Summit Two, 2024

Chthonic Realism: Summoning Ghosts and Monsters

Reality is Chthonic in the sense that it is not entirely revealed in any relations. For a realist, the world is not only the world-for-us, reduced to human access, but rather there is always a surplus. Accordingly, Chthonic Realism is a term that attempts to take into account the existence of the world-in-itself, apart from any relation, and, certainly, the world-without-us, the world of Inhumans, as opposed to the world-for-us, a world merely reduced to human correlation.* The term Chthonic also brings to mind the word Cthulhu. In various cultural and mythological contexts, “chthonic” is often used to describe deities, spirits, or forces that are related to the underworld, or the afterlife. Summoned from a dimension outside of time and space beyond the limits of human understanding, Cthulhu – a tentacular Lovecraftian cosmic monster – has appeared in many different texts playing different roles from an otherworldly monster in horror novels to a metonymic figure for speculative and metaphysical in contemporary philosophy. This creature is an inhuman entity coming from the darkness of reality – somewhere beyond human finitude – that threatens our world and shakes the pillars of human understanding.Chthonic Realism: Summoning Ghosts and Monsters explores the concepts of horror, speculation, the unknown, and the future. How things of the past can teach humans to gain a better understanding of reality. What happens when contemporary artists summon the ghosts of antiquity or monsters beyond the boundaries of time and space? And how things of the past can beckon us through the obscurity of the unknowable and towards a multitude of Futures?

* In the Dust of This Planet, Eugene Thacker

Speakers:

Night 1, May 18th
Title: Art and Democracy: Testing the Limits 

Coco Fusco is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and professor at the Cooper Union School of Art. She is a recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, a Latinx Art Award, a Fulbright fellowship and a Herb Alpert Award in the Arts. Fusco’s performances and videos have been presented in the 56th Venice Biennale, Frieze Special Projects, Basel Unlimited, three Whitney Biennials (2022, 2008 and 1993), and several other international exhibitions. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Walker Art Center, the Centre Pompidou, the Imperial War Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona. She is represented by Mendes Wood DM.
Fusco is the author of Dangerous Moves: Performance and Politics in Cuba (2015), English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (1995), The Bodies That Were Not Ours (2001) and A Field Guide for Female Interrogators (2008)Tomorrow I Will Become an Island, a touring solo retrospective of Fusco’s works opened at Berlin’s KW Institute of Contemporary Art in September 2023, accompanied by a monograph published by Thames & Hudson. 

Night 2, May 19th
Title: Santiago Sierra’s talk

After graduating in Fine Arts at Madrid’s Complutense University, Santiago Sierra completed his artistic training in Hamburg, where he studied under professors F. E. Walter, S. Brown and B. J. Blume. His beginnings are linked to alternative art circuits in the capital of Spain —El Ojo Atómico, Espacio P— although he would go on to develop much of his career in Mexico (1995– 2006) and Italy (2006–10). His work has always exerted a great influence on artistic literature and criticism.
Sierra’s oeuvre strives to reveal the perverse networks of power that inspire the alienation and exploitation of workers, the injustice of labour relations, the unequal distribution of wealth produced by capitalism, the deviance of work and money, and racial discrimination in a world scored with unidirectional (south-north) migratory flows.
Revisiting and refiguring certain strategies characterising the Minimalist, Conceptual and Performance Art of the 1960s and 70s, Sierra interrupts flows of capital and goods (Obstruction of Freeway With a Truck’s Trailer, 1998; Person Obstructing a Line of Containers, 2009); he hires labourers to reveal their precarious circumstances (20 Workers in a Ship’s Hold, 2001); he explores the mechanisms of racial segregation derived from economic inequalities (Hiring and Arrangement of 30 Workers in Relation to Their Skin Color, 2002; Economical Study of The Skin of Caracans, 2006); and refutes the stories that legitimate a democracy based on state violence (Veterans of the Wars of Cambodia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Afghanistan an Iraq Facing The Wall, 2010-12; Los encargados, 2012).
He has exhibited in important museums, art centers and galleries around the world, such as the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art ARS 01 (Helsinki), Kunst Werke (Berlin), Kunsthaus Bregenz (Austria), MoMA PS1 (New York), Artium (Vitoria) or PAC Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (Milan). His work is represented by important galleries such as Helga de Alvear (Madrid, Spain), Prometeo Gallery Ida Pisani (Milan, Italy), Labor (Mexico) and KOW (Berlin, Germany).

Night 3, May 20th
Title: Gestural Feminism: On Art and Advocacy in Iran

Pamela Karimi specializes in the study of modern and contemporary art, architecture, and visual culture of the Middle East. She received her PhD from MIT and is now a Professor of history of art and architecture at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Her publications include Domesticity and Consumer Culture in Iran: Interior Revolutions of the Modern Era (2013), The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East: From Napoleon to ISIS (co-editor, 2016), Alternative Iran: Contemporary Art and Critical Spatial Practice (2022), and Women, Art, Freedom: Artists and Street Politics in Iran (forthcoming in 2024). Karimi is currently working on a book manuscript that explores the intersection of design and environmental challenges in the Middle East.

 

 

 

Night 4, May 21st
Title: An Asian Ghost Story

The conversation between artist Bo Wang and curator Xiaoyu Weng will center on the artist’s recent film An Asian Ghost Story (2023), a cinematic and conceptually inventive work that explores the haunting memories of Asia’s late 20th-century modernization through the large-scale export of wigs during the Cold War era. In every wig, there resides a ghost from the imperial past. Narrated by one of such ghosts, the film sets in complex economical and sociopolitical contexts, and weaves a thread that runs through various historical moments.

Xiaoyu Weng is an award-winning curator and writer based in New York. Her practice focuses on the impact of globalization, identity, and the decolonization movement, as well as the intersection of art, science, and technology. Most recently, she was the Head of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. From 2015-2021, she was Associate Curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2018 and 2019, Weng served as the curator of the 5th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art in Yekaterinburg. The biennial was awarded the “Best Exhibition of the Year” by the Art Newspaper. Weng was the director and curator of Asia Programs at Kadist Art Foundation (Paris/San Francisco, 2010-15) and has continued to serve there as a program and collection advisor.

Bo Wang is an artist, filmmaker, and researcher based in Amsterdam. His works have been exhibited internationally, including at the Guggenheim Museum and MoMA, Garage Museum, International Film Festival Rotterdam, CPH:DOX, Visions du Réel, LUX & Open City Documentary Festival, Seoul Mediacity Biennale & DMZ Docs, and Sharjah Film Platform, among others. He is a recipient of major international awards, including New:Vision at CPH:DOX, Golden Dove at DOKLeipzig, O.F.F. Prize at Sesc_Videobrasil, Best Doc Short at Sharjah Film Platform, etc. He received a fellowship from the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar in 2013, and was an artist-in-residency at the ACC-Rijksakademie in 2017-2018, as well as at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore in 2016. He is a PhD candidate at ASCA, University of Amsterdam.

 

Nigh 5, May 22nd
Title: LORECORE TO ENDCORE AND BACK AGAIN

Does your life still feel like a story? Or does it feel like 187 open web-browser tabs? Are you in the feed, or is the feed inside you? This talk takes a drone-view tour through the concept of “Lorecore” — an existential need people have to storify themselves at the very moment global narratives collapse. While “Endcore” describes the overwhelming sense that the end is near (extreme weather, genocides, tech-hell) — even if the end never seems to actually arrive. Join Shumon Basar as he names the various illusions collapsing around us, and what this tells us about the emotional, aesthetic and political texture of today. 
Shumon Basar is a writer, editor and curator. He is co-author of the books The Extreme Self and The Age of Earthquakes, both with Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Other roles have included Commissioner of Art Dubai’s Global Art Forum; founding member of Fondazione Prada’s ‘Thought Council’; Expert Advisory Group for the Royal Commission of AlUla, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Chief Narrative Officer and co-founder at Zien; and editorial positions at the magazines TANK, Bidoun, 032c and Flash Art. He was recently Curator-in-Residence at Zora Zine, where he published a trilogy of pieces around his concept of ‘Lorecore.’

Night 6, May 23rd
Title: The Unlost: Resurrection of Forgotten Creatures

Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh is an Iranian-American philosopher, cultural theorist, and professor of comparative literature at Babson College whose work traces creative movements across both the so-called Middle East and the West. His writing explores concepts of chaos, illusion, violence, disappearance, silence, delirium, night, futurism, secrecy, and apocalypse. He has written ten books to date, including: The Chaotic Imagination; Inflictions: The Writing of Violence; The Radical Unspoken: Silence in Eastern and Western Thought; two volumes of a project on madness titled Omnicide with MIT Press; and most recently, two volumes on the subject of Night titled Night: A Philosophy of the After Dark and Night, Volume II: A Philosophy of the Last World. He is a Professorial Research Associate at the University of London (SOAS), Founding Director of the Future Studies Program, Programmer of Transdisciplinary Studies for the New Centre for Research & Practice, and the editor of two book series (Suspensions; Futures Theory) with Bloomsbury Press.

 

 

 

Night 7, May 24th,
Title: Art for the Not Yet

Tania Bruguera (Cuban, 1968) is an internationally renowned contemporary artist and activist. Her performances and social interventions focus on political power dynamics and their implications for social justice. Her art pushes boundaries by exploring how art can intersect with everyday political realities, aiming to empower individuals to become active citizens rather than passive spectators.
Bruguera introduced groundbreaking concepts like Arte Útil, Political Timing-Specific Art, Art For The Not Yet, and Est-ética. Through long-term projects like Cátedra Arte de Conducta, Immigrant Movement International, and Institute for Artivism Hannah Arendt (INSTAR), she has challenged institutional norms and reshaped collective memory, education, and politics. Tania Bruguera’s multifaceted contributions to the intersection of art and activism have left an indelible mark on the global cultural landscape.

Ghazel was born in 1966 in Tehran and has been in transit between the Middle East and Europe since 1986. She received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. from L’Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Nîmes (France) and a B.A. in Film Studies from Paul Valéry University in Montpellier (France).
She has exhibited her work extensively around the world since 2000 including international biennials such as: the 50th Venice Biennial (2003), the 8th Havana Biennial (2003), the 3rd Tirana Biennial (2005), the 15th Biennale of Sydney (2006), the 7th Sharjah Biennial (2005), the XIV Woman Biennial in Ferrara (2010) and the 13th Havana Biennial (2019). 
Her work has obsessively questioned contemporary migrations, belonging, hybridity, social issues and the effects of War. Her work is always directly inspired by her multiple imperfect identities and the social work that she has been doing since the mid 90s with delinquent youngsters, street children, migrants and asylum seekers. She believes that Art can only be a strategy of resistance.

Curators:

Based in Tehran, Erfan Ghiasi is a cultural practitioner, educator, translator, and curator working with various mediums including photography, installation, interventionism, and socially engaged art. Within his work, Ghiasi delves into the intersections of geography, (counter-)narratives of control, and the politics of space, all viewed through the lens of Speculative Realism. His work has been displayed in different venues including Ogden Museum in New Orleans and O gallery in Tehran. As a curator, he has organized numerous exhibitions and seminars inviting influential contemporary thinkers and artists focusing on continental philosophy and aesthetics. Ghiasi’s academic journey led him to earn a BFA in Cinema from the Art University of Tehran in 2012, followed by an MFA in Studio Art from Louisiana State University in 2019. In 2023, Ghiasi expanded his curatorial landscape by participating in the #5 Autumn School of Curating held in Cluj, Romania. Additionally, he is recognized as the co-founder and curator of both the Tehran Summit and the Tehran Biannual, showcasing his commitment to fostering contemporary artistic and philosophical discourses and cultural exchange within his community and beyond.

Una Mathiesen Gjerde is a producer, editor, and curator based in Oslo, Norway. Her research interests and curatorial work is centered around questions relating to precariousness, work ethics, and social strategies for togetherness. As a curator she has made exhibitions and public programmes for a number institutions and artist run spaces, and is currently the director of the artist association and exhibition space BO, The Association of Visual Artists Oslo. Mathiesen Gjerde holds an MA in art history from the University of Copenhagen and a BA in cultural entrepreneurship from Uppsala University, and was a part of CuratorLab 2021/2022 at Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts and Design. In the spring of 2023, she was a part of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s Young Curators Residency Programme in Madrid. Mathiesen Gjerde is a co-founder of the digital art platform Ergi, and runs the independent film production company Amfitrite Produksjon AS together with artist and director, Marin Håskjold.