A decade ago, the Sommerakademie im Zentrum Paul Klee introduced a landmark educational template that is now being reinvented by the reestablished Sommerakademie Paul Klee (SPK), beginning in August 2017.
The new Sommerakademie Paul Klee, under artistic director Tirdad Zolghadr, is a fully funded program offering artists a departure from business as usual, without becoming an exhausting interruption in its own right. It caters to practitioners working at a postgraduate level, whether or not they have an official certificate saying so. Professional experience and intellectual appetite are the main requirements.
Over two summer sessions eight residents are granted access to the university’s outstanding infrastructure and technical support. Although based on the idea of an academy, the aim is to transcend the blueprint of seminars and tutorials, and to focus on group research and cross-professional coalition building. Back in the 2000s, there were few examples of summer retreats as proposed by the Zentrum Paul Klee. Our new program builds on this pioneering idea, while proposing a more complex blend of theory and practice, discourse and production. With its atypical timeline and exceptional infrastructure, the SPK combines collective inquiry with the perks of production-oriented residencies. The SPK is a fully funded program, covering room, travel and visa expenses. This in close partnership with international art institutions such as KW Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin.
Both in terms of a concrete curatorial theme and a fundamental working premise, the SPK seeks to account for the consequences of Contemporary Art. It traces the impact artists effectively have on the world around them, and works towards possibilities of reclaiming and steering that leverage. As such, it asks how the traction of Contemporary Art, as is, can be used to maximum effect, here and now.
“Is the new type of work that feminist and queer feminist curating performs today, and which I conceive of to be co-dependent much rather than independent, crucial to an ongoing process of transformation from contemporary art into a not-yet-named art?”
(Elke Krasny, Curatorial Materialism. A Feminist Perspective on Independent and Co-Dependent Curating, 2016).
“Position voice mundo” are the words written by Chicana feminist author Gloria Anzaldúa to define a way-of-being in a world in turmoil: determine your position, make your voice heard, understand and shape the world.
We are all aware of being in a period of transition, an in-between (“Nepantla”, in Anzaldua's Nahua vocabulary). Before the pandemic, it was already a world hard to take, with the massive rise of patriarchal authoritarian figures (Trump, Orban, Duterte ...), the refusal to acknowledge the urgency of climate change, the erosion of democracy and equality. In the face of this, there was only a true transnational movement able to confront, resist, and move forward: feminism, the women's march, “the squad” in US congress, the ecofeminism movement, #niunamenos, #metoo, and very importantly, Third-world feminism, a terminology vindicated by a young, combative new generation of women.
All these different feminist agents have demanded a feminization of politics. But what do we mean by “feminization of politics” (understanding politics as the art of living together)? We mean by that to interact with the world not as extractive predators, but as free citizens aware of the limits of a planet and the need to take sides with life.
How have feminisms come to occupy the political space of necessary and fundamental change? By understanding that the liberation of women can only happen with a total change of paradigm, a complete subversion of values, opening to an inclusive way of being in the world, leaving no one behind.
The feminization of politics means, in the area of government and urbanism, municipalism, decentralization, interdependence. In the area of literature and the arts, feminization means to boldly question seemingly “eternal” notions of quality and the canon, and to raise awareness of the possibility of different art circuits that do not reproduce privilege. It also means to subvert the notions of center and periphery, insiders and outsiders, market value and symbolic value.
SPK 2021/22 will take place in Bern, national capital of Switzerland, the most extensive model of direct democracy currently available. Switzerland is also the last European jurisdiction to grant women the right to vote, in the Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, in 1991. Same-sex marriage, full joint adoption and IVF access remain unavailable in Switzerland for the LGBTI community as of 2020. Switzerland is ranked 20th by the World Economic Forum as to gender equality. Abortion was only legalized by popular vote in 2002.
“‘But what do they want?’ was the question since the first Feminist Conference in June 2018, held in Lausanne, and its call for a Women’s / Feminist strike to be held a year later. On 14 June 2019, exactly 28 years after the first-ever women’s strike in Switzerland, more than half a million women and supportive men took part in mobilizations all over the country.” (t.ly/njCJ)
The SPK program will seek continuity with the preceding editions, emphasizing education as a powerful political tool. It will as well rethink such educational processes, with an emphasis on materialist situations of art production.
Demonstrations during International Women's Day, 8 March 2019, Ciudad de México. Image by Esthel Vogrig