press release

Father, Can’t You See I’m Burning is a project curated by the participants of de Appel Curatorial Programme. It unfolds in multiple parts: a prelude, a show, a series of events, footnotes and a publication - which bring together a score of newly commissioned art works and texts, to be presented across time and space. The impetus for the creation of these new works has been conjured from the ashes of historical non-events, circling the question:

What if the art institution went up in flames?

In 1959 the Situationists International (SI) proposed to construct a labyrinth at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Under the directorship of Willem Sandberg, their proposal was met with the following caveat – that the SI should consult with the fire brigade and seek external funding if the project were to take place. This pre-condition caused the SI to immediately withdraw their proposal. Operating as curators now do, in a climate of uncertainty, where pressure is placed upon institutions in the Netherlands and beyond, addressing this moment of ‘provisory opportunity’ seems especially relevant today.

How does the symbolic threat of fire, brought on by artists and their labyrinths, shape the production and presentation of contemporary art today? In a recent publication by Vesna Madzoski, the author unpacks the unrealized SI proposal stating: “Suddenly, in this seemingly neutral space of the white cube, we encounter a set of agents and actors directly shaping works of art. As security agents, the activities of firemen have never been questioned, they are quietly accepted as necessary elements taking care of societal security, never considered to be repressive or policing agents of the state apparatus.”

The role of the curator as preserver of institutional structures is akin to that of the fire brigade, and to this day continues to invisibly shape the production of art. Preserving buildings, white cubes and institutional conventions from the passage of time and change gives shelter to works of art, but can also impede their realisation. As such, the infrastructure of the institution has become a performing entity in this project. The participants of the Curatorial Programme open the building of de Appel arts centre to different speculations, inviting artists and artworks to intervene in the material fabric and working mechanisms of the institution.

So, what if the art institution went up in flames? If today’s institution is shaped by rules and regulations, expectations and fears, can the dream of an impossible labyrinth compel us to enter the realm of the possible?

The exhibition at de Appel arts centre will be prefaced throughout March and April by the preludeApples in the Cosmos // Apples in the Sea, a special benefit evening (27 March and 10 April) which performs a collection of gestures offered by participating artists in the exhibition Father, Can’t You See I’m Burning? The exhibition also extends to the Stedelijk Museum with public readings of newly commissioned texts by writers and artists in June.

Father, Can’t You See I’m Burning? is curated by the six participants of de Appel Curatorial Programme 2013-14: Renata Cervetto, Kris Dittel, Lara Khaldi, Emma Panza, Aneta Rostkowska and Kate Strain.

OPENING: April 25, 6-9 PM