End of Year Review 2017: Things That Mattered To Me

The end of the year is usually the time where I just love putting pen to paper and getting through my memories of the past year. Here a few things I'd like to share:

Exhibitions that resonated most with me

  • Gordon Parks. I am you. Selected Works 1942 – 1978, Kunstfoyer Bayerische Versicherungskammer, Munich, Germany

  • Andrea Büttner, Gesamtzusammenhang, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, Switzerland

  • Art Basel Parcours, (I particularly enjoyed the Parcour Night), Basel, Switzerland. The performances of Shana Moulton and the one of Wu Tsang (together with boychild, Patrick Belaga, Bendik Giske, and Josh Johnson) where the best I've seen in a long time.
  • Richard Serra: Films and Videotapes, Kunstmuseum Basel/ Gegenwart, Basel, Switzerland
  • Intuition, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice

  • Adrian Villar Rojas, The Theater of Disappearance, (If you missed it, I wrote about it here), Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria

  • Gurlitt: Status report, Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland

  • Biennale of the moving image, Frankfurt, Germany

Exhibition that didn't work for me 2017

Damien Hirst, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, Palazzo Grassi, Venice

Words that mattered to me 2017

This section was originally published in my monthly letter of December. To learn more have a look here:

I've been inspired by the Medium project Words that Matter 2017 and compiled a list of my own meaningful words 2017 that kind of reflects my personal year and what made me care:

Values: In a time we see people guided by material things I believe in people who are guided by their values. I shared earlier this year the values I keep close.

The Power of No: It is one of the most empowering acts to say this isn't serving me or aligned with my beliefs and say NO.

Neutrality is a Myth: As Desmond Tutu said: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." I really believe that same is true for museums in the art world. I shared this fall some thoughts on Museums are not Neutral that went sort of viral and a more personal take on Caring as Curator. On the same side of neutrality lies the urge to normalize unacceptable things. To normalize basically means to turn the abnormal into the acceptable and we need to fight this with all our capabilities.
#metoo: To quote artist Jenny Holzer "Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise".

#blacklivesmatter: If you were still sceptic about that words inform our world view, may I remind you that the US administration just banned the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of using words like "diversity," ( and "fetus," "transgender," "vulnerable," "entitlement," "science-based" and "evidence-based.").
The problem with honoring diversity and that black lives matter is not just an American issue. I'm currently based in Switzerland, close to the Austrian border and three others. I cross the borders at least once a week and rarely do have to document myself, POC (person of color) and people who do look "foreign" do always have to document themselves. We live in a time I'm often glad for the security provided, racial profiling does not make me feel safer. It is a lack of organization and the ground to feed the misbelieve that POC are suspicious. I am sick of the conversations that associate POC always with any sort of criminalization. I want to see names of POC and particularly WOC (women of color) in our school syllabi, in our museums and in our media outlets. I want to have more women leading debates and that editors and curators be more thoughtful in terms of how they diversify their sources.

Rest: Best advice this year was "Take a break in the middle of a project or between two projects never at the end or you will fall into the void of anxiety."
Persistence: As Debbie Millman once said: "Expect anything worthwile to take a long time". Overnight success is just another myth we're told. Persistence, resilience and continuity are key elements to accomplish anything. But that doesn't mean you cannot have some fun along the way.
Joy: Despite a political very turbulent year, I have to say that 2017 has treated me very well. There are so many moments and opportunities I am deeply grateful for. I've shared the poem of Jack Gilbert "A brief for the defense" before and these lines have been particularly important for me this year:

"If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil."
(Read the whole poem here)

Reflection: I distrust bold headlines and really craved that the media would slow down and go for more thoughtful pieces this year. We need more time to to digest things and see how they are evolving. Trust the sources that are slower and take time to actually fact check.

Community & Friendship: A sense of belonging and being surrounded by like-minded spirits has made this year particularly special. I still struggle with feeling lost and feeling lonely (remember I moved 2 years ago to Switzerland and started from scratch) but I feel that my relationships are more meaningful and I'm really grateful for that. 

Empathy: A certain narrative seems predominant these days trying to make us believe that we are divided by more than we have in common - depriving us of our humanity. The most difficult and probably the most important task is to practice radical empathy. It doesn't mean that we need to agree, but coming from a place of wanting to understand changes everything. Empathy is relating to each other through our (not always shared) experiences.

My top 5 most read blog posts

Top 5: The interview on what success in the arts looks like with Yvette Greslé and Isabelle Tondre

Top 4: Well-being among Arts Professionals and in Creative Work: Sacrification is Not a Badge of Honor

Top 3: The Myth of Museum Neutrality

Top 2: Interview with Marieke van Damme on what success as a museum worker looks like

Top 1: I couldn't be happier that my piece on Museums are not neutral is the most read on my blog this year.

May 2018 be full of meaningful encounters, projects aligned with your values and people who care for the same causes. Happy New Year!