12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art

Messy Glossary




Proposed by Arootin Mirzakhani 

Undoing completed acts of violence – prefix:de+actofviolence:colonialism – makes sense from a linguistic_historical perspective, though semantically it is too fast. What if prefix&stem are only capable of archiving meaning. How do our legal systems, funding- mechanisms and economical structures regulate and support progressivity. How is the institution:art and its administration an extension of these regulations through curatorial and mediating labour. How are art institutions able to talk about an undoing of acts of violence, when they are themselves drenched in power_violence they are blind to. Is decolonialism not a continuation of linear logic of hegemonic structures, when speaking about de_colonialism does not influence them structurally. What if an asking for and a finding of new vocabulary isn’t expedient. What if we don’t need intellectual discursive spaces anymore. Ways of doing that are able to re_act on violence. Ways of speaking that rely on im_material relations, responsibility and integrity. Ways of listening that already negotiate one’s ego and feelings. Ways of looking where our gaze penetrates public and private barriers. Ways of smelling, where scent and memory archive places. Ways of tasting, where soil_air_water are intrinsic to local societies. We need action-oriented practices that think differently through making.

Proposed by Léopold Lambert

Given how the verb “decolonizing” has been co-opted to mean liberal reform of colonial institutions (“decolonizing museums,” “decolonizing universities”… soon enough, we’ll get to “decolonize the police!”), it is crucial for us to remember Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s seminal essay: Decolonization is not a metaphor […] When we use the term “decolonial,” we therefore refer to the project of reclaiming Indigenous sovereignty on the lands that colonizers stole, and on which it imposed various regimes of extractivism as well as individualized and speculative property. This decolonial project is almost never a project of reestablishing precolonial conditions of the land, just like an ecosystem never “goes back” to its “original” state after being subjected to toxicity. Instead, it adapts to its present conditions and builds on it, as long as the sources of toxins have been dismantled. However, this necessity to build on the ruins of colonialism should be read within the vast temporal scale of Indigenous caretaking and kinship practices with the land, as well as the millions of years of ecosystem existence. In light of this, the two to five centuries of European colonialism might start to appear as a small parenthesis that should not constitute the alpha and omega of the land and its living beings’ identity. Hopefully, such an affirmation can be read as a promise of decolonial futures rather than as a minimization of colonial violence.

Excerpt from: Léopold Lambert, “Decolonial Ecologies: Introduction,” The Funambulist, May 1, 2021