Event: (Re-)Imagining the Family – Reading Groups, 7 November and 8 November 2019, Palazzo Mora, Venice (IT).

[Re-]Imagining the Family: Forms, Values, Planning and Alternatives.

In response to the Re-imagining Citizenship Activity Book (see details below), which is currently part of a display at the exhibition “Personal Structures – Identities” at Palazzo Mora in Venice, we will organise two reading group sessions. The meetings will create space for a public discussion of issues relating to family, family-related values, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Events such as the World Congress of Families conference that took place in Verona in March 2019, and the ongoing battle for access to safe and dignified family planning services in Italy and beyond, draw attention to ongoing questions of how the idea of the family – what it looks like, who gets to have one and when, and what types of family are legitimate – relate to contemporary political struggles. In light of such issues, both reading groups will seek to explore the concept of family today and how family values are being used as political leverage.

Over two days, we will meet at the Palazzo Mora (European Cultural Centre, Palazzo Mora, Strada Nuova #3659, 30121 Venice, Italy) to read, confer and reflect. The texts that will be examined closely together will be made available before the event, but there is no pressure to read anything beforehand. We will both read and discuss together on the day, and copies of the text will be made available. We will explore family ideals, values and gender/sexual politics through the following themes:

– Thursday 7th November, 15.00-18.00 – The role of the traditional family and declining birth rates in contemporary politics
(Facebook event page)
We will read and discuss:
* bell hooks, “Revolutionary Parenting”, Chapter 10 from her “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center”, Boston, MA: South End Press 1984,  p. 133-146.
Download pdf: bell hooks – Revolutionary Parenting [Feminist Theory-From Margin to Center]
* Jennifer Guerra, “L’ istinto materno non esiste: Non volere figli non è egoista” from The Vision, 17 March 2018.
Download pdf: Jennifer Guerra – L’istinto materno non esiste-Non volere figli non è egoista [The Vision]
* [Anon.], “The Observer View on Immigration Being the Answer to Falling Birth Rates: Observer Editorial”, from The Guardian, 4 August 2019.
Download pdf: The Observer view on immigration being the answer to falling birth rates – Observer Editorial

– Friday 8th November, 15.00-18.00 – Abortion as part of family planning: access and societal stigma
(Facebook event page)
We will read and discuss:
* Holly Pester, “Comic Timing”, from Granta #144, 7 November 2018.
Download pdf: Holly Pester – Comic Timing
* Kara Fox and Valentina Di Donati, ” Abortion is a Right in Italy. For Many Women, Getting One is Nearly Impossible”, from CNN, May 2019.
Download pdf: Abortion is a right in Italy – For many women, getting one is nearly impossible [CNN]


The readings will not be overtly academic and theoretical: we will interrogate items from the news and creative writings, for example. No prior knowledge is required and the texts well be accessible at the events. The writings as well as the discussions will be both in English and Italian. All perspectives and backgrounds are welcome, and we hope to generate a debate that is intergenerational, respectful of difference and informed by the experiences of various cultural contexts. Participants are welcome to attend one or both sessions.

An audio-recording of the event will be made as a documentation for the Re-Imagining Citizenship Living Archive, but just let us know if you do not want to be a part of this.

Re-imagining Citizenship is an ongoing, collaborative project initiated by the Politicized Practice/Anarchism/Theatre Activism research groups based at Loughborough University, UK (https://pparg.net/). We are looking for collective redefinitions of citizenship that are not prescribed or closed down by the language of the media, but rather opened up by artistic methods.

The Re-imagining Citizenship Activity Book/Re-imagining Citizenship Living Archive forms part of this ongoing dialogue around themes related to art and political activism. Since 2014, artists, researchers and associates of the three research groups have organised exhibitions, installations, performances and participatory events to explore the potential for art practices to re-imagine citizenship. These culminated in a series of activities during in March 2019, including the production of the Re-imagining Citizenship Activity Book which has thirty different contributions, inviting readers to respond creatively to sets of instructions (using text, images, video or audio) and to upload them to the Living Archive on http://re-imagining.org/.

The reading groups are initiated and facilitated by Sophia Kier-Byfield (PhD researcher, Loughborough University), Tom Nys (PhD researcher, Loughborough University), and Altea Solari (medical student, University of Bologna).

The texts that will be read during the two sessions will be made available on this page during the coming days. For more info please mail to: t.nys@lboro.ac.uk.

Event: Feminist Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, 14 March, 21 March and 28 March 2019, Pilkington Library, Loughborough University (UK).


Together with my friends Sophia Kier-Byfield and Mikaela Assolent, and as a member of the Centre for Doctoral Training: Feminism, Sexual Politics, and Visual Culture at Loughborough University, I am setting up a Feminist Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in the Pilkington Library of the university, located in the idyllic Loughborough in the Eastern British Midlands. The event has three parts: on 14, 21 and 28 March, and is open to anyone (registration is required for 14 and 21 March, 28 March will be a drop-in session). It is designed to improve articles about (local) cis and trans women as well as on non-binary people who are underrepresented on Wikipedia.

The edit-a-thon will include tutorials for the beginner Wikipedian, ongoing editing support and reference materials. Participants will also update Wikipedia entries collaboratively. People of all gender identities and expressions are invited to participate.

In a 2011 survey, the Wikimedia Foundation found that less than 10% of its contributors identify as women. This lack of inclusive participation has led to an alarming gap of content in the world’s most popular online research tool. Some key articles about women are missing, the content about them often demonstrates a sexist bias and gender identities (especially concerning transgender people) are inaccurately stated.

This event is part of the international Art+Feminism campaign to improve content on cis and trans women on Wikipedia, and to encourage women to participate on the online encyclopedia. Since 2014, Art+Feminism edit-a-thons have taken place across the world, creating and improving over 11,000 articles.

Other Art+Feminism events have taken place at institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; Yale University, New Haven; McGill University, Montreal; Archives Nationales, Paris; and many more.

In preparation of the edit-a-thon that will take place 28 March between 1pm and 5pm, two sessions in smaller groups (10-12 persons) will be organised on 14 March from 6pm to 9pm and on 21 March from 2pm to 4pm. Participants are invited to reflect on their own relationship to the production of knowledge. Researchers and students will question how the tools that are available to them (Pilkington Library’s collection, and online content such as Wikipedia) are biased and how they can inadvertently reproduce bias or on the contrary disrupt it.  

Feminism, Sexual Politics, and Visual Culture CDT
The Centre for Doctoral Training: Feminism, Sexual Politics, and Visual Culture was established in 2018. The main catalyst for it is the deepening and rapidly changing global complexity of the relationship between feminist praxis and culture, particularly in politics, arts, and academia. The recent tsunamis of feminist activism, from sport to science, government to entertainment, are the most public evidence of this new complexity.
The CDT is radically integrative, in many ways:

  • we aim for an inclusive, intersectional definition and practice of feminism;
  • ‘visual culture’ or ‘arts’ to us is inclusive of all practices where visuality is significant, including performative and written modes;
  • we have a trans-disciplinary staff team, with expertise including Fine Art, Graphics, English Literature, Drama, Art History, Art Criticism, Politics, and Sociology;
  • the research that is undertaken will have immediate implications for areas such as social policy, pedagogies, and cultural industries as well as feminist thinking and the arts.

Facebook event page: here.

“The Realm”, 25 May – 17 August, Observatorium/ Meatpack Antwerp (BE): installation views.

Here are a few installation views of the exhibition “The Realm”, with Karolien Chromiak, Alexandra Crouwers, Aurore Dal Mas, Hadassah Emmerich, Kai Franz, Pieterjan Ginckels, Branca Lina Urta and Marleen Sleeuwits, which I curated for Observatorium/ Meatpack in Antwerp. The show will run until 17 August so it is still possible to pay a visit. All photos courtesy of Lotte Veuchelen except the one of Karolien Chromiak’s work, which is courtesy of Karolien Chromiak.
Read more about the exhibition and its concept here.

New exhibition: “The Realm”, 25 May – 17 August, Observatorium/ Meatpack Antwerp (BE).

Karolien Chromiak [BE]
Alexandra Crouwers [NL]
Aurore Dal Mas [BE]
Hadassah Emmerich [NL]
Kai Franz [DL]
Pieterjan Ginckels [BE]
Branca Lina Urta [BE]
Marleen Sleeuwits [NL]

C’HANTAL, “The Realm” [Powertraxx Records, 1990]
Love In D Minor Mix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoDU-T8HsvM
Accapella: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7m1u9-Cq3I


Something for your mind,
Your body,
And your soul,
It’s the power to arouse curiosity,
The purpose,
The goal which one acts on,
A journey of force,
Hot like the sun
And wet like the rain,
Rhythmatic movements in unison with others
Prolong an act of sensation with no limits or boundaries.
Eternity is past,
Wrong is right.
It’s the point of greatest intensity,
Pleasures of the highest sense,
Feelings of warmth and security,
Willing and unwilling sensations of the mind.
A condition,
The ultimate seduction…
The Realm.


Although house music is mostly associated with instrumental tracks and sets based on beats and electronic sounds, vocals feature plenty in the genre. At first, lyrics from disco songs were sampled or emanated; later simple, repetitive and short lines were uttered on top of the boomps and bleeps while rap and hip hop vocals were introduced as well. New lyrics were written for a lot of tracks too and some of these became classic, specifically because of the vocals. Not only do the words resonate with the music, they also enhance the feelings conveyed by it. Moreover, over time, they were often isolated from their original, or sometimes an a cappella version exists, and as such they were, and still are, being used as intros, as intermezzo or on top of the music in dj sets. The crowd knows them, playbacks them, whispers them along, sings them, shouts them.

“The Realm” by C’hantal, made in 1990, is such a track. Its long-familiar lyrics consist of a descriptive list of features of what is called the Realm, powerfully pronounced by a female voice. Still, however expressive the account of this particular concept may be, its exact definition remains obscure; hermetic even. A teleological sense is clearly articulated and inward feelings are prominently present throughout the text. One can easily establish a parallel with the experience someone can have when engaging in electronic dance music in an optimal environment.

The exhibition “The Realm” would like to propose an alternative, analogous model and will translate, in a kind of phenomenological exercise, the lyrics of the eponymous dance track in an exhibition format. It will be one of numerous possibilities of how a grouping of works of art might generate the same intensities, arouses the same set of feelings and follows an identical semantic path.

Onward to the Realm.

About the artists:

Light defines our sense of sight, a seemingly simple statement that is at the core of Karolien Chromiak’s oeuvre. Working mostly with light sensitive media such as photography and video, she creates sculptures and installations bordering to abstraction and playing with our perception of the materiality of objects. Coincidentally, she also has an interest in techno music in dance. For “The Realm”, she will produce a new installation.

Unmistakably, a hint of gothic romanticism features in the work of Alexandra Crouwers. Using classic media such as collage and drawing as well as modern technologies like 3D animation, video and computer graphics, it addresses themes that involve the uncanny, mythology, landscape, the animal world, science fiction and weird movies, most often in a (quasi-)narrative structure.

The art of Aurore Dal Mas, be it her photographs, installations or sound-based works, is all about the evocation of atmospheres, leaving open any interpretation to the viewer. Certainly, there is a predilection for weariness and the feeling of being hurt, for the aestheticism of what is scarred or lost and for the splendor of the wounded soul. Dal Mas navigates masterly between the standard definitions of beauty and sensuousness on the one hand and repulsiveness and the abject on the other.

A pop sensibility permeates the paintings, drawings and prints of Hadassah Emmerich, who integrates sources such as pieces of advertisements, magazine photos, texts and floral motifs into swirling, abstract arrays of colors. Moreover, her mixed origins have defined several of her series: traces of painterly traditions from the west as well as the east are combined in a peculiar manner. In her work, hues can be awkwardly flashy, sensual or subdued, but a radiant gloss invariably covers the pictorial surface.

Kai Franz has always been interested in computational systems and algorithms, which eventually led him to create works of art together with, rather than through machines and computers. The “plopper” device he developed is akin to plotters and 3D-printers, although it is not only dictated by the software used, but by the material and physical properties of the work it finally generates as well. Because of the ‘poor’ materials they consist of, these abstract and rhythmical sculptures have a retrofuturistic feel to them. In this exhibition, Franz will present some newly made examples.

Pieterjan Ginckels’ multifarious work is informed by architecture, popular traditions, social media culture, music and sociological discourses. He is a true master of redundancy: each of his projects consists of numerous media such as sculpture, installation, print and performance, which he blends into a dazzling abundance of topics and references. Here, an older video piece called “Stroboscope” (2008) will be mixed in a spatial arrangement with his recent NO BULL energy drinks, which are part of a larger narrative dealing with far-fledging commercialization and branding.

Branca Lina Urta studied architecture but took a different turn in life to become one of Belgium’s most-known house music djs during the 1990s as one part of the duo Smos & Baby Bee. However, during these exhaustive years in the international nightlife, she took up photography, which she gradually developed into an important facet of her artistic life. Her former studies are a main source of inspiration: parts of buildings, structural compositions and textures of objects feature abundantly, with a keen awareness of rhythm.

Dutch artist Marleen Sleeuwits is interested in our perception of space; in her earlier work, she digitally manipulated specific places she photographed in such a way that all actual references to their where and when were vanished. Nowadays, she carefully constructs spaces with different kinds of elements and records these structures. By doing so, she creates evocative images as well as installations called “Interiors”, which are devoid of links to the real world or to an actual time. They are spaces on which a viewer can easily project his or her own individual state of mind.

Opening: 25 May 2018 (during Antwerp Art Weekend)
Observatorium/ Meatpack, Samberstraat 40, 2060 Antwerp (BE).

Recent writings – late 2017, early 2018

I have always admired the way documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis dissected global issues and presented them in a new narrative to a larger audience via the BBC, like he did with his series “Century of the Self” and his latest film “HyperNormalisation”. Moreover, he has an excellent taste in music. So I was extremely pleased to be able to interview him extensively when he visited The Netherlands for Utrecht’s Impakt Festival. The result of that conversation has been published in Gonzo (circus) Magazine #143 (in Dutch).
For the online version of the same publication I recently wrote a long text, based on an interview, about Belgian artist Elke Andreas Boon, who currently has an impressive solo show at the Annie Gentils Gallery in Antwerp (B). You can find the piece here in Dutch, but the gallery is having it translated at this moment.
In September 2017, I was given the opportunity by the Flemish Art Institute to visit Marocco with the cultural exchange programme “Marocco Intersections“, together with several other art professionals from Belgium. It turned out to be a very interesting and truly informative experience.  We all wrote a report and mine was focused on the ubiquitous image of the Laughing Cow cheese brand, which you can read here.
Lastly, I am an avid fan of the work of Irish artist Elizabeth Magill so I was very honoured to be asked to write a text for the catalogue that accompanies her traveling solo exhibition “Headland”, initiated by the Limerick City Gallery of Art. You can order it from the gallery  and it is beautifully designed by David Caines Limited.


“Betwixt and Between”, 6 May – 4 June, Fotomuseum Antwerp (BE): installation views.

Below you’ll find some installation views of the exhibition “Betwixt and Between”, with Nadine Hattom (IRQ/AUS), Ana Janeiro (POR), Maha Maamoun (EGY), Valentina Stellino (BE) and Malika Sqalli (MOR/AUT), which I curated for the “Braakland” project of Fotomuseum Antwerpen (BE) and which took place from 6 May to 4 Juni 2017 (read more here).

New exhibition: “Betwixt and Between”, 6 May – 4 June, Fotomuseum Antwerp (BE).

Nadine Hattom (IRQ/AUS)

Ana Janeiro (POR)
Maha Maamoun (EGY)
Valentina Stellino (BEL)
Malika Sqalli (MOR/AUT)

A middle ground between different places, different cultures and different identities,
An intermediary position to observe, to wonder, to record, to receive and to make sense from diverse sides,
A sphere in-between real-life and the world of art,
A transitional field between photography and other art media,
A meeting place for open-ended stories of potential and hope.

6 May 2017 – 4 June 2017
Opening Sat. 6 May, 17:00
Fotomuseum Antwerp, in the framework of the Braakland project

“Betwixt and Between” features work by five photographers who address voluntary or involuntary displacement and the effects it generates on one’s identity; artists whose work derives from the notion of finding one’s place in a new context. While culminating different cultural influences, they find themselves in a middle ground, in-between new and former cultures. Although the development of a feeling of belonging is more oft than not difficult and a seemingly never-ending process, other, more positive sensitivities are at play here as well, such as wonderment, enthusiasm about evident potential, deep introspection, hope or pure joy.
All too often, the very complex emotional assemblage that the struggle for fitting in a new environment constitutes, is being shown through photography from a perspective of docudrama. Indeed, there is a lot of activist potential of photojournalism, reportages or documentary series concerning the issue; yet this project consciously aims for different styles of photography, rather with a strong conceptual basis wherein a layered, more personal, sensitive and open-ended reading is possible.
The selected artists share an inclination to photography as their preferred medium due to the distance a camera creates to the subject. This allows for observation and drawing closer to it, thus endowing it with an auxiliary social use. However, in each of their practices, photography is only a means to convey artistic ideas and all of them have expanded their body of work well beyond the limits of it.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that family is an aspect that is frequently covered, as migration often involves entire families and as within the family context, issues such as the role of traditions, diverging assimilation processes and the collective awareness of being other, become pertinently clear.
Another significant common feature is the use of multi-layered, narrative structures. It lays bare the fact that migration cannot be framed in simplistic slogans. This relates poignantly to the main ambition of this exhibition: to show more complex and even positive artistic perspectives on the theme that were born out of the medium of photography.

Nadine Hattom

Nadine Hattom, “Amman Pasha Hotel”, 2017.

Since the earliest stages of her career, Nadine Hattom (b. 1980, Baghdad) has set out to bridge the distance between photography and sculpture, introducing three-dimensional elements in her works or translating images into objects. Moreover, this idea of translation has become central in her practise: she engages the public to read an image analogous to reading a word so that shifts in meaning can occur. Invariably, her series resemble narrative constructions in which identity, the middle-eastern landscape and personal memories play a crucial role. Hattom comes from the Mandaean community in Iraq, a tiny, age-old religious minority. Due to the Iran-Iraq conflict, her parents moved to Abu Dhabi and later to Australia. Now, Hattom lives in Berlin. These multiple, cultural components constitute her identity and through her art, she is able to let them speak in unison. All these traits are clearly present in her new work entitled “Amman Pasha Hotel”. The installation’s primary piece is a print of a cityscape of Amman, Jordan’s capital, a shot that Hattom took randomly, and features the well-known Pasha Hotel. Its flamboyant, entrepreneurial owner is a Palestinian who once moved with his family to Australia, which obviously resonates with Hattom’s biography, and who eventually returned to the Middle East.

Ana Janeiro

Ana Janeiro, “Album India Portuguesa 1951-1961” (detail), 2010.

Although India asserted its independence from Britain in 1947, a few regions remained under French and Portuguese rule. Portugal kept Goa, Daman and Diu on the western coast. The Portuguese presence in India dated back to the end of the fifteenth century and ended only in 1961 after two decades of tension. Artist Ana Janeiro’s grandparents migrated and lived there from 1951 to 1961. After finding photographs and letters concerning this period of her family’s history, Janeiro (b. 1978, Lisbon) matched these with the stories that she had heard numerous times at family gatherings, and assimilated her ruminations in her series “Album India Portuguesa 1951-1961” (2010). However, the work does not attempt to be conclusive history writing, rather, a retelling of a constructed narrative about her family and her country’s past. This is a constant in Janeiro’s oeuvre: taking clues from diverse historical sources and turning them in a new, open-ended narrative. In this case, shots of official documents and letters, original pictures as well as photos of re-enactments are combined. A remarkable feature of the series is the appearance of legs of doorframes that intersect the action in several images and divide the picture plane into two separate spaces. This calls to mind the notion of reframing, as well as the idea of border crossing.

Maha Maamoun

Maha Maamoun, “Domstic Tourism (Felucca)”, 2005.

Maha Maamoun was born in California (b. 1972); however, she followed her parents back to their native country Egypt when still a child. In Cairo, she studied economics and later Middle Eastern History at the American University, where she developed a love for the photographic medium. In 2004, she cofounded the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC), a photography-centred organisation. Maamoun’s oeuvre evolved with the inclusion of film, although her core themes remain consistent. She ingeniously reveals the ways in which a national identity and national symbols are formed through popular culture. It is no surprise that she takes Egypt as a prime example; her stance as an artist and specifically as a photographer discloses a strong affinity that is clearly expressed in an aloof manner. This regularly imbues her photographs with a sharp but tender wittiness. Often, she consciously but subtly manipulates images, consigns them to particular sequences or uses rather awkward points of view to direct the viewer towards new and unexpected meanings and interpretations. “Domestic Tourism” consists of two series, which are a study into the influence of tourism and leisure on the representations of a nation’s identity. As the title indicates, the primary subject matter is Egyptians enjoying the tourism complex in their own country.

Valentina Stellino

Valentina Stellino, “Camping In Spain”, 2016.

Central in previous series of Valentina Stellino (b. 1992, Brasschaat) are the diaspora and lifestyle of specific family branches as well as of some of her acquaintances, which are of Italian descent. In these works, psychological tension and a perplexing ambiance are prevalent; the movements and gestures of her models seem to be frozen, which often results in scenes that resemble tableaux vivants. Indeed, Stellino asked her sitters to re-enact their own domestic rituals and mundane activities in a familiar and unmediated environment. The outcomes are more often than not poses that are neither self-assured nor completely unnatural in depictions of a time in-between actions or events. Moreover, we may well situate Stellino’s work between fiction and non-fiction; it inhabits a zone between real-life events and a reconstruction thereof. Hence, the obvious analogy with film stills; combined with the sequential nature of a series, a narrative aspect comes into play, though Stellino only provides clues for possible readings. In her new series “Cut” (2016-17), she takes this further with a collection of photographs taken all over the world, in which the notions of leaving and returning are imperative. A certain sense of melancholy and of loneliness is inherent to the ensemble’s concept.

Malika Sqalli

Malika Sqalli, “Latitude 34: Chile”, 2012.

Malika Sqalli (b. 1977, Rabat) was born and raised in Morocco before moving to France in her teens, where she would study arts. She went on to live in London while also regularly returning to her native country. Furthermore, she travels extensively, attempting to tie all the different heritages in her to the cultures she visits. Through a holistic personal view on the world and driven by a propensity for optimism, she habitually detects links between places, congruencies in landscapes and weather conditions, similarities between people’s traits and behaviour, and common wisdoms. Fragments of landscapes or skylines, deserts in different parts of the world, patterns and colours as well as moods and feelings are connected in a dense network of references. For instance, for her series “Latitude 34” (2013), initiated in Santa Monica on her 34th birthday, she travelled to cities along the thirty-fourth degree of latitude, on which her birthplace Rabat lies. Aptly, motives such as lines and threads appear regularly in Sqalli’s work. However, one line always returns home. The artist’s nomadic lifestyle estranges her from the feeling of belonging, which translates in a position neither here nor there, in terms of identity as well as physically; thus, questions about the idea of home are raised prominently.