Pressing Matter

  • guest resident
    • 2021 – 2025

The Rijksakademie partners in Pressing Matter, a four-year research programme, coordinated by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, that connects fundamental theories of valuation and property to postcolonial debates on heritage.

The goal is to develop and test new theoretical models of value and ownership and new forms of return that extend current approaches to heritage restitution. Participating artists are invited to think about the ways in which art practice can reimagine different forms of return, repair, and reconciliation broadly conceived, working with objects/collections in the project's partner museums – amongst others the Rijksmuseum and the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures – collected during the colonial period.

Other partners include, amongst others, Foundation Academic Heritage, the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, The Black Archives, HAPIN Papua Support Foundation, Framer Framed and the Peace Palace Library.

  • — 1 September until 30 November 2022 —

    Project proposal

    For the Pressing Matter Residency Daniel Aguilar Ruvalcaba proposed to work with one of the main pieces of the Central and South American collection of the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden(NL): a Mexican skull decorated with turquoise mosaic that was produced in the 20th century but had been erroneously considered a Late Postclassic (AD 1300-1521) Mixtec artifact until the 21st century. For decades, the creation of this mosaic skull was attributed to the Ñuu Savi people: it was thought they made it before the Spanish Conquest. The skull was purchased on the art market so nothing was known about its origin before 1962. As a result, some questioned its provenance. So, the research conducted in 2012 by Dr. Martin Berger (Leiden University and Museum of World Cultures) was set out to determine if the skull was spurious or original. After all the results of studies and evidence at hand, Dr. Martin Berger concluded that the Leiden mosaic skull is a modern combination of authentic elements. A détournement of authentic pre-Hispanic materials —skull, mosaics— assembled with a modern type of glue —Shellac: Laccifer lacca—.

    In the article, “Real, Fake or a Combination?”, Dr. Martin Berger recounts the history of the skull. This meticulous research is my principal guide for composing the biography of this object. According to Dr. Martin Berger, Dr. P.H. Pott bought the skull from a gringo dealer in 1963 while serving as director of the Museum Volkenkunde. The gringo dealer who sold the piece asserted it had been found in a tomb at an archaeological site near Teotitlán del Camino, a small town on the border of Oaxaca and Puebla, in Southern Mexico. Due to the finish of the mosaic on the skull, the piece was stated to be an authentic manufacture of the Mixtec / Ñuu Savi culture, dating to 1300-1521. Dr. Pott was seduced by it because it was ‘an object of such rarity and value that I would feel it wrong to reject this offer without first having made the utmost effort to obtain the resources to acquire it‘. So, he decided that the museum must acquire
    the mosaic skull without confirming its authenticity. He was fascinated with the beauty of it. It full filled the fantasies about Mesoamerican artifacts after discovering the treasures of the Tumba 7 of Monte Alban.

    Finding that the mosaic skull is ‘fake’ affected how it is perceived, identified, and shown in the museum collection. I started questioning, can a fake be more Real than we think? What is a forgery forging? Is the Mexican State the biggest counterfeiter of the pre Hispanic past? And what can we learn from it? Is it possible to find the cultural descendants of this phony mosaic skull device? How to write a claim for restitution for a fabrication like this sort? What was happening in Mexico during the time of the Mesoamerican archaeology boom? How did the close relationship between archeology and politics after the Mexican Revolution play a role in the forgery market? Is the glue, this Modern, spurious element, something else than that? Could it be a forgery, perhaps a little more than that, a crucial site for an extemporaneous political fiction?

  • — 1 December 2022 until 31 May 2023 —
    — 1 September until 30 November 2023 —

    Aram Lee was born in Seoul and lives and works in Amsterdam. As an artist, her research-driven practice revolves around reinterpreting materials found within institutions, often seeking to relocate their role and purpose through performative events, film and video installations. Sometimes taking up processes of performative action with the public, her practice shapes the way objects are described and circulated. Her artworks challenge diasporic amnesia and release impure, spectral and false fictions from the institutions to enable the dissolution of (cultural) predominance and visualize new structures.

    Aram will do research based on climate objects in the depot of the Tropenmuseum, and she will develop a digital algorithm.

  • — 15 June until 15 September 2022 —

    Zara Julius (Johannesburg) is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and vinyl selector based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is also the founder of Pan-African creative research and cultural storytelling agency, KONJO. Her practice is informed by a working methodology of ‘rapture’, and  is concerned with the relationship between performativity, frequency, concealment and fugitivity in the settler (post) colony, with a special focus on what we call the ‘Global South’. Working with sound, video, performance and objects, Zara’s practice involves the collection, selection, collage and creation of archives (real, imagined and embodied) through extensive research projects.

    Zoé Samudzi is the Charles E. Scheidt Visiting Assistant Professor of Genocide Studies and Genocide Prevention at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. She holds a PhD in Medical Sociology from the University of California, San Francisco in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She is also a Research Associate with the Center for the Study of Race, Gender & Class (RGC) at the University of Johannesburg.
    Zoé is a writer and critic whose work has appeared in Art in America, Artforum, Bookforum, The New Inquiry, The Architectural Review, The New Republic, the Funambulist, and other outlets. She is an associate editor with Parapraxis Magazine, a contributing writer at Jewish Currents, and co-author of As Black as Resistance: Finding the Conditions for Liberation (AK Press).
    She is represented by Alison Lewis at the Francis Goldin Literary Agency.

  • — 1 September until 30 November 2023 —

    CPR (Charlotte Rooijackers) works as an artist dealing with language, vegetation, and translation, rooted at the intersections of Marxist-feminisms and postcolonial-discourse. Recent works include 'BOOTY' at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2021); and 'Fl. FLor. Floruit' at Four Sisters Labyrinth (2021), 'Is It Possible to be a Revolutionary and Like Flowers', Nest Ruimte Den Haag (2021) and in 'The Botanical Revolution at Centraal Museum Utrecht (2021-2022). She writes for Studium Generale Rietveld Academie Amsterdam (2013-), does collaborative writing classes, and keeps a politics of vegetation in order to become more dead-and-alive and less product.

    Arus Balik is a restitution work on the Batak Pustaha manuscripts from North Sumatra, which are divination books that were taken by Dutch and German missionaries in the nineteenth century, to colonial institutions in the Netherlands and elsewhere. The manuscripts contain the Indigenous spiritual-religious knowledge system of the Batak, and were written by datu-priests.

    During the coming three months CPR will work on the concept of rematriation in restitution discourse, the digitization of the Pustaha collections in the Netherlands, and collaborate with the Perempuan AMAN Tano Batak, the Batak chapter of the Indigenous Women's Alliance of Nusantara [Indonesia].

  • — 1 December 2023 until 30 April 2024 —

    Pansee Atta is an Egyptian-Canadian visual artist, curator, and researcher living and working on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabe nation in Ottawa. Using a variety of new media, her work examines themes of representation, migration, archives, and political struggle. Previous residencies include the Impressions Residency Award at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, the SparkBox Studio Award, and at the Atelier of Alexandria. Previous exhibitions have taken place in collaboration with SAW Video in Ottawa, at Galerie La Centrale Powerhouse and Z Art Space in Montréal. Her research centers community-based responses to colonial projects of collection, display, study.

    Pressing Matter Artist residency
    'To Make One Particle of the Publick Soul of all Things'

    This project draws its title from Thomas Browne’s 17th century text lamenting the European trade in Egyptian mummies, such as that of the anatomist Otto Van Heurius whose "groote Mumie" served as the star attraction of the Netherlands’ first museum. Browne urges his readers to consider the humanity of the ancient dead who “were content to recede into the common being, and make one particle of the publick soul of all things.”

    Along similar lines, the Arabic-language concept of "ḥurma" — encompassing autonomy, inviolability, taboo, sanctity, physical integrity, privacy, protection, and honor, particularly of the human body — is central to cultural norms in Muslim-majority nations, especially concerning museum exhibitions of human remains. 'To Make One Particle of the Publick Soul of all Things' makes the "ḥurma" of human remains in Dutch museum collections visible using AR, electronic art, traditional media, and archival research. Doing so, it proposes a way of relating to the ancient dead that exceeds their objectification and commercialization.

    For previous projects, see:

  • — 1 June until 1 October 2024 —

    Gelare Khoshgozaran is an undisciplinary artist and filmmaker whose work engages with the legacies of imperial violence manifested in war, militarization and borders. They use film and video to construct peripheral narratives that seek to redefine existing constructions of ‘home’ as a means of approaching new conceptualizations of belonging. Khoshgozaran has presented their work internationally, with recent exhibitions and screenings at MoMA Doc Fortnight, Delfina Foundation, Images Festival, EMPAC, MASS MoCA and the Hammer Museum. With a BA in Photography from University of Arts in Tehran (2009), and an MFA from University of Southern California (2011), they are a co-editor of ‘MARCH: a journal of art and strategy’, and assistant professor of art at UCLA School of Art and Architecture.

    Hande Sever is a writer and research-based artist who received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and her PhD from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Archival research is the main drive of her practice, as she excavates lost texts and distant images to bring attention to events and memories erased from the collective consciousness and recontextualizes transnational instances of political struggle in the process. Her works have been presented internationally at institutions such as the Hauser & Wirth in Somerset (UK); MAK Museum in Vienna (AT); Museo de las Artes in Guadalajara (MX); CICA Museum in Seoul (KR); MCA Chicago, IL (US);  and the Wende Museum in Los Angeles, CA (US), among others. She has been an artist-in-residence at Hauser & Wirth (Somerset, UK), SOMA (Mexico City, MX, Human Resources (Los Angeles, CA) and Kulturakademie Tarabya (Istanbul, TR). Her works have been supported with grants from the Félix González-Torres Foundation, California Arts Council, Getty Foundation, Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and Hrant Dink Foundation. 

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