Spirals: Art, Archives and the Curatorial between Cape Town and Berlin

The Spirals virtual seminar series throws ideas of art, archive and the curatorial into flux by resituating them in a series of exchanges between Cape Town and Berlin. Curated by the Junior Research Fellow, Dr Duane Jethro, with the generous assistance of Nina Liebenberg, the series circulates ideas about art practise and archival engagement of all kinds between these two lively, dynamic yet also very different global north and global south settings. We bring researchers, scholars, artists and curators based in Berlin into a conversation with our colleagues at the CCA and the University of Cape Town in a themed virtual format

Casting our ideas about art and archive into virtual flux, our conversations surface points of alignment, divergence and patterns of circulation around shared  topics. Among other urgent questions, the series seeks to provoke discussion around the nature of archive, archival access and representation; the place of, and human emplacement in, theories of the non-human and nature; modes of engaging colonial legacies in archival formations; disciplines and disciplinary disobedience. Moving around, into and outwards of a crucial set of questions about archive and the curatorial, these conversations serve as a hub for intellectually orbiting through  respective fields from different vantage points, and, in the process, decentering knowledge exchange and building constellations for future collaboration. 

Our guest speakers are given 20 minutes to present some of their work while researchers and practitioners from the Centre for Curating the Archive have 10 minutes to comment and raise questions. Thereafter we open up for discussion and exchange.


27 November 2020
Nature(s), Archive and Anthropology: Tahani Nadim and Fritha Langerman discuss making good trouble in Natural History Museums

The Nature(s), Archive and Anthropology Spirals talk asks, what is nature and where is the natural located in systems of classification and representation? We engage with the archival construction, representation and incorporation of nature. We are interested in its ordering and systematisation in books, museum collections and databases and seek to raise questions about the work of representational practises, translation, classification and the (archival) construction of the natural world. What anthropological methods can be employed for interrogating data formations of the natural world, but also what artistic methods can be developed for creatively engaging with, disrupting or even reorganising some of these structures?






30 October 2020
Archival Ethics and Possibilities of Representation: Tal Adler and George Mahashe in conversation

In this first Spirals series session we approach the challenging but rich question of Archival Ethics and Possibilities of Representation. Gathered under the auspices of various colonial projects, or collected for unethical scientific projects, natural specimens, objects and human remains held in heritage institutions, hospitals and universities in Europe present an extraordinary set of scholarly and ethical problems of management, return, and restitution. Inscribed by self-evident traces of ownership and origin, and subject to claims for return, these assemblages are often also marked by broken official provenance, incorporation and classification, that trouble easy modes of addressing them, deaccession and return.
How can we approach some of the urgent questions posed by contentious collections? How do we address the violence of museological incorporation and display of human remains as anatomical specimens specifically? What artistic strategies can we mobilise to reformulate some of the challenging ethical questions that objects such as these provoke in museum and heritage settings? And what types of language, terms and concepts can we summon up as modes of ethically addressing these difficult collections and recover different ways of understanding their status as sensitive objects of knowledge?