Cultivating Custodial Relations

23 September 2023

Invited by Biljana Ciric to give a public lecture for WCSCD? educational program

In this lecture to curators and cultural practioners who are interested in an ‘otherwise’ I set out to explore a set of questions about the way in which art,  its institutions, practices and artists might take on custodial responsibility for place. Together we think about that tension between a modernist and liberal desire for social transformation and  what Pelin Tan speaks of as ‘decolonial pedagogies’  connected to soil and territory. Practices that are prefigurative practices for a world of many worlds in the words of Marisol De La Candena, that resit grand narratives. We mapped projects in which institutions at the prompting of artists have taken on care for land in a specific place with plant communities over a longer duration than a year. Projects in which borders between forms of knowledge across aesthetics, ecology, biology, cosmology, vegetal thinking, hydrology, indigenous knowledge become linked by arts processes. Projects through which we can we learn about instituting otherwise towards other ecologies of knowledge and expansive notions of ontologies.

Central Serbia, which was known as a fertile region for agriculture and where the plot of land is situated, witnessed a decline in farming activities due to the depopulation of villages caused by the land’s devaluation and subsequent activities on it, as well as the climate change that in recent years caused long droughts and lack of food supplies for animals. Political right-wing parties have been using these ecological crises for their own political purposes, further alienating village communities from the rest of the country, while using them for their political causes in their fabrication of nationalistic narratives.