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July 2022

Field Notes: Black Quantum Futurism and Más Arte Más Acción, Documenta 15

Sara Garzón

Black Quantum Futurism, Restore Black Temporal Realities, 2022. Poster in the Fünffensterstrasse underpass, Kassel. Photo: Sara Garzón.

Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA), Whispers of the Bark Beetles, 2022. Installation view, Gewächshaus, Staatspark Karlsaue, Kassel, June 13, 2022. Photo: Sara Garzón.

Black Quantum Futurism, Black Grandmother Clock (Oral Futures Booth), 2021. Installation view, Fünffensterstrasse underpass, Kassel. Photo: Sara Garzón.

Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA). Installation view, Gewächshaus, Staatspark Karlsaue, Kassel, June 13, 2022. Photo: Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA).

Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA), Whispers of the Bark Beetles, 2022. Installation view, Gewächshaus, Staatspark Karlsaue, Kassel, June 13, 2022. Photo: Nils Klinger.

Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA). Installation view, Gewächshaus, Staatspark Karlsaue, Kassel, June 13, 2022. Photo: Nils Klinger.

Announcement of lumbung members in Asphalt Magazine, October 1, 2021. Courtesy of Documenta 15.

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.

Organized by the Jakarta-based group ruangrupa, Documenta 15—or perhaps more appropriately, Lumbung 1—is a collective of collectives showcasing the decentralized yet ever expanding collaborative work happening across geopolitical boundaries. [1]1
This refers not only to the many collectives working across different geographical and social contexts but also to the already existing networks of collectives such as the Arts Collaboratory, an association of collectives from around the world that shares resources, know-how, and complicity for thriving.
The roughly seventy-one collectives invited to Kassel, recast here as lumbung members and artists, were not brought together to produce new work but were granted the space, resources, and support to grow their existing and ongoing processes. [2]2
According to ruangrupa “lumbung is the Indonesian word for a communal rice-barn, where the surplus harvest is stored for the benefit of the community.” However, as a guiding principle and practices for the artistic directors of Documenta 15, lumbung also implies “an alternative economy of collectivity, shared resource building, and equitable distribution. lumbung is anchored in the local and based on values such as humor, generosity, independence, transparency, sufficiency, and regeneration.” See .
Lumbung 1 marks, in that sense, a paradigm shift. Not toward a new era of more “con-temporary art” but an age of alternatives: multiple methodologies of artistic co-creation, frameworks of sustainability, community-oriented production, alter-globalization networks of solidarity, and new temporal regimes. [3]3
By “con-temporary,” I mean to emphasize a “together-in-time,” a “common world,” or a time of now that synchronizes and hegemonically organizes artistic production under the rubric of “global contemporary.” This emphasis also underscores the fact that contemporary artistic production has changed after 1989, which occasioned a transformation in our experience of time. This is a suspension of time where the past and future collapse into a continuous state of present, which François Hartog called “presentism.” Unlike other definitions of the contemporary that presuppose a multiplicity of temporalities, I want to signal the con-temporary as a framework of aesthetic creation that privileges newness, presentism, and that in its post-historical condition reiterates the suspension of time or a “no time,” which is the time of capital. For more on this see, Geoff Cox and Jacob Lund, The Contemporary Condition: Introductory Thoughts on Contemporaneity and Contemporary Art (Berlin: Steinberg Press, 2016).
Departing from community-oriented work, lumbung members defied both conventional forms of artistic making and the very temporality that underscores Western artistic production in the historicist regime of presentism, of which con-temporary art is both subject and catalyst in its constant reiteration of the so-called “art of now.”

Against the grain of single narratives, the one-world logic, and the master’s clock, lumbung members (collectives and artists) reinforced multiple world-making practices. Attending to the need to augment both situated and equitable forms of access and distribution, ruangrupa first announced the list of participants in the Kassel-based journal Asphalt Magazine, which is sold to generate income for homeless or underserved individuals. The lumbung network was also announced according to the collectives’ times zones, anticipating from the start an alternative space–time framework for thinking differently about action and distribution than those premised by similar high-profile exhibitions.

Black Quantum Futurism, Clepsydra Stage, 2022. Installation view, Rondell, Kassel, June 10, 2022. Photo: Nicolas Wefers.

However, despite being an alternative way to situate and spatialize global networks of resistance, ruangrupa’s time-zone concept must not be taken for granted. Times zones, albeit widely naturalized, were created in the late nineteenth century to accommodate railroad expansion. [4]4
Even before the nineteenth century, temporal regimes were established with the evolution of maritime technologies that enabled the expedition into and colonization of the Americas. Black Quantum Futurism, Theory & Practices, Volume II (North Haven, CT: The Afrofuturist Affair, 2021), 11.
More than a mere system for keeping time, time zones were instruments of globalization enabling deterritorialization, forced migration, and servitude. The time zone is, as the Philadelphia-based duo Black Quantum Futurism (Rasheedah Phillips and Moor Mother) states, no one’s but the master’s clock. Questioning the structuring of daily life and broader society according to the prime meridian and other mechanisms of temporality is thus central to dismantling regimes of surveillance, colonial machineries of violence, and systems of oppression to which communities of color—especially Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, and Afrodiasporic communities—have been subjected.

To contend with issues of temporality afforded by the prime meridian, Black Quantum Futurism (BQF) installed posters in the Fünffensterstrasse from their ongoing research project timezoneprotocols.space exclaiming “Restore Black Temporal Realities.” Along the underpass, the time–space travel capsule Black Grandmother Clock (Oral Futures Booth) (2021) collected audio testimonies of Kassel locals and visitors. Evoking the urgency for racial, environmental, and temporal justice, Black Quantum Futurism’s stories, time capsules, and soundscapes constituted an explicit expression of all the possible worlds beyond the one upheld by a chronology of domination. Using the ancient time-telling device known as a clepsydra, BQF created a platform on the bank of the Fulda River called The Clepsydra Stage as a reference of a form of temporality defined by the flow of water. The Afrofuturist gesture thus entailed a return to speculative imaginaries, storytelling, and future-thinking for the liberation of our sequestered spatial-temporal consciousness and one-world logic. [5]5
In recent years the ontological turn in the social sciences has developed a number of approaches to the pluriverse, that is a recognition and understanding of the multiple worlds that surrounds us. These worlds, more so than signaling various worldviews on the one world, refer to the multiple ways of constructing a sense of the real through cosmologies and forms of creating relationalities that are not simply human. In this context I allude to the one-world logic also to refer to the modern colonial world system, which, since the sixteenth century, chronicles and conquistadors like ​​Francisco López de Gómara established as the only possible world. The one-world world or the one-world logic, is further defined by science and technology studies. The sociologist John Law has described it as “that which was allegedly composed of a single World and assumes it to be ‘the’ only world possible, subjecting all other worlds to either its own terms or considering them to be completely non-existent. In other words, the one-world world is a world where only one world fits.” John Law, “What’s Wrong with a One-World World?” Distinkton: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory 16, no. 1 (2015): 126–39.
One such act of remembrance was the sound performance Watch Night Service, which took place on June 19 to commemorate Junetheenth, as this marks the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

Beyond refusing the reiterated frameworks of temporal injustice underscored by art’s supposed anteriority of the non-West, BQF’s challenge to Eurocentric temporal regimes resulted in a powerful act of remembrance. In fact, the performance at the Walter-Lübcke-Brücke was also significant as the bridge bares the name of Walter Lübcke (1953–2019), Kassel’s former district president who was murdered by neo-Nazi extremists. Black Quantum Futurism’s insistence on naming, listing, and invoking multiple temporalities not only manifested against appropriation but also irrevocably demanded breaking open the shackles of linear and historical time.

However, besides providing powerful narratives of survivance, these projects were also concerned with listening. [6]6
The notion of futurity underscored here is more generally associated with what Anishinaabe scholar Gerald Vizenor termed in 1994 “survivance”—a neologism that combines concepts of survival and resistance, positioning contemporary Indigenous but also Black people as not merely present but thriving, resisting oppression, refusing to be marginalized, and actively asserting their sovereignty as nations. Gerald Vizenor, ed., Survivance, Narratives of Native Presence (Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, 2008).
In the act of remembrance, listening entailed a refusal of oblivion. Building on the principles of lumbung, in which farmers share harvest surpluses, ruangrupa invited collectives to aggregate as a multiplicity resources for mutual aid. In fact, to this they claimed: “Harvesters listen and reflect.” [7]7
ruangrupa, “Glossary,” Documenta 15. See .
Reworking Documenta’s modus from exhibition to cultivation, grassroots activists and researchers were encouraged to nurture relationships with local communities, ecosystems, and places while developing through their deep-listening practices a multisystemic approach to an entangled world in crisis.

Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA), lumbung Nuquí, 2022. Nuquí, Chocó, Colombia. Photo: Paula Orozco.

Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA), like BQF, is a collective working on the premises of futurity, cultivation, and community-oriented sustainability. Founded in 2011 and based in the Chocó Department on Colombia’s Pacific coast, MAMA is a group of activists and artists that explores wide-ranging social and environmental issues from the perspective of ethnic and biodiverse communities. As part of their proposal for Documenta, MAMA’s project on climate change and deforestation connected the tropical forests of Chocó with the woodlands surrounding Kassel. Threatened by climate change, forests in Europe have become overpopulated by Scolytinae— bark beetles that devour trees and carve enigmatic trails carved into their trunks. MAMA’s installation at the greenhouse at Staatspark Karlsaue, displayed several tree trunks from the forests around Kassel affected by beetles. At the site, visitors could see the issue and also listen to a soundscape that simultaneously narrated the contours of Chocó’s geography.

For their other installation at Kassel, MAMA adapted and renovated a harvest tractor designed in collaboration with Atelier van Lieshout. Exceeding the bounds of traditional sculpture, the tractor hosted MAMA’s aggregated community partners and grassroots organizers becoming a living documentation center and library. On the trailer, MAMA also showcased the results of their three-year exchange project Postcards from the Future, which resulted in a series of short films produced between different communities in Chocó. These included a number of short documentary films that highlights their entanglement with and support of the Afro-Indigenous social movements in Colombia, especially those efforts interested in developing sustainable models for ecological and community-based tourism.

The films testified to how, in recent decades, the collective power of social movements have woven powerful nets against racism, structural oppression, and marginalization. As evidence of this, the Afro-Colombian human-rights lawyer and environmental activist Francia Márquez was elected as the country’s vice president the same weekend as Documenta 15’s opening. In a historical pact, as the new Colombian government calls it, Afro-Colombian communities are today at the forefront of dismantling deep-seated colonial regimes. Accompanying a robust series of film screenings, soundscapes, and conversations, MAMA has also convened in Kassel two members of the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Non-repetition, Leyner Palacios and Alejandro Castillejo, to speak on the highly anticipated report on the peace process in Colombia. Released on June 28, the report conveys the testimonies of the victims of the armed conflict and the reparations owed and promised to the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities after decades of state-sanctioned violence, internal armed conflict, and land dispossession.

In an expression of mutuality and multisystemic, intersectional, and community-based work, racial and environmental justice is at the forefront of the aggregated and multiplying collectives within the lumbung family. These are workers who do not treat our global crises as mere themes of “con-temporary art” but who are instead bonded by decentered and alter-globalization networks and contribute to real, sustained, committed, and durational impact. More so than an exhibition on art and activism, Lumbung 1 was a manifestation of art in the end of history, or what decolonial scholar Rolando Vázquez has called “the end of the contemporary.” [8]8
Rolando Vázquez, Vistas of Modernity: Decolonial Aesthesis and the End of the Contemporary (Amsterdam: The Mondrian Fund, 2020).
This is an art no longer complicit with white supremacy, an art no longer upholding nor validating institutions that seek to reduce the world to representation and people to the anthropological gaze. Rather, its decentered and networked logic focuses on nourishing the rooted and entangled efforts of these invited collectives, which through listening refuse to reduce the world to mere objects of consumption for the modern subject.

Sara Garzón is a curator and art historian based in New York. Sara has contributed to exhibition catalogues, peer-reviewed journals, and art magazines and is a founding member of the curatorial working group Collective Rewilding, which investigates the intersection between curation, ecology, and care. Most recently, Sara organized a public program on indigenizing the museum for Laboratorio de Arte Alameda, Mexico City, and was appointed as guest curator of the experimental program “The Rise of the Coyote,” organized by Materia Abierta. Among other museum roles, Sara was the 2020–21 Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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