November 25, 2022

Practicing freedom – Announcements – e-flux

practice freedom
Concerning decoloniality and the afterlife of objects of cultural heritage
June 21, 2022

Goethe-Institut Amsterdam

Herengracht 470

1017 CA Amsterdam


A transcultural research and artistic project initiated by the Goethe-Institut which is conceptualized and organized by the artistic directors Amal Alhaag and Selene Wendt.

In recent years, ongoing debates over the restitution of cultural heritage objects stolen from various colonial contexts have gained momentum, alongside a general awareness of the prevalence of various social injustices in society. Although these discussions have primarily involved academics, scholars and museum professionals, artists, activists and community members have also played an important role in reconfiguring and complicating the discourse on decoloniality, restitution and the repairs.

As engagement with social justice initiatives and movements such as Black Lives Matter continues to grow around the world, so does social pressure and the collective call to create change. Artists, communities, activist initiatives and intellectuals from the Global South and the Diaspora are key to these discussions and debates, whose voices and involvement are crucial to ensuring a successful reinvention and redefinition of how we think about the care and placement of illegally obtained artefacts and cultural objects currently housed in European collections. In line with this line of thinking, European museums are increasingly interested in confronting the violent histories of their collections.

The concept of practicing freedom is inspired by Kaiama L. Glover’s book Be considered. As a title, Practicing Freedom alludes to the radical potential that lies in Glover’s thought. It helps define the scope and ambitions of the project while allowing multiple trajectories and narratives to unfold over the duration of the project, providing a conceptual starting point for the many paths we will take during the project, individually and collectively. .

With this project, we attempt to facilitate opportunities to collectively unpack the subject of restitution by focusing on artistic practices, cultural work and initiatives grounded in a desire for radical transformation and a commitment to creating change. With cultural heritage objects at the center of the project, and more importantly, the life and spirit of cultural heritage objects as repositories of flows and energies, Practicing Freedom is also about confronting cultural amnesia through a daily memory work and recognition of knowledge and spiritual systems related to objects of cultural heritage.

Working with scholars, artists, museum professionals and existing collaborative initiatives and research projects, Practicing Freedom will take the form of workshops, residencies, panel discussions and lectures, podcasts, artistic interventions and of a final exhibition project and a publication that will tie the many threads of the project together.

The first public event for Practicing Freedom will take place on June 21 at the Goethe-Institut in Amsterdam. This event will feature a live conversation between Wayne Modest (Content Director of the National Museum of World Cultures, Rotterdam and Head of the Center for Material Culture Research, Amsterdam) and Nanette Snoep (Director of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne). This is the first in a series of public conversations that will take place as part of the Practicing Freedom project.. The evening program also includes a poetic intervention by Quinsy Gario. For more detailed information on practice freedom or to register for this public event, please follow this link: Practicing Freedom, Goethe-Institut.