choreographies of un/doings is a working title of an exhibition proposal developed out of remote conversations with curator and writer Angeliki Tzortzakaki: Our roads crossed with Tzortzakaki around four years ago and we were mutually amazed to come across another disappointed economics graduate that took up a curatorial studies path. Our conversations unfolded through acquaintances, coincidences and concurrences, alongside multiple translocations from Milan to Amsterdam and Istanbul, and eventually led to a series of hardly structured, vaguely defined discussion sessions that we called encounters. These encounters were to motivate us, simply to reflect and speculate on why we are doing what we are doing, especially when it comes to non-institutional or self-organised curatorial practices.

Tzortzakaki’s research looks into ecologies of self-organisation, hospitality, (feminist) economies of knowledge production, and forms of friendship as ongoing processes of becoming otherwise. Witnessing and following her work from distance, the title felt relevant also for a broader reflection on navigating curatorial practice for agency and taking choreography as a starting point. In Our Seas Are What We Make of Them, for instance, a recent exhibition curated by Tzortzakaki and hosted by the artist-run Laurel Project Space in Amsterdam, water –just as our voices, bodies, oceans, earth– appears as a metaphor, for something that we cannot grasp completely, embodied and enacted through trans-corporeal relations. Borrowing its title from Hélène Cixous’ “The Laugh of the Medusa” (1976); a profound reclamation of women’s writing as the ability to express oneself, the narratives of sea as an abstract become the composing element in forming the trajectory through the works presented. “Your body is yours, take it”, Cixous would write, because “the future must no longer be determined by the past.” In response to the context of the location of the building, a former telephone exchange situated in a polder reclaimed in the 17th century as a summer residence for wealthy merchants, the project is also developed alongside the importance of water in the colonial history of the area –of who gets to write that past, and who gets to speak up against patriarchal, heteronormative body policies and ocean acidification. Water and voice thus “become a vessel, a stage and amplifier of the voices discussing women’s agency, embodied oceanic thinking while blending ancient cosmologies, myths and marine ecologies”[1].

Anto López Espinosa, Have you noticed that wearing the sun isn’t as hard (for me)?, installation view from Our Seas Are What We Make of Them, Laurel Project Space, 2021, photo: Kleoniki Stanich.

Anto López Espinosa, Have you noticed that wearing the sun isn’t as hard (for me)?, installation view from Our Seas Are What We Make of Them, Laurel Project Space, 2021, photo: Kleoniki Stanich.

A choreographic approach can also be thought in terms of a processual development of research and practice, engaging with/in a process of un-learning to develop hybrid sets of tools that would blur assumed certainties and boundaries of disciplinary thinking. In this regard, the exhibition also resonates with Tzortzakaki’s participation into the collective process of the two-year research fellowship A Natural Oasis? (2018-2020), and the resulting School of Waters, the 19th edition of Mediterranea Biennial (2021)[2]. A process-based collective work is embodied through situated practices, grounded in the specific locality and context of San Marino, while the idea of “starting not from the lands, but from its waters” opens up space for material and symbolic agency of waters, with reference to geopolitical historicities and imaginaries of the Mediterranean area.

A Natural Oasis?, 3rd edition research trip, Manifesta 12, Palermo, 2018, photo: Rita Canarezza.

Curating something, as Tzortzakaki reflects, also means to work on a trajectory, on choreographing audiences for a specific amount of time in a specific context, with different degrees of freedom to move around. This is closely tied to the idea of hospitality, working within habitats to inhabit, starting from bodily dispositions and existing relations in the dramaturgy of everyday life, as well as shared concerns around reproductive aspects of labour and care. We find ourselves quite often questioning the parameters and conventions of exhibition making, and with it, prevalent forms of circulation and anticipation, and primacy of visibility as currency. As the focus of the curatorial practice shifts from caring for objects or collections to facilitating networks, collective energies and resources, infrastructural parameters come to the fore, most of which are systematically ignored or taken as fixed/given.

The very idea of bringing people together, then, also means bringing a versatility of (artistic) processes together, manifested through different forms and modes of agency and mediation, enacted both in public and private realms. This is what seems to lie at the core of bi-[3], a collective run by Tzortzakaki, Enrico Floriddia, Jérôme de Vienne, in the form of self-organised residencies that started in vacant countryside family houses. Friendship as a facilitator, or facilitating friendship, appears as a vital component in the organisational structuring, to bring such questions up to discussion and to create time and space to practice otherwise, though not necessarily giving lectures on them. Departing from relations with the landscape, living and non-living entities within the immediate surrounding, and navigating through existing relationships and economies, bi- takes up “a parasitic approach; sharing what it has at hand”.

bi- in Cézens, France, 2019, photo: Angeliki Tzortzakaki.

With the artist-in-residence programme Paradise Air located in Matsudo, Japan[4], bi- has moved from a domestic and rural context to that of the urban. In seeking ways to fund bi- residencies in an alternative way, they experimented with ‘parasiting’ the programme, and redistributed its budget (that was designed for one artist) to their own residents, that is, eighteen participants through an open call: “to do nothing; no work to be expected, no art to be seen”[5]. Transforming the entire production budget into groceries, the residency format was stretched to challenge production-oriented exhibition economies and to question what is defined as the recognised labour of artistic/curatorial work. This is to value (rather than valorise) resources that do not create more precarity when shared. In the words of bi-: “What are we capable of here and now, together, at this time, in this place, amid the relations in which we are embedded?”[6]

i- at Milo’s, 2019.

Precarization of the ‘surplus affective’ labour has been an open secret shared by many working in the art field, functioning as “textbook examples of immaterial labourers, from the affective resources [we] expend when producing and maintaining feelings and relationships to the flexible ways in which [we] often deliver just-in-time projects in temporary teams working on shortterm contracts.”[7] In this context, the idea of diverse economies simply as part of material and affective relations demands a de-/re-structuring of some of the very basic conditions and conditionings for efficiency and productivity. A wider spectrum of practices, among which the above examples can be counted, leaks into surrounding ecosystems, being concerned not necessarily with their framing as ‘the artwork’, but with forms of agency and (micro-)structures of support in relation to lively and timely matters.

[1] From the exhibition text of Our Seas Are What We Make of Them (April 2-11, 2021), works presented by Sophie Utikal, Anto López Espinosa, Kristina Õllek, Sara Milio, Enar de Dios Rodriguez, Nicola Baratto & Yiannis Mouravas.




[5] Angeliki Tzortzakaki, Enrico Floriddia, Jérôme de Vienne on behalf of bi-, “Kneading, resting, assembling: A cookbook for minor institutions” [commissioned by curator Nikolay Alutin as part of the project Everything Is New].

[6] Ibid.

[7] Helena Reckitt, “Support Acts: Curating, Caring and Social Reproduction”, Journal of Curatorial Studies, 5:1, p. 6-30.

Ezgi Yurteri

Ezgi Yurteri (Ankara, 1992), kültür-sanat alanında çalışıyor, yazıyor ve editörlük yapıyor. Koç Üniversitesi Ekonomi lisansının ardından NABA Milano’da küratöryel çalışmalar üzerine yüksek lisansını, Türkiye güncel sanat ekosistemini İzmir, Diyarbakır ve Çanakkale’de etkinlik kazanan sanatçı inisiyatifleri odağında inceleyen teziyle tamamladı. Çalışmaları sosyal ilişkiler çevrimleri olarak ekonomi, sanat pratikleri bağlamında yerel ekosistemler ve alternatif ekonomiler etrafında şekillenmeye devam ediyor.