-disciplinary processes to analyse globally networked environmental-material histories. How can we research the entanglement of geographies, commodities and technologies? How is it possible for a group of students that gather in Geneva in an art academy to learn to understand the entanglement between ‘non-self-governing territories’ and Switzerland (Geneva in particular) as a set of global infrastructures? Which ‘non-self-governing territories’ exist inside of Europe? Which relations do our everyday lives have to ‘non-self-governing territories’ in the world?

The two-days are conceived as a social work-gathering through the practice of ruangrupa, a collective of artists, historians, and designers that is based in Jakarta, Indonesia and that curates exhibitions, concerts, and festivals as events in which people gather and discuss their discontents. ruangrupa invited Nabil Ahmed, artist and researcher, who has been exploring environmental self-determination in the militarized territory of West Papua for several years. His work in West Papua takes the form of collaboration with remote sensing experts, NGOs, activists, architecture students, and contemporary art spaces as part of his long-term research initiative, Earth Sensing Association, an association for the dissemination of knowledge at the intersection of ecology, conflict, and cultural production. For the work session, ruangrupa furthermore collaborates with Doreen Mende, curator and theorist and responsible for the CCC-program at HEAD in Geneva, with focus on curatorial questions in geospatial constellations and techno-politics, often departing from anticolonial and socialist internationalisms for the contemporary condition.

N.B. The Unmaster Class takes place in the context of POOL.CH that offers a seminar, a module or a work session once per term as an exchange project to students of master programs of the seven art academies in Switzerland. It is an insert into Thinking Under Turbulence Geneva Colloquium. www.master-platform.ch



Lecture: Nabil Ahmed ‘The Question of West Papua’
Largely ineffective during Cold War geopolitics of the 1960s, the United Nations was complicit in turning West Papua into both a disputed ‘non-self governing territory’ and ‘resource frontier’ through its support of the territorial claims of the Indonesian state to plunder its minerals. Industrial mining has resulted in a durational, ‘out of sight’ environmental disaster in West Papua. A history of violent military occupation can thus be traced along the spatial transformation of Papuan landscapes. Given that Papuans have had little control of their political future and natural resources, the lecture will address the challenges of evidencing and articulating contemporary environmental self-determination from multiple perspectives. Tracing crucial historical moments, difficult definitions, and competing accounts of the prolonged conflict offers a critical view of the decolonization process and the making of resource frontiers that transcend national boundaries. As such the West Papua ‘case study’ acts as a way to assemble a critique of the United Nations as a functioning intergovernmental organization in global politics.

Work session: Non-self Governing Territories (Part 1)
The work session will discuss specific terms and proposals from Nabil’s lecture as a preparation for the participants to work in groups. Each group will choose a ‘non-self-governing territory’ such as West Papua or Aceh or Maluku on the UN’s list of the Special Committee on Decolonization. Other disputed territories or peoples can be selected in discussion with tutors. Each group will begin to map the selected places, create an archive of possible environmental materials, define more precisely the outline of the different case studies, collect factual elements for discussing a ‘non-self-governing territory,’ and begin to develop a vocabulary to formulate in which ways the environmental histories of the specific places allow us to speak about global politics through its networked materialities. The work session is an exercise to rehearse an environmental-historical methodology of the longue durée (the preference of long-term historical structures over events) as a working protocol, to map specific disputes and their multiple causalities situated around specific colonial histories, flows of capital and the role of the UN.

Day One will end with a ruangrupa evening that introduce ruangrupa’s Pleasure Principle, the Artlab division exhibition in Sydney in 2013, and the Arts Schoolaboratory by a screening of short videos.



Work session: Non-self Governing Territories (Part 2)
After debriefing the previous day, Committees of Decolonization will discuss how the selected non-self-governing territories matter to the participants in their personal day-to-day lives. The work session will be activated by ruangrupa’s methodology to build concepts for processing the specific and short-time research through minor narratives. The challenge is that one group needs to explain its approach to the other groups in order to enact the beginning of a research process on a ‘non-self-governing territory.’ Preferably non-conventional methods and materials—such as a pack of Sampoerna cigarettes rather than Powerpoint—will be used to explain the existing relations between the international tobacco industry with Maluku in Indonesia. Day Two will be framed by ruangrupa’s curatorial approach for Sonsbeek 2016 in Arnhem/Netherlands. Sonsbeek is an International Sculpture Exhibition in the Sonsbeek Park itself and the city of Arnhem. At first it was meant as a biennale, soon after as a triennial, but since 1958 the interval became irregular. Departing from the perspective of ruangrupa’s act of importing their Jakartan sensibilities by opening a ‘branch’ in Arnhem, the work session implicitly addresses a possible practice for the question how to negotiate the conflicting movements between the translocal and cultural export in contemporary international art circuits.

Committees of Decolonization aims to construct a momentary space in an art academy to debate the trans-localities of global infrastructures through the concept of ‘non-self-governing territory’. By drawing upon means of research architecture and theory as practice, the session develops modes of historical process as it is entangled with the city as a global infrastructure, geospatial speculations, environmental-historical methodologies, being in conversation, making friends, and having a critically good time.

The language of the session is mainly English.

Reading material will be distributed before the beginning of the two-days Unmaster Class.
Minimal research preparation for Committees of Decolonization is useful.

The number of participants is limited to 25 maximum. On a first-come first-served basis: Please send a short paragraph for introducing your interest in Committees of Decolonization until October 22, 2015 to cecile.boss@hesge.ch