July 14, 2022

Field Notes: Mateusz Sapija on The Question of Funding, Eltiqa, and Sada [Regroup] at Documenta 15

Art & Education

Sarah Munaf (Sada), Journey Inside a City, 2022. Video, 12 minutes. Photo: Mateusz Sapija.

Mohammad Al Hawajri (Eltiqa), The Animals Farm, 2012. Oil on canvas. Photo: Mateusz Sapija.

The Question of Funding, Dayra, 2022. Mixed-media installation and blockchain platform. Photo: Mateusz Sapija.

Sada [Regroup], installation view, 2022. Photo: Mateusz Sapija.

Field Notes: The Question of Funding, Eltiqa, and Sada [Regroup], Documenta 15
by Mateusz Sapija

Focusing on equality and collaboration, Documenta 15 was modelled on the lumbung, a traditional Indonesian practice of storing resources and sharing surpluses. Hoping to challenge the dominant individualistic and capitalistic drives of the art world, ruangrupa invited fourteen collectives to participate, which led to a self-initiated and hyper-horizontal working process to identify the needs and self-limitations of knowledge distribution. Each artistic group received an equal and non-binding budget for its contribution and was expected to develop its idea in dialogue with the other collectives, reflecting the aim of arriving at an outcome that not only pertains to the group’s interests but contributes to what may be termed as a curatorial social sculpture. Similar to the Beuysian model of soziale Plastik, ruangrupa perceived its artistic-curatorial process as one of healing and overcoming the barriers between art and society rather than producing yet another murmur in contemporary art’s echo chamber. At the same time, contrary to what we often perceive as “social practice,” ruangrupa engaged (and encouraged their partners to engage) with already existing networks and communities that closely surround the collectives, rather than seeking to penetrate and connect with communities from an outsider position.

Within this framework, The Question of Funding explored collective resources to question and problematize the economic funding models that sustain cultural structures. Their work, however, was not strictly theoretical. “It is not about institutional critique; we already know it. The question is: how do we practice it? And how do we practice it outside of the art world?,” Yazan Khalili, one of the collective’s members, told me. Thus, departing from the phenomenon of NGOization that created a new form of colonial control and economic dependency on the Global North in Palestine, The Question of Funding proposed a model of re-embedding cultural practice into local communities and microeconomies. The group turned to the idea of community-governed funding and created Dayra, a blockchain technology for circulating, storing, and exchanging communal resources. Like several collectives participating in Documenta 15—and an extension, perhaps, of Documenta 14’s focus on Indigeneity—The Question of Funding made use of local cultural and economic practices, developing Dayra through the process of an-nqoot [dripping]. Often a custom at weddings, an-nqoot is based on the communal sharing of resources with the newlyweds, who repay the debt in the next generation. Similarly, Dayra is a platform on which users enter indebted to share and exchange any resources that the community is willing to accept. For Dayra, Documenta 15 is just a starting point from which the project intends to build a long-lasting tool for the cultural practitioners in Palestine to exchange resources inside and outside their environment.

Read more Mateusz Sapija's Field Notes review on Art & Education.

Field Notes is a new series of reviews from the next generation of art writers. Featuring texts on the 59th Venice Biennale and Documenta 15 contributed by students and recent graduates, Field Notes makes original connections between the work and the world and takes a closer look at what other observers might have missed.

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