TEXT ME LEEUWARDEN 2022 • Young Curators

A visit of young curators at LUNA Young Masters – Feedback from an international exchange

[Picture above (from left to right) young curators Celica Fitz, Iris Rijnsewijn, Meriam Gaied, Dhia Dhibi and Mpumelelo Buthelezi]

The TEXT.ME – Project

Introduction by Irene Xochitl Urrutia – curator LUNA Young Masters 2021 and 2022

In 2022 we held the second edition of TEXT ME as part of LUNA festival in the Netherlands. The 10 day learning program invited five emerging cultural professionals with an interest in curatorial writing to visit the festival. With lectures and workshops by Bettina Pelz, Elisabbetta Cuccaro, and Emily Sarsam, TEXT ME Leeuwarden explored the relationship between artist and curator; art and text; language and matter; experiences and bodies. During and after their visit, each participant wrote a text about one of the artworks in the LUNA Young Masters exhibition, a show consisting of 15 pieces by emerging artists at the core of the festival. This collection is the result.

The program encouraged each curator to create a dialogue with the artworks and the artists through their writing. The five participants came from Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Tunisia. Each has unique expertises – both in the form of technical and professional skills, and in their lived experiences and cultural contexts. As a result, in this collection the reader will find theories and art historical references interacting with cultural contexts, gut reactions, and strange coincidences. I firmly believe that this collection demonstrates that, as curators, we can create more interesting and challenging conversations around art by inhabiting and speaking from our subjectivities.

In this sense, in my view, all of these texts correspond to the goals of curatorial writing as outlined by the TEXT ME program: they offer original, dedicated, and revealing readings of the artworks. At the same time, they show how the artworks themselves invite new readings of world events and contemporary contexts. With this dialogical movement, these essays stand for the potential of language to start, widen, and carry forward conversations with art.

Thank you to everyone who made this fantastic program possible: the LUNA team, the TEXT ME Leeuwarden team, and everyone in our local and global networks who has supported this adventure.

Irene Xochitl Urrutia

Dhia Dhibi‘s text “Repulsion/Fascination” is about Damien Troadec’s Highway to Hell. The installation is composed of multiple elements, many of them frightening and challenging, and touches on topics such as memory, violence, and childhood. Confronting this subject matter head on, Dhia’s achievement is to dive into the work’s complexity with passion and honesty. The text takes us on a journey in 5 moments reflecting the author’s experience of the installation, from surprise and discomfort, to curiosity and obsession. Combining an erudite love of philosophy with an exemplary knowledge of cultural references, Dhia offers the reader a rich study of Highway to Hell. If Damien’s work is a constellation, Dhia’s words highlight, extend, and re-shape the bold lines that connect it.

Meriam Gaied is an engineer as well as a curator. With a technical and scientific background, it was Vanina Tsvetkova’s We Ourselves and Usthat caught her attention: a responsive installation that captures and distorts the image of the audience within a space. Meriam begins with the acute observation that many media artists only conceptualise their idea, and then collaborate with (or simply hire) a technician to realise their work. Vanina, on the other hand, builds all of her work herself. By comparing the role of an engineer with that of an artist, Meriam challenges the freedom apparently offered to us by both creativity and technology. In the process she touches on one of the most exciting possibilities of media art today: the ability to question the technological tools that shape contemporary reality.

Celica Fitz‘s text “Do you feel synchronized?” is about Ida Leitjing’s installation Ole Lukøje. The work is an installation consisting of ten glass containers hanging in a circle, periodically filled and emptied of sand. The sand is made of quartz, the material used in modern time-keeping devices. Using her background in art history and interviews with the artist, Celica uncovers layer after layer of rich meaning in the installation. Everything is connected, it seems, by the title of the work: Ole Lukøje is the “Sandman” of bedtime stories and folk tales. In Celica’s text, time is not a universal truth, but a cultural construction: a story that has been told and performed over and over again, creating different rhythms and meanings. “Do you feel synchronized?” reveals the strangeness in normal parts of everyday life: bedtime tales, dust, train delays, sleep, and dreams.

Mpumelelo Buthelezi is a photographer first, and writer second. Drawing on his own interest in light, he develops a dialogue in four parts with Sheng Jie Snow’s Phantom, an installation of transparent vases, water, and hanging lights. First, he presents photographs of Snow’s installation accompanied by short, insightful readings of the images: he notes the spiritual qualities of light, or draws an analogy between shadows and racialized societies. Next, Mpumelelo gives the stage to Snow as he interviews her about her work. Third, he shares three photos of his own as a visual response to Phantom, open for interpretation. Finally, Mpumelelo rallies the reader with a closing statement of kinship. The result is an unusual and refreshing glimpse into a meeting of two artists through their practice.

Iris Rijnsewijn was captivated by Cas Thorsen’s work To Dress Up, a documentary film about gender identity through the voices of three different subjects. Instead of exhibiting the faces and bodies that share each story, the film reflects on personal connections through a series of ceramic sculptures: ordinary objects that embody and bring to life the subjects’ experiences. By transforming and playing with these objects through malleable materials, the rigidity of “normal” categories and bodies is brought into question. In conversation with Cas, Iris investigates the meaning of this work as a queer art historian herself.