TEXT ME • About the project

TEXT.ME Young Curators

Text Me.

About the project

By Irene Xochitl Urrutia & Bettina Pelz

Het TEXT ME – Project

In the beginning of October 2021, we met to see the MEDIA ART FESTIVAL (MAF), an exhibition project featuring emerging light and media artists, in Leeuwarden, in the north of the Netherlands. We are a loose network of young curators from around the world that focus on art-in-context in their studies and practice. As visiting curators we get involved with experimental displays of contemporary art and aim to provide feedback, review, and further discussions on contemporary art projects. 

Part of the international network is Irene Urrutia. As she was the curator of the MAF in 2021 for the first time, we had a good reason to develop a project that allows us to meet and discuss an exhibition project. We checked on each other’s availability and built an international set of curators that had only partly worked together before. We started to meet online to synchronize on aims and plans. Over the next months, we met on a regular basis, and we shared the excitement when we were granted with the i-Portunus funds which greatly helped us start moving.

The i-Portunus Houses pilot scheme is implemented, on behalf of the European Commission, by a consortium of organisations that have been pioneers of European cultural mobility programmes themselves. Coordinated by the European Cultural Foundation (Amsterdam), the i-Portunus Houses consortium involves MitOst (Berlin) as main mobility implementer and the Kultura Nova Foundation (Zagreb) as lead in evaluation and analysis.

Het TEXT ME – program

Irene Urrutia (ca/mx) facilitated the intensive program that encompassed visiting the onsite exhibition, meetings with the artists, and surrounding activities. Giuliana Grippo (ar/es) and Emily Sarsam (at/tn) developed and provided writing labs, co-working moments, and exercises. Lectures and workshops to support the processing of critical thinking and writing were headed by Nicolàs Dardano (ar/es), Aymen Gharbi (tn), Andrea Moeller (de/nl), and Bettina Pelz (de/tn). Alexia Alexandropoulou (gr), Cyrine Bettaleb Ali (tn) and Famkje Elgersma (de), supported the realization of additional exhibition and studio visits. Contributions from different perspectives rooted in art mediation, art education, art sciences, and sociocultural approaches were offered by Sara Mari Blom (de), Jan Herman de Boer (nl), Amin Gharbi (tn) and Kenza Jemmali (tn). Netherlands-based participants Anne Van Lierop (nl), Neja Kaiser (nl), and Katerina Kallivroussi (gr/nl) joined the activities featuring the local perspective. The guiding idea of the gathering was to provide a framework of exchange, and ultimately produce a collection of texts summarizing experiences, reflections, and critique. Fifteen articles resulted from this intensive, exciting, and challenging cooperation.

MAF-LUNA by Media Art Friesland

Since 2014, Andrea Moeller has been the driving force behind Media Art Friesland’s main annual activity. The MEDIA ART FESTIVAL (MAF) is an exhibition of existing works that have been selected by a team of scouts, either at graduation shows or other public exhibition settings. Since 2016, it is embedded in the public art project LEEUWARDEN URBAN NIGHT ADVENTURE (LUNA) that stages experienced artists working site-specific on decentral sites across the city. Within a few years, the MAF-LUNA combination became an internationally recognized annual exhibition project featuring experimental light and light-based media art approaches. 

Located in the former post-office, not far from the Leeuwarden station, the exhibition project was composed of fourteen artworks encompassing light and light-based media works, audio-visual installations, films, performances, and workshops. They showcased the artistic concerns and responses of young artists regarding contemporary media and technology, ongoing research in the arts and sciences, as well as socio-cultural and socio-ecological topics. In addition to the artworks on display, there were events, tours, workshops, performances, discussions, and special projects lined with the overarching theme “Here And Now”. The festival format was interpreted as a flexible framework to encounter, experience, and discuss contemporary art production. The visiting curators emerged into the scene and the variety of situations. They joined the activities, interacted with artists as well as with partners of the organization, and expanded beyond the festival program with additional studio visits, talks, and discursive frameworks. 

The TEXT ME – texts

The TEXT ME group organized itself and spent a week in Leeuwarden to see the artworks, to understand their contexts, to discuss and to start writing. The writing process was accompanied by many discussions, often dedicated to questions of whether to standardize the content, extension, language, or style of our work. More often than not, however, we decided not to impose strict frameworks. Instead of creating lists of rules, we created lists of questions, such as when and why should artworks descriptions be specific? When should they be evocative and open to imagination? How and why should a curator establish their own position in relation to that of the artist, or to the context of the festival? What version of English (or other languages) does it make sense to use, and why? Resulting from this process of questioning, the texts contain a variety of styles: from art historical perspectives to poetic fragments, from inner dialogues to question-and-answer formats. Some pose questions, or develop critical comments, while others experiment with creative writing. Articles by more experienced writers stand alongside newer voices, and a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds create contrast from one text to the next. Looking back on shared time, experiences, and collective processing we start to understand that we only scratch the surface of collaborative curatorial writing processes and frameworks. TEXT ME is a collection of seeds, nurtured and planted, which we hope to see grow in years to come.

The TEXT ME – parameters

As a text collection, they offer insight into the notion of situatedness: one of the most important turns in contemporary critique of institutions, knowledge, and language. The concept originates in the feminist return to the body as a point of reference for any and all understanding: a knowing that is necessarily different according to each person’s subjectivity. In this sense, TEXT ME showcases the multiplicity of the beings and bodies, which shape their critical and curatorial perspectives. Therefore, it is entirely possible that their positions provoke, clash, or misunderstand each other in the texts. We wish to share the joy that we find when discovering differences, seeking to understand reasons and contexts, and nourishing discussions that reshape our minds, bodies, and eyes.

The TEXT ME – network

We like to send a heartfelt “thank you!” to everyone who contributed to the TEXT ME project: the enthusiastic and magical team of the TEXT ME writers and editors; our experienced mentors and friends who offered their time, expertise, and belief in the project; the endlessly supportive family of Media Art Friesland, and the generous support of i-Portunus which funded the mobility of five of the TEXT ME participants. The dedication we experienced provides us with the sparks to look for the next opportunities. Our diversity of personalities and biographies motivates us to strengthen our links and deepen our discussions to spend some more time beyond the narrow edge of the yet-known. The inspiring artworks and art experiences nurture the care we put into our professional being. TEXT US _ we will be happy to receive feedback on what we achieved.

About the authors

Irene Urrutia and Bettina Pelz have been cooperating occasionally for 2 years. For TEXT ME they were in a continuous exchange on the development, the processing, and the documentation of the TEXT ME project.

Irene Xochitl Urrutia

Irene Xochitl Urrutia (she/her) is a Mexican/Canadian curator and PhD candidate at Leiden University. Currently, her focus is on media art, materialist posthumanism, and rethinking plant-human relationships through artistic practice. In her curatorial work, she is interested in decentralization and accessibility. In 2016, she co-founded Galería Tu Mamá, an independent contemporary art gallery in Xochimilco, Mexico City. Currently, she is a curator for Media Art Friesland in Leeuwarden, where she mainly works on the LUNA Young Masters program. She is also a fellow of TASAWAR Curatorial Studios. She is currently based in Plymouth (UK) and in Leeuwarden (NL).

Bettina Pelz

Bettina Pelz (she/her) is an internationally active curator dedicated to art-in-context projects. Her transdisciplinary projects are hosted at art institutions and in public space, in postindustrial environments and cultural heritage settings. She has been involved in projects in Africa, Asia, in Europe as well as in North and South America. Since 2019, she is directing the curatorial study program on art-in-context TASAWAR CURATORIAL STUDIOS hosted by the Goethe-Institut Tunis. She is currently based in Wetter/Ruhr (DE) and in Tunis (TN).

Portrait (c) Malika Hagemann

Portrait (c) Gabe Kamphuis